Although it was something unheard of since the 1980s, throngs of young workers leaving our shores each year has become the norm once again. It is estimated that one fully qualified young person leaves the country every six minutes, resulting in a staggering average of 240 per day. Australia remains the first choice destination, followed closely by New Zealand and Canada.
The College View spoke to Lisa McCarthy, a 26-year-old veterinary nurse from Cork, who recently returned from Australia for good. She left Ireland in 2011 at the age of 24, which she felt was the best age for her to leave. “I knew that if I didn’t go then, I never would. I also thought that I had the maturity to give it my best shot.” She had always planned to leave Ireland at some stage. “I think there’s just too much world out there to live in one country for your entire life.”
Lisa had experienced Australia for herself before deciding to live there, unlike many of her fellow travellers. “I first went there for a month’s holiday about nine years ago. As soon as I came home, I knew living in Australia would be on my bucket list.”
With the idea to leave firmly in mind, Lisa and two of her friends set about making it a reality. She credits having left in a group as something that enhanced her experience, while some leave our shores unaccompanied. “It’s nicer to go over and settle when you have a friend with you. On the other hand though, if you left on your own you could do your own thing without having to worry about pleasing someone else.”
The first task was to find a working holiday visa, the only type of visa which would legally allow them to earn money to fund their trip. There are several agencies in Ireland that deal specifically with working holiday visas, and Lisa says the help and advice they offer is second to none.”Before we had even gone over, we had our visas, bank accounts, Australian SIM cards and tax file numbers sorted out.” Sorting out paper work is one of the most important and time consuming tasks when applying for a visa to live and work abroad.
Many fall in love with Australia from the moment they first experience it. So much so that fighting to be allowed to stay for a further year has become more common in recent times.
Many young people carry out agricultural work in order to secure a second year-long visa. Spending 88 days at any working activity that relates to the land will almost guarantee an extended stay. To claim her second stay in Australia, Lisa spent three months on a farm in Mount Isa in Queensland – over 24 hours journey from her original base in Sydney.
Although Lisa has a farming background, she was completely overwhelmed by the vast difference between Irish pastures and the Australian outback. “The station I was at was 300,000 acres (over 3,500 times the average size of an Irish farm) and could hold up to 8,000 cattle. They did their own slaughter for meat, and we did a run to the fruit and vegetable shops every two weeks.”
Her time in the outback gave Lisa a chance to experience “the real Australia” firsthand, something most tourists miss out on when they visit the country. “When you’re on holidays there you get to see a different culture to yours, but emigrating to a place far from home makes you more aware of the real world. Being away from home teaches you a lot about life and a lot about yourself.”
One thing it taught Lisa was how much she appreciated her home place and being close to her loved ones. “You get worried that something will happen to someone you love, and you know you can’t be there.”
This manifested itself when Lisa’s brother and his family had their first child – her first time as an aunt. “It was very hard being on the other side of the world and not being there. There was a new life that I wasn’t a part of.”
Some emigrants return to Ireland during our summer months to escape the Australian winter. Lisa did this between her first and second years in Australia, but admits it was hard to go back Down Under when the time at home had finished.
“When you’re going back for your second year, all that’s on your mind is to try and get sponsored for another few years out there.” She does recommend a visit home during the summer, as it’s easier to meet up with everyone. “There are events on all the time during the summer, so it’s really easy to catch up with so many friends in one place.”
But Lisa’s attempt to gain a sponsorship was unsuccessful. “I was going to come back to Ireland for a holiday initially, like I did between my first and second year. However, a week before I left I found out that the company I applied to for sponsorship were finishing, so my application had to be turned down.” Though disheartened at the news, once she returned home her mood picked up. “It’s almost like I never left the place.”
Although Lisa firmly believes her emigrating days are over, she wouldn’t rule out a holiday back to Australia. If she were to travel again, her next destination would be a little closer to home. “There’s still a lot of world out there for me to see, and I think America is next on the list. That said, if the chance to go back came up, I would definitely go.”