Chapter Two: Hello Chicago

I’ve sat down at my computer several times over the last few weeks trying to write this post. I felt like I had a lot to say, and I was struggling to organize my thoughts into a concise post. This is my best attempt yet, so please bear with me.

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Chicago in Summer, a snap of the city from Lake Michigan in June

I moved back to the US this summer. This was the end of my four-year run in Sydney. It was a both a happy and sad decision to come back here. While in my heart I know it was the right choice and I’m excited for my next adventure, I can’t help but already miss Sydney. It had become a home to me.

One of the hardest parts of leaving Sydney was saying goodbye to friends. I had attended a lot of farewell drinks for friends leaving over the last few years before my own. Sydney felt like a very transient city at times, especially with so many of my friends being fellow expats. However, even my Australian friends were adventurous travellers and world-wanderers. It was never a guarantee that anyone would stay put, but I’m thankful for that experience too.

It was my friends in Sydney who taught me a lot about what it meant to travel and to see yourself as a citizen of the world. It’s been through watching them and their fearless approach to what’s ahead that I’ve gained a lot of my confidence to be away from home for so long, go places that I never thought I’d go, and see the world through new eyes. It’s a wonderful gift and something I’ll carry with me forever now. Thank you guys.

I’ve started a new job, working for The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) from their Chicago offices. They specialize in helping US students to study abroad in Australia, New Zealand, SE Asia and China. TEAN is the very same company that helped send me on that very first journey to Australia, as a study abroad student on the Gold Coast.

It’s a brilliant group of people that I’ve admired since I was a student with them. It feels very fitting that I’ve gone full circle to end up working for this company. I’ll now have the opportunity to help students take the first steps on their own journey.

One of our students wrote a blog post this week about her return back to the US from a semester studying in Shanghai, China. I thought that her description of how it felt to come back was beautifully told. It made me tear up reading it, thinking about my own recent return.

“There are places there to be discovered, they are just waiting for you to come.

Personally, I know about one that melted my heart.

Yes, China made me feel alive.”

Now please excuse my melted heart <3

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Reflection on Three Years in Sydney

Leaving Alice Springs, flying over the Red Centre

Leaving Alice Springs (Norther Territory) flying over the Red Centre

Three years in Sydney… How have I been away for three years? I’ve reached a point where I’m not quite sure if three years is long time or short time to be living abroad.  Depends who is asking.

In some ways it feels like ages. When I moved here I thought I would stay for 2-3 years at the most. My aim was to experience Australia in a more in-depth way than just a temporary holiday. I wanted Sydney it to be a home for me. I wanted to create a life here, with a career, friends and community. Reflecting on it now, I feel as though I have that, and I’m very grateful.

I moved to Sydney alone, not knowing anyone here. I remember wondering a lot in my first months when Sydney would become ordinary or completely familiar to me. I also wondered how long it would be until I had friends where I could be myself and let my guard down. I desperately wanted to feel comfortable in my surroundings. I’m not sure when it happened, but much has changed since those days.

Despite loving this place, I never thought Australia would be home forever. I always wanted it to be temporary, as part of my life, not the rest of my life. The thought leaving now, devastates me. While I have no plans to leave in the immediate future, it still isn’t a permanent home.

I know three years is really just a small blip on the radar. I have expat friends who have lived in multiple countries, travelled the world and have been away from “home” much longer than I have.  It’s actually funny how non-unique your own story starts to feel over time with the more people you meet. I find it can be both comforting and annoying at times. I guess that’s probably more a life lesson that translates beyond just moving abroad.

Before moving here, I had never really considered the idea of long-term travel or even living anywhere other than Australia. My dream wasn’t to just become an expat or live abroad; it was specifically to come live in Australia. However, lately these three years are feeling like they could be just a start.

Uluru at Sunset

Uluru at Sunset

One of my best friends came to visit earlier this month from the US. We spent a week in the Northern Territory for a camping adventure in the outback and to see Uluru (Ayers Rock). It’s something that’s been my ‘to see’ list since studying abroad in Australia, and I’m glad I finally made it there, it was a great way to celebrate a three year anniversary.

Thank you for wonderful times and great memories over these last three years Sydney. Looking forward to many more to come. Cheers!

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My Blogging Reality, Guilt and Hopes

Sydney Harbour - HannahAll I can seem to write about lately are random (somewhat homesick) posts about being an expat, thoughts on being American and reflections on what I miss the most about Ohio. The Tribe season opener was yesterday, and I wanted to be back in Cleveland so badly (and I’m not even that huge of a baseball fan). I don’t publish most of what I write. I just enjoy venting sometimes.

I feel like I should be writing more industry posts related to my work. I’ve had some great learns from my most recent work with Rocketman. However, it feels forced. I sit down to write and I feel so flat about it. I don’t want to publish posts on my personal blog that I’m not feeling passionate about. It seems pointless.

The posts that I really want write and share are about my life in Sydney. I want to record foodie adventures and discovering local venues in Darlinghurst. Instead I just write the occasional 100-word Yelp review. It feels like I never have time to blog, but I guess I just haven’t made it a priority.

Any advice for me on how to get out of this blogging slump?

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5 Tips for Planning a Sydney Meetup

20 publicI’ve been known to organise a few events here and there, but more often I’m attending events. I attend a lot of events actually. Sometimes, when I’m really busy, it’s almost every night of the week. It’s my plan to write an eBook guide on “How to organise a free or low cost community-based event in Sydney.” I want to give practical advice on venues, ticketing platforms, event format, and communication for people who have a great idea but perhaps have never run their own meetup. Some of it is common sense, but I think there will definitely be some value to be shared for the Sydney community.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few quick tips that have been on my mind.

1. List your event details online

Remember when I said some of this advice would be obvious? Yes, this is one of those tips. However, time and time again I struggle to find event pages and registration information. Is this event open to everyone? Do I need to print my ticket? When does it start? What’s the format?  Share as much information as possible to help people (especially new people that you haven’t met yet) feel comfortable showing up to your event.

2. Create your event hashtag early

If you want the event to be shared on Twitter with a specific hashtag, start using it early. Even before you have a registration page or speaker you can start communicating all messages on Twitter with that hashtag. This is often an after thought. The organiser will realize they want people to tweet with a specific hashtag at the start of the event (or halfway through). By this time people have crated their own, or perhaps assumed that people wouldn’t be talking about the event on Twitter collectively.

Bonus: Please also make sure it’s something short, easy to remember and somehow ties in with the event name. However, that’s another post for another time.

3. Choose an appropriate venue

Again, this might seem like another obvious tip, but I attend a lot of meetups where the space doesn’t suit the event. If you want people to be able to have conversations, perhaps avoid the noisy pub. It helps to visit or experience locations before choosing to host there if possible. Think about the type of experience you want people to have. Do you want it to be intimate with fewer people having conversations? Host a dinner. Do you want the whole city to attend? Then book a big room.

4. Introduce your event attendees

I’m a firm believer that great event organisers should know or meet everyone who comes to meetup. Of course, this is definitely much more difficult with large-scale or one-time events, but the host or hostess should always make an effort to meet people in attendance. Great hosts will also introduce other attendees, and more than just event in a polite “you both look lonely, so you should chat” type way. They should look to introduce people who could benefit from knowing each other.  If people make connections that are personally valuable to them, chances are they will be back to your meetup or event again.

5. Be wary of event fatigue

So you run an awesome meetup or event (every week, month, quarter, etc.) and suddenly after many awesome events you’re simply burnt out. That’s okay. Everyone gets tired and you don’t have an obligation to continue organising your event. However, if you’ve created something awesome with a community and following it’s also a shame to shut it down. Consider setting up a team to help you from the start so when the day comes where you’re ready to leave the meetup, others can take over. The event can live on without you and continue to be valuable to the attendees.

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Expat Thoughts: Moving Abroad after College

Ever since moving to Sydney a couple years ago I’ve been receiving emails from students and recent grads asking about finding a job and living abroad. They show up randomly a couple times a month or so, because they found my blog or read a guest post I’ve written on moving. I love those messages, and always try to take my time writing back so I can be thoughtful with my responses.

It feels like it wasn’t that long ago I was sitting in front of my laptop searching through the same endless blog posts and articles. There is so much online in terms of advice on moving to another country, but it’s still tough to know what journey you’ll take. That’s something that I’ve observed from all my expat friends here. When it comes to landing a job and moving on the other side of the world there is no “right answer” on how to get there. We all took different paths to end up in Sydney. I’ve considered writing a short eBook guide (with the help of a few friends) for Americans who want to move to Sydney. I worry that it would become outdated quickly or perhaps too narrow focused.

So while I do hesitate to give out too much advice on certain topics (such as visas or financial advice). I will still openly share my story of how I got here. I also think one of the most important things I can give back to new grads is extra encouragement. I know for a lot of young Australians the idea of leaving the country for work or school, isn’t as much of hurdle, but the majority of us “Ohioans” don’t tend to pack up and move to another country just because we feel like it. It’s not only a lack of knowledge or role models that have travelled and gone before you but also a challenge of selling yourself on the idea (and it’s not an easy sell).

There were some really important people in my life that encouraged me to move abroad. I’m really thankful for that, especially looking back now. I think everyone needs those cheerleaders, especially when you’re a new grad. Just graduating and starting your job search is a scary enough, much less moving somewhere new.  When you make up your mind to land a job on the other side of the planet and move to a new city where you don’t know anyone – that is all on you. People can help you, but you’re still the one who has to make the effort and take action. However, it’s the people around you telling you it’s possible that helps give you that extra little push you need.

So to those recent and soon to be grads that stumble across my blog, this post is mostly for you. Please do email me and ask me questions about life in Sydney, moving to a new city and living abroad. I try to answer pretty much all emails, even if it does take me some time to get back to you. Please also know that even though you feel quite isolated, lost, and unsure in your job search – many have had this same experience and are willing to help you if you seek them out.

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Getting Focused on Dividing our Attention

Yep…that’s a yak.
cc license, Rob Blatt

A Sydney friend, Josh Capelin, gave a talk at the last local Pecha Kucha about yak shaving. It inspired me to write a blog post and share a few thoughts on multi-tasking related to professional lives. That was five months ago and I’ve been putting it off. You’ll see the irony in minute here, let me explain…

People sometimes frown upon taking on too many projects at once. It goes against the idea of getting focused and seeing something through from start to finish. However, I would tend to agree that I would rather move a few inches across several projects that a mile on one.  My mind isn’t scattered, but rather always thinking, dreaming and scheming.

Josh spoke about the many jobs and projects he has taken on. Some might view this is a journey – a path to figuring out what we want to achieve in life or where our careers will take us. This assumes that we are taking this disorganised journey to get somewhere, when perhaps this actually just life. I’m not convinced it’s always a bad thing to get distracted by the details and end up walking around in circles for a while. We choose to wear many hats at once.

I was at a talk by Frank Chimero during Vivid Sydney that I really enjoyed.  He had this great message around how he does things the “long, hard and stupid way” this is some of his best work. So perhaps when we are yak shaving and dividing our attention this is also some of our best work.

What do you think? Is this a phase we work through or a way to work? 

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Blogging for a Cause

I love storytelling through blogs. I wish I told more meaningful stories here actually (need to work on that). Blogging is one way you can give a voice to a person, group or organisation that might not have their own voice online yet. I like shout-outs and links on Twitter, but those short-forms posts don’t always deliver.

I experienced the idea of what blogging for a cause means firsthand a few years ago. I wrote a blog post about a volunteer group I absolutely (and still do) adored called Columbus Gives Back. The next month while helping out at one of their events I was talking to my friend Steph who was volunteering for the first time with that group. Even though she was someone I regularly caught up with, she told me that she had found out about Columbus Gives Back from my blog post. I was amazed. Firstly, because I didn’t think anyone besides my mum and flatmate read my blog and secondly, that my writing could cause someone to take an action (that was awesome).

I’m not telling this story because I think I’m special or because I believe that I’m motivating people to volunteer. Steph was a friend, that’s why she read my blog post and she’s a wonderful, caring person so that’s why she signed up to volunteer. This experience was insignificant in the wider scheme of outcomes, but an important lesson for me personally. It introduced me to the idea that we can share a message that’s worth sharing and reach people online far beyond our day-to-day interactions.

While I’ll always tweet links to stupid YouTube clips, and blog about my favourite foods in Sydney, I hope that I also make a choice at times to talk about meaningful topics on my blog. I like having conversations that matter offline and online. Just something to think about more I suppose.

Share your story. Have you ever blogged for a cause? 

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