Thursday, 25 August 2011

Guest Post - Out, Down Under, and back

Even before emigrating I have always been interested in other peoples tales of travel and living an Ex-pat lifestyle, so I was very pleased when Cressida from The Book Analyst agreed to write a post about her ex-pat childhood.

Out, Down Under, and Back

Hi, I’m an ex-expat child – having been brought up in Brussels from 
aged 2 to 12, before we more or less settled ‘back’ in the UK.

The year I turned twelve I went to three different secondary schools 
in three countries on three different continents in a year.   Actually 
for most of that year I managed not to be at school at all – sound 
good?  Not quite so good in reality.

The plan was to leave Belgium, where we’d had three consecutive three 
year postings and return to Australia – as my father was a journalist 
for the ABC (the Australian version of the BBC).  We packed up the 
house, let the cat go live on a farm, said tearful farewells to my 
friends at the big international school, then moved to London for a 
couple of months.

My father was covering someone’s job before we got to Sydney – so that 
was my first experience of being a bored preteen in a new city with no 
friends and no school.  Anyone we did know was at school.  I read a 
lot of books, half-heartedly did some workbooks my mother had got hold 
of, and we waited until we could get started in our new lives.

Two more months while we took the scenic route around Asia on our way 
to Australia – my parents needed a holiday.  I was a bit over the 
whole ‘holiday’ thing.  When we finally landed in Australia, I was 
hustled into an education testing centre, still jetlagged, to do an IQ 
test to see where I would fit in the Australian school system.

My results meant I finally had a school to go to – after the longest 
summer holiday ever – North Sydney Girls’ High.  For four weeks.  
Before the summer holiday started (got to love swapping hemispheres).  
Uniform was bought – deathwatch tartan – summer dresses (with very 
handy hidden pockets) like the ones you’ve seen on Neighbours and Home 
and Away.

I came into school – towards the end of the school year – just after 
all the exams.  The girls were friendly, interested in my time off 
school and my English accent, but much more interested in the fun two 
weeks they coming up as a reward for their exams - non-school uniform 
and non-curriculum.  New school uniform went back in the cupboard as 
we watched films, tie-dyed t-shirts, walked across the Harbour Bridge 
– and then started the summer holidays.

During this time my parents had been busy.  My father had settled into 
a new job, my mother had found us a home and was getting it ready.  
And then a new job came up – in London.  Dad got it.  We were due to 
move back again in March.  Mum told the school.  They waved us goodbye 
– there were other (more long-term) children waiting to come, so I was 

Another two months spent trying to kill time and get out of mum’s way 
while she packed.  I discovered that a school bus pass (valid for 
trips to and from school only) would get you all the way to Bondi 
Beach from central Sydney if you told a bored bus driver you had a far-
fetched dentist appt.
image credit
Back in the UK, suddenly cold, and another round of school interviews
and another girls’ school.  This time a couple of weeks before the 
Easter holidays, no uniform, and not quite such friendly girls.  I 
turned up with an Australian accent, and a severe case of emotional 

Longterm this last move wasn’t the most successful.  My father got 
embroiled in office politics in his new job, my parents’ marriage fell 
apart, and I suffered with bullying.  I do sometimes wonder what would 
have happened if the life we’d started living in Australia had 
continued, but – but – then of course I almost certainly wouldn’t have 
met my husband and had my children.

My children go to the local school, with their local friends, and 
although we have had the chance to live abroad for periods of time, 
I’ve always resisted it.   My children’s school caters for army 
children, a third at any one time, and there are comings and going, 
sometimes in the middle of term, sometimes at the end of a year, and 
new children sometimes appear – almost randomly.  If this happens in 
your school, think of that child, and the parents who have been 
running themselves ragged getting everything organised  - and invite 
them over for a play and a meal they don’t need to cook.  It could be 
the beginning of a beautiful friendship

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this, and really felt for you and your parents.  We're moving back to Aus at the end of next year.   Our children are very young so that will be easier.   It's a bit sad, though, getting used to a place only to have to leave again. 


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