The Life-Changer

  • Lynette LewisLynette Lewis

Feeling fed up at work? Fancy retraining to do something new? You’re not alone – lots of people are currently looking to learn a new skill and get a qualification that will put them on track to work in an exciting new industry. The added bonus of doing it in Australia or New Zealand is that you get to live, study and train somewhere new… in the sunshine!

Student case study: Lynette Lewis

Lynette, 45, is from Cork in Ireland. She’s studying animal care in New South Wales

“I’ve just finished my Certificate III in Captive Animal Care (Zookeeping) at Coffs Harbour Campus of TAFE NSW, and am about to start another course, Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing, at Lismore. I chose to study at Coffs Harbour because at the time it was the only place that taught my course to international students, then at Lismore because I wanted to experience as much of Australia as I could.

“I travelled here on my own – I’m separated with two grown up kids. My youngest has just left home to go to college. I’d been to Australia before so had an idea of what to expect, but from college I had no idea whatsoever! It’s a long time since I was in school and I never went to college, but it has been a really good experience. Everything is so relaxed and easy-going here that it was easy to fit in.

“Although I didn’t know what to expect I hit the jackpot with the captive animal care course. It just suited me really well and the teachers were amazing. I was also lucky in that all the other students were really nice! There was a practical element, which we did in the Billabong Koala and Wildlife Park in Port Macquarie, which was brilliant and again there the staff couldn’t have been nicer and more helpful. I just hope I’m as lucky with my next course.

“Coffs Harbour was a very easy place to study because it’s small and quiet and help was always at hand if needed. All the teachers were approachable and thought nothing of giving up extra time for students who needed help.

“While in Coffs I rented a granny flat which was basic but suited me and was within budget. I was renting in Australia for the first time and it was a bit difficult to find somewhere without a previous rental history. Renting here is a bit like a lottery in that everyone goes to an inspection at the same time, it only lasts for 15 minutes, then you have to put in an application with references, bank statements, drivers license and passport and sometimes a copy of your visa. Make sure everything is in order before you apply or you might lose out.

“My accommodation here in Ballina was a lot easier to find and I’m really happy with it. It’s just a couple of minutes from the beach. A surfboard maker/artist has the top half of the house and the double garage as his studio and I have the bottom half of the house. 

“I’d advise anyone coming over to get temporary accommodation first and take their time finding the right place; maybe share with some other students. Lots of colleges have their own accommodation; or there are off-campus accommodation lists on most college websites. These aren’t always regulated though, so if you want protection of tenants rights it’s best to go through an agency with proper contracts. You will also need to put down a bond, anywhere between AU$500-AU$1,000 plus, but you should get it back after the final inspection.

“When I’m not studying I hang out with friends or do voluntary work to get more experience. When I was in Coffs Harbour I joined the local Dragon Boat club which paddled every Saturday morning from 6.30am. It was brilliant being out on the river early in the morning seeing lots of different wildlife. I also do a lot of walking around the local area and bushwalking in the parks and reserves. I really enjoy photography so my camera always comes with me.

“I’ve just moved a week ago and don’t know too many people yet so I’m taking some time to get to know the area and what goes on around here. After many years of searching for someone to teach me Tai Chi I finally found a trainer. I’m going for my first session in one of the local parks this week. Joining a group like that is a good way to meet people and make new friends. On Friday morning I’m starting voluntary work in one of the animal parks in the hope that it will lead to paid work in the future. Over here a lot of jobs are got by doing voluntary work first.

“Anything else I think people should know about studying in Australia? Yes – always check the toilet seat for spiders!”

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