READER REPORT:

My big OE: My bond with NZ is stronger

SONIA COX
Last updated 05:00 25/11/2013

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I knew I wanted to do an OE since the age of 15. I grew up in Timaru, which was a great place for a kid to grow up with all the outdoor activities on offer, but I wanted to experience other countries and other cultures. New Zealand is isolated, as we float about in the bottom of the South Pacific, so I really wanted to experience living in a different country.

My first career mentor had worked in the UK for two years on a working holiday visa, and I wanted to do this, too. Once I reached university, I met other students who also wanted to work overseas.

After qualifying in my chosen career field, I went to the UK on a two-year working visa. An added bonus was more career exposure than I could have got in New Zealand at that time.

My backpacking experiences in Europe, Central America, Ireland and Scotland helped me budget really well, and figure out how to survive on limited resources. It also has made me less judgmental with respect to different cultures and religions.

I appreciate history more than I used to, as New Zealand is a very young country in comparison to places in Europe.

I have since lived in Australia and USA since my first OE. I liked living in Australia, but I didn't love it and I never thought I'd be there in the long term. I did love living in the USA though, and at the end of two work visas I found it really hard to leave.

I do love being back in the South Island again, as I am able to buy and sell houses reasonably easily, and have most of my extended family within a couple of hours drive away. My feelings of affinity for the land of Canterbury and Otago, especially the Southern Alps and coastline, is stronger since I have been back in New Zealand.

Someone wrote "you are the sum of your experiences."

Living overseas has changed me, but it is also who I am.


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