After 1 year in Australia

The Opera House was just in front of the Harbour Bridge and was slowly flowing to the left while I was on the boat moving inside the bay. Like a picture, the classic image of Harbour Bridge with the Opera House on its left was about to appear, and I was there realising that I was finally in Sydney. That time it was not a picture, but I could see it with my own eyes.

One year ago I was just arrived in Sydney, I was confused and excited for the new world. I remember I was trying to have conversation with people in the homestay but I couldn’t understand half of what they were saying. I recall I was sometimes struggling even to order a sandwich or something to eat.
My mind get full if I think how many things happen since then. Australia have given me the possibility to meet people from everywhere in the world. Australia has been one of the best choices of my life. It was not only a dream as I thought 2 years ago but it was really possible. The only thing I had to do to make it real was to stop to think about Australia and begin to work for it. Thus, I chose a city, organised my visa and bought the ticket. That was all, Australia was not a dream anymore.

I have now been in Australia for more that one year. During this year I have never felt like I was learning new things but now. Similarly to my English, this experience taught me a little more every day. Now at the end of one year, I’m looking back surprised about how many things changed and how many fantastic people I met. I grew up a lot, and I’ve became more responsible, independent and free.

Opera HarbourBridge

This last month has been the moment for me to sum up what I’ve done and figure out what to do next. The outcome has been that to stay in Australia for more than 2 years does not seem to be worth it for what I’ve in mind. The reason is that it seems impossible now for me to use the General Training IELTS certification I’ve got and my experience in IT to get a better visa and stay for longer. The Australian government requires more years of experience in IT if a not graduate person wants to stay. The option I have if I want to stay is to apply for a Student Visa and start the university. Although the idea to start a university programme attracts me a lot, in Australia international students do not have many choices for the courses and the courses are extremely expensive. However, with the English I now have the possibility to start my studies in a different country in the world. To make it real though, I need to take again the IELTS exam (Academic module and not General Training) and save money.
A second year in Australia has started and I’m ready to make it even more constructive than the first. :-)

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The IELTS exam

Got up at 6:30, I needed to be ready at 7:30. After a shower and a big breakfast, I walked out with a bottle of tea in the backpack, some documents and the passport in my hand. I arrived at Sydney university, and after a first documents checking I sit on a coach, waiting to start. Writing, reading, listening and speaking. My IELTS exam was ready.

The IELTS certification is an english certification used in Australia and other countries where english is the national language, to test English proficiency of immigrant who want to work abroad or students who want to apply for a university.
IELTS is a difficult exam but with the right advices and lot of practice it may turn to be easier than expected.
The IELTS exam is divided in four components: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. For each component there is a score from 1 to 9. The average produces the overall band score. The total test time is about 2 hours and 45 minutes.

IELTS

And there I was, first exam: Writing. I was impressed about how seriously they took this exam. There was identification by picture, verification of passport and finger print even if we had to go to the toilette!
I have been quite lucky about the Writing exam. The essay topic was not so difficult: videogames for children, are they good or not for education? I was pretty confident I have done a very good essay even if after the exam I realised that instead of write that in America a boy killed people after he played the game GTA (Grand Theft Auto), I wrote that GTA killed the boy.. The structure, grammar and content was probably ok though and I got a 6.5.

After the Writing, no one moved from his place. They took our essays, explained how the reading exam works and gave us the booklet with the texts and questions. Also the reading went well. The biggest topic was about the history of clocks. No diffucult academic topic ad no very tricky questions. As if on purpose, I finished the reading, I looked at my watch and I was 10 minutes early. I took a few more minutes to check a couple of question and then, my problems started… During the IELTS preparation course I met a lovely girl from Sardinia who took the exam two weeks before and advised me to drink something with sugar during the test: “it will help your brain!” she said. That is the reason why I had a bottle of tea with me. That turned out to be a very bad idea. It wasn’t possible to go to the toilette 10 minutes before the end of the test and I didn’t have any chance to leave my sit up to the end. As I thought, my reading test was quite good and I got a 7.

The listening started. Same procedure: collect reading booklets -> explain listening -> distribute listening booklets. I thought I had done a disaster in this test. One of the task was to associate the picture of each wale to the name and I would never forget the two student talking about wales. I used to be very good on this kind of question but not this time. I remember the two students said that one wale did not have fins but all of the drawn wales had fins! I wanted to remove the fins and draw the wale again but I didn’t have enough time and it wouldn’t have helped me with the score anyway. I ended up to guess that and many other questions and I scored 6.5.

Videogames

My speaking test was at 4:45pm and I had all the time to relax and take my time. I met my friend from Sardinia, I complained for the “sweet drink” advice, and we eat together some sushi rolls. At 4pm I went to Sydney uni and just after the usual procedure of finger print, picture and passport, the examiner came to catch me. A sturdy man with about 40 years of age. The question were all about friends, old friends and relationship between family and friends. After 2 minutes I started to relax and I scored a 7.

I have been waiting the result for the two weeks after the test, scared for the performance in the listening test. I would never have scored a 7 overall without the help from the two teacher who followed me in the 2 months before the exam. An IELTS preparation course is a must to understand how the exam works, to try real tests and to figure out what tricky question you can find. An advice? Do not drink too much during the exam! (:

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Australia 2014 – Farm & Travel (:

After a couple of months, I finally created the video of my travel and farmjob in Australia!

Enjoy! :-)

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The IT job

Keyboard

The IT job, the main goal I was aiming for. I came back in Sydney about 2 months ago and since then I’ve been studying for preparing the IELTS exam. The course is now finished and my tests’ scores are around 7, which is a pretty good score. The exam will be soon, only one month before the end of my first year in Australia.

A few days ago was my birthday, and if I think about how many things happened from my last birthday it doesn’t seem real. I left Italy, I studied English for 2 months, found a job and worked every weekend. I got bored and I left Sydney after I celebrated the new year eve and saw the famous Sydney fireworks. I worked in farm, met people and saw amazing places (and my first kangaroo) :-) .. I started then an IELTS preparation course in Sydney and now it is finished. My exam will be very soon and the tension pre-exam start to grow.

Well, let’s talk about the title of this post: the IT job. I appositely used the past to say that I was aiming for a job in IT in the beginning of the post. The reason is that I’ve finally got a job a few weeks ago after heavy job hunting through LinkedIn, seek.com.au and online recruitment agencies! :-) Needless to say how happy I was. I had been looking for a similar job in November 2013 and I didn’t receive positive answers. My English wasn’t as good as today and I was probably using the wrong method. Now I was a bit discouraged, but when I received a call and I’ve been asked for an interview, I realised that this time it would be different.
The company name is Azteq and the responsibilities are a bit different from the ones in my previous job. After the first weeks of training through a heap of video courses, I’m now starting to get used to. This is an opportunity to learn new things and, of course, to do my first Australian experience in IT.

WestRyde

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10 tips – how to learn English

Nowadays, English is becoming fundamental for our life. In the era of Internet people need a global language to communicate and the most widely used language is English, which has over 1.8 billion users world wide.

EnglishCountries

The first thing you should know is your current lever of English. Online you can find plenty of websites with English tests; an example is “Englishatag”. If you have an elementary or intermediate level don’t get discouraged. You already know something, and you can probably already communicate and make people understand you somehow. To speak a perfect English as a native speaker require years. To understand people and make them understand you though, can be done in much less time!
I have been in Australia for more than 10 months and I can say my level of English is enormously improved. I wrote 10 advices based on my experience aimed to who would like to learn English staying in his own country or living abroad.

Willpower

1. Motivation
The best advice to learn English is to have the right attitude and push yourself out of the comfort zone every time. To give an example, I personally know that that this article is likely to contain a few minor mistakes but I know that I’m not a native speaker and if I want to improve my writing I need to keep practicing. You need to be motivated. Without willpower you will not make progresses. Try to follow these 10 advices as much as you can and try to do your best every time.
Start to change little things like the language on your phone and your computer. It will be harder to find the informations or settings you need and even if you will struggle in the beginning, you will soon realise that you are using your devices in English without any problems. Start to think in English: ask yourself how to say in English what you just said in your language and if you don’t know it, do a research or write down a note and check it later. Try to talk with as many people as you can if you are abroad. Ask people the meaning of a word instead of translate it with your phone. If you are in your country, try to talk as much as you can in English when you have the possibilities. Even easy expressions like “Hey, how is it going?” or “have a good day!” will help you to remember that you want to learn English and you need to think in English.

2. Movies and TV in English
This is probably one of the most common advice. Watching movies is easy and also a very good way to improve your Listening. It is very easy to find movies to watch. Another option is to watch the television in English. Although often you can’t add subtitles, almost all televisions today have the possibility to change language and set the original audio for an english movie. However, I advice to start to watch them with subtitles. If your lever is elementary you could start setting them in your language. If you are intermediate I definitely advice to start with English subtitles also if in the beginning it may be tough to understand. When you get used to, you can push yourself to watch movies without; in the beginning you probably won’t understand a lot, but if you keep going you will surprise yourself.

3. Music, Podcast & Radio
Music! This is the second most common advice! (: Everybody likes music and everybody today have the possibility to listen English music. The problem is that most of the people listen to English music just because they like the melody without understanding anything about what the singer say. You won’t improve your English in this way.
If you want to make progresses listening to your favourite music you should watch the lyrics, learn it, and if you want, try to sing it. Despite that, this is not the best way to learn English. A lot of singers have a very strong accent and often their language can be slightly different.
However, listen to Podcasts is a very good way. Many of them are not very interesting but others will make you addicted to them. On-line you can find podcast about every topic. If you are interested in history, psychology or other, you will probably find plenty of podcasts about it. I started to listen to them because of a friend of mine who advised me the podcasts of Radiolab. If you have an iPhone, you can find them on the Itunes Store and synchronise them between your devices.
If your level is advanced you can listen to the radio. All the biggest radio companies have today an online radio available. For example, if you are in Sydney, you should keep yourself updated with the local news. ABC radio is a very good option for Australia. You can also find the application for your smartphone.

ILoveMusic

4. Flashcards – write down new words
Flashcards helped me a lot (and still do it) to learn new words and extend my vocabulary. When people find a new word, they usually look for the meaning to understand the sentence they are reading or what they are listening. This will let them understand but after one day, if they don’t use that word, they are going to forget it and the only solution will be to look for it again. This is the big problem of learning words in English: we don’t use them in our everyday’s language and we forget them right away. Well, flashcards are the solution!
A flashcard is like a note you can write to remember a word. You can also download free complete lists of flashcards from ankiweb website. Anki is a free software for you PC or Mac. Although the app for smartphone Android and iPhone is available, the latter is not free. This software is able to show you your flashcards one after another and you have the possibility to decide how much do you remember about every of them. Anki will receive your responses and decide when to show you the flashcard again. With this method you will see often a flashcard you don’t remember and after days a word that you have learned. I used to write a note on my phone for every new word I meet during my day and create the correspondent flashcards in my personal deck in the evening. With this solution you’ll see over and over a word until you’ll learn it.

5. MyLanguageExchange & Meetup
To learn a new language living in your own country without a school may be difficult. Even more, to find someone to talk in English is sometimes impossible. The website MyLanguageEschange, like many other, may be very useful for this purpose. In this website you can find people who know english and want to learn your native language. It would be very useful for you to exchange your language for english.
If you are abroad you have much many possibilities to talk with native speaker. By the way, even if you live in an English country, it can be tough to make good English friendship because of the cultural difference and the difficulties with the language. Meetup is a nice solution to meet people with your same interest. On Meetup are available many groups with many different interests and you have the possibility to join them and attend meetups.
When you have an elementary level and you try to communicate in english is likely that people won’t understand everything you say because your accent is still too strong. A good solution to know how to pronounce a word if you are alone is Google Translate.

6. Youtube & Ted
How many times did you go on Youtube to watch some videos? I imagine a lot of times.
Even Youtube can be a very good tool to learn a language. Everyone have spent several hours surfing on Youtube and watching a great quantity of videos. What if you watch all those videos in English? You might improve your English just watching tutorials on how to learn guitar or every other thing. This is another occasion for you to join your passions with English. To learn would be easier for you and you will be happy to struggle for understand what the video says.
During my IELTS preparation course in Sydney I received another advice about video websites from my teacher. It’s name is Ted.com. Ted maintain a database of talks of professionals about every kind of topic. Moreover, almost every video have the transcript of the video and the possibility to add subtitles in every language. You can discover new things about your favourite subject and learn about very interesting thing about others. Psychology, science, robotics and also politics: Ted is an amazing storage of knowledge.

EnglishBooks

7. Books & Newspaper
I know, many people do not really like to read, but when you are learning a language, reading may enormously help you! Even in this case Google can help us to find what we need. You can give it a go starting with children books if you are elementary level or technical books if you level is advanced.
If you are abroad and your English is already quite good you should try to read newspapers. I still find newspaper quite difficult because the authors use high level language with slangs and idiomatic expression. You need to learn also these expressions if you want to understand everything a native speaker say, but I personally would not go crazy with those expressions if my level is still low. On the internet there are also plenty of news websites. One of the most famous in Sydney is the The Sydney Morning Herald.
Reading books and newspaper will notably improve your vocabulary. Reading actively means to notice every word or expression you don’t know and doing researches to understand every sentence you read. You can create new flashcards through Anki and constantly review them. It is a heavy activity but this method would help you to make incredible progresses in a few time. My advice is to active read only if you are very determinate. The other option is to read even if you don’t understand everything, looking for a word only if it is fundamental. After you’ll read a page, you will understand all the meaning from the context.
To translate new word don’t use Google Translate. Wordreference is a very professional translator witch often have synonyms and examples to make you surely understand the meaning. If you are already confident with English you may avoid translators and use directly an English dictionary. The best dictionary is the
Cambridge dictionary.

8. Diary or Blog
To learn English people need also to learn how to write a good email. To have the ability to write without grammar and spelling mistakes is a very important skill. It seems silly but even native language people can often make mistakes with difficult words such as “questionnaire” or “entrepreneur”. In English you do not say exactly what you read. Furthermore, some words have different spelling but same sound (hear, here / write, right) or same sound but different spelling (red->colour and read->past participle of read). The only way to understand and stop to make mistakes is practice over and over. If you are abroad you have probably realised how many times you need to write an email to apply for a job or to ask for a new accommodation.
A very good way to practice is to open a blog or begin to write a diary every day. It will be easier for you to write about yourself and it will substantially improve the way you write. You can write it in your own language and translate it in english. When you get used to you can start to write in English from the beginning.

9. Practice everyday
It is not important to follow all of these 10 advices but it is fundamental to follow this one: practice constantly every day or at least every 2 days. Do something, watch a movie or write to a pen friend in America to tell him what are you up to. This is even more important if you are living in your home country because you haven’t the possibilities to talk in English with everyone you meet. You need to remember what you are aiming to and find a way to make time for keeping practicing.
If you have the possibility to enrol to a course or an English school do it. If you paid for it you will be keener to attend the class. A school can seriously help you and if you find good teachers your English can jump easily to the next level.
Another solution to constantly practice is to register and participate to forums in line with you interests. Internet is crowd with forums about every topic you can imagine.

10. Go abroad
This is probably the less practical advice. Perhaps you are not planning to leave you country, but if you really want a substantial improvement in a few time this is the best choice you can do. However, sometimes this is not a solution. Learn English or not is always up to you and go abroad do not make you a native English speaker. I met many people who had left their country with friends to learn English and travel. Almost everyone was speaking in their own language all the time using English just occasionally. Well, as you can imagine their English was only slightly improving.
Leave your country will help you by the way. You can find very difficult to stay far away from your family and friend and you will miss everything, especially if you are alone. You will feel very relieved when you will find someone who talks your own language and has you same culture. You will feel at home but this can become a double-edged sword. I met many people who regretted staying a long time with old friends in Australia. I’m not saying that you should avoid your friends, but you need to have clear what is your goal and why you left your country. Sometimes you can miss everything but when you’ll find yourself struggling to remember an expression or words in your language you will be surprised because you’ll know you’re doing a good job.

– – –

Remember that you cannot upload the English language from you computer to your brain. Not yet =) And there are not magic solution to do it. You just need to work hard for it. Nobody can help you as good as yourself.

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The caterpillar transformation

A few weeks ago, while I was working in Mildura, I was listening to a podcast of Radiolab, witch was talking of “Black boxes“. One of the black boxes discussed in the podcast was the caterpillar transformation in butterfly. The topic make me very curious and I’ve decided that it deserve a post on my blog.
As everybody knows, caterpillars make a cocoon after a period of time that is different between the species and become a butterfly that start flying. The question arises:

Caterpillar

What happen inside the cocoon during the caterpillar transformation?
The first thing most of the people think is that the caterpillar grows 2 wings and its body change as a consequence. Well, that’s wrong! (:
If someone take a cocoon and open it after the caterpillar have started its chrysalis you won’t find neither a caterpillar nor a butterfly. You’d just find a yellow liquid.

What? The caterpillar is.. melt? what happened
Tha’s the interesting thing! Since 1600 people have started to wonder what happen during the chrysalis. The only solution they found was that something magic was happening. people thought it was something religious, like a miracle in whitch the caterpillare die and revive butterfly.
Furthermore, some studies showed that butterflies (or moths) ‘remember’ their lives when they were caterpillars and act accordingly. To be more precise, the experiment proved that a butterly avoid a smell it learn to avoid when it was a caterpillar. This means that also the brain with the memory is rebuilt in the new body.

Amazing! So? How can a caterpillar become butterfly?
Well, first of all the carterpillar digest himself realising enzymes to dissolve the tissues. It seems that the content of a cocoon is not just a mix of tissues but some groups of organised cells called ‘imaginal discs’ survive to the digestive process. These cells are already present in the caterpillar’s egg. They grow during the caterpillar’s life for every parts of the adult body. There will be sn ‘image’ for the legs, the eyes, the wings, and so on. Once that the cartepillar has been dissolved, the cells use all the proteins there are around to create the new body.

Butterfly

The mistery is explained. This can be called a miracle of the nature.

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My farm experience

Working Holiday Visa (WHV) is definitely the most applied visa from people who want to try a complete Australian experience, working and studying in the country. In Italy, and in many other countries, you can apply for a WHV and live and work in Australia for a whole year. Unfortunately people cannot be older than 31 and the visa can be apply only once for lifetime.
Work in an Australian farm for 88 days is the most common option the Australian Government give to people who want to apply for this visa once again. The farm job and the outback adventure is often mysterious for who never left a big city like Sydney or Melbourne.

I’ve decided to write my experience and my advices to help people who want to leave the city and get the 88 days required for the second WHV. The first thing to do before to start planning is to have a look at the National Harvest Guide that the government update every year. The farm works are not available all the time in every region because they are driven by the fruit season. In the guide is easy to understand where is more likely to find a job and where not, as well as the best month to leave.

RoadTrip

I personally worked in Cobram and Mildura, both in Victoria (close to the border with NSW) but picking jobs are not very different in other region of Australia. The main advice I use to give is to buy a car and leave. To find a job on Gumtree from Sydney or Melbourne or another city is possible but very hard. Moreover, is unlikely to find a job that will be long enough to complete your days and with a car it will be easy to find a new job straight away. Most of the employer and contractor are looking indeed for people keen and ready to work for the day after and don’t have transport or accommodations. Leaving a city without the certainty of a job can be discouraging but I’ve been working for about 10 different farms and every time I’ve found the job in no more than 3 days.

Another important thing is the payment. I’ve been disappointed with the payment for every job. Employers know very well how many backpackers are looking for a farm job to get a second visa or just to same money and travel. Australia is one of the most targeted country for road trips. For this reason the payment are very low and almost always based on how much fruit can you pick and how fast you are. Luckily in the outback life is easy and you cannot spend money if not for food and petrol. I never had problems to save money.

RedBack

One thing might scare a few people is the presence of dangerous animals. Australia, as you know, is full of them but they are not as dangerous as people think. Every animal is scared of us and with a few attention it become very hard to be bitten from a snake or a spider. While I was in Cobram I was walking on the high grass in a national park with my thongs (or flipflops). As soon as I’ve seen a Red Belly snake one meter away from my feet I realised that walking there has not been a very good idea. The snake though, escaped under the grass after a few seconds. Secondly, when I was working with grapes I’ve had the occasion to see a lot of Redback spiders. They are very common in NSW and Victoria and dangerous, but not as dangerous as people believe. Not only is very unusual to be bitten from a spider but often the bite don’t even need the anti-poison. Of course, it’s better to remember the Australian emergency number (000).

The farm work is very hard but there are also advantages. Australia is full of travellers, the small towns are more relaxed than big cities and people are often very nice and available. I’ve had the possibility to meet a lot of people and make new friends from all over the world.

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First days in Sydney

I’m back in Sydney! The travel has been good except a truck that was in my lane and wanted to bring me back in Mildura. Luckily the driver realised that bring me back wasn’t a good idea and swerved back in his lane!

hume-hwy
Since Canberra was on the way back, I decided to visit it. The city is very small and very “precise”. Visiting it become clear that it has been built to be the perfect capital. The buildings are squared and give you an impression of seriousness. The Parliament House is incredible, built on a hill like a castle and with the view on the city. Just below there is the old Parliament House, which is now the museum of democracy. Interesting to learn something about the history of Australian government.

Parliament House Canberra
When I arrived in Sydney I realised that the car was not an advantage anymore. In Sydney all the parkings are with fee and limit of time. I have been changing place for all the afternoon and driving for an hour in the between to find a new parking spot. With a friend’s help I found the next morning a super secret free and unlimited spot! The car is going to stay there forever. At least till I’ll sell it. (:
After I’ve solved the first glitch, I focused my attention on the second big problem: to buy Nutella that had finished during the travel! :-)
Everything is now along the right lines, Italy have won the first match of football world championship (my english flatmates of my new shared-apartment are not happy :-) ) and I’m ready to start the IELTS preparation!

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Back in Sydney

It’s time to go back in Sydney. (:
After my last 3 months in Mildura and around, I’ve finally got my days of farmjob and all what it takes to stay for a second year in Australia.LRGMelbourneFriendsMilduraFriends After the grapes season I’ve had to struggle a bit to find others jobs but now I can leave the rural life and keep going toward my goals.
I’ll miss this place. The farmwork is hard but useful against stress.
I’ve known a lot of people in this adventure and I hope to meet everybody again !! (: I’ll miss you!

The next step when I’ll be in Sydney? To reap the fruits (or rather the rewards, I don’t want to pick fruit anymore) of my trip in Australia.
The Australian government require the IELTS certification for most of the cases if you are immigrant and you want a professional job. That is one of the biggest obstacle that who want a career in Australia have to deal with. I’ll leave Mildura in the next days to start a course of IELTS preparation next week. I’m looking forward to see my friends in Sydney and to start a new school!
Now I’ll start to put together my stuff and plan my return. (:

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Melbourne & Great Ocean Road

There are so many emotions when making the choice to leave your country. One of these is to see places you’ve seen just on pictures. The first time was when I’ve seen the view of the opera house and harbour bridge in Sydney. I was with a good friend and, like a picture in my mind, I realized that I achieved what I wanted. (:
I met more amazing views months later when I was at the White Night in Melbourne and along the Great Ocean Road.
I haven’t much to say about it because I only stopped for 10 days.
These are some pictures taken during my trip from Sydney to Mildura:

Sydney, NSW Cobram, Victoria Great Alpine Road, Victoria Philip Island, Victoria Melbourne, Victoria Twelve Apostoles, Victoria
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Great Alpine Road, Victoria

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