Melbourne by night over yarra river

A little Belgian in Melbourne

A couple of months ago, I made the big move down under. For love, how cheesy, but also change of scenery, new experiences, overcoming challenges, a big adventure.

Six months in, I have absorbed all these different impressions and it was time for me to write them down. I share them with you in case some topics might interest you.

However, feel no pressure to read on, it’s not because something is publicly available it has to be shared.

For those who are interested, enjoy reading my thoughts, my experiences with Melbourne, the places I visit, the food I eat and the people around me.

This is for those who want to know how and what I am doing here, my friends and family. It is for those who want to visit Melbourne and are looking for a Belgian’s experiences. Or for those wanting to make a big move, for love or for adventure.

I am not planning on portraying things better than they are. It will be about all the good, the bad and the ugly of moving far from home. And very personal. So please be respectful.

Views or opinions expressed are my own and not those of my employer or other affiliations.


Adventuring on the gorge


Werribee gorge hikeAustralia is full of national parks with gorgeous walking trails, so I dragged James along to the Werribee Gorge on a warm Sunday.

I fully prepared as a a millennial by downloading a blog article stating our route, without even having read it. The photos looked pretty so that’s enough. Some alarm bells should have rung by reading the title, saying ‘adventure edition’. Anyway, I was sure we could be classified as experienced hikers and that a ‘difficult’ hike wouldn’t be that difficult. After all, I do go for walks sometimes along the beach, that counts as experienced right?

falcon femke

The route was beautiful, however very challenging. Think going off trail walking over ridges of a high cliff with an unsteady underground. At some point I felt like an experienced rock climber having to descend the cliff vertically and backwards.

We saw stunning views, went up and down the gorge and along the beautiful river.

Werribee gorge hike

Werribee Gorge is definitely a good spot to hike, but I would recommend anyone to stay on the signed trails, they were challenging enough.

After having done two third of our tour, getting lost a couple of times and kicked a couple of tantrums, we had to get back to our car – which was at the other side of a huge cliff.

eastern lookout

Almost giving up at that point, we found the right ridge and headed up. Off trail again and following a dubious walking path we did feel like true adventurers.

The best views of the day were there, however we were too sweaty, tired and scared of never getting home again to get our camera out.

Memory pictures were taken. Next time, I won’t be assuming to be experienced at anything though. Stay modest kids.


A sneak peek at Parliament House

We went to check out some of the beautiful buildings in Melbourne CBD on open houses day!

This weekend, some of Melbourne’s most magnificent buildings are open to the wider public and we went to have a sneak peek at at some of the buildings’s secret chambers.

Starting Saturday morning we planned on visiting only a few buildings since I expected long queues and big masses of people. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case.

We started at the Old Treasury Building. During the gold rush, this 19th century building was used for storing gold in the underground vaults. The building is grotesque and represents the gold rush atmosphere very well.

Visiting the underground vaults you can find some information about the gold rush and the value of gold. On the first level, we visited the old offices of government officials.

Next to the old treasury building and the planned highlight of our visit is Parliament House. We had to wait half an hour in line, but it was worth it.

We got a fantastic tour with excellent explanations from our guide. Knowledgeable, topical and interesting. Learned some more about Australian state politics and pretended to be the parliaments president.

Fun fact: who knew that Melbourne was Australia’s capital in the early 1900’s. This parliament was the national parliament at that time before they moved the capital to Canberra.

The building itself is worth visiting with amazing decorations of gold, chandeliers, statues, domes, old furniture,…

After some delicious yum cha (Chinese brunch, where you can pick food from trolleys rolling around), we gave up on visiting old buildings and went shopping in the city. Not as cultural, but nevertheless a terrific day!

Road to a job

It happened. I have been hired for a communication job in Melbourne. And what a journey that was.

Graduated from two master’s degree at good Belgian universities and with a fair amount of ambition and enthusiasm I thought finding a job would be easy.

But of course, I did not choose the easy road here and had some things working against me.

Having studied communication sciences and loving everything about it, I was determined finding a job in this field. However, being a non-native speaker, with no working experience, no permanent residency and no network, it wasn’t easy.

I have put together some tips and advice for finding a job as a graduate overseas. I am not an expert, but it is what helped me.

The road getting there was hard and I would like to share my five major frustrations.

  1. Not knowing anyone

I never realised how good my Belgian network was. You don’t think about it when you are just living life, making friends at uni, meeting people through same interests, joining the student newspaper or doing an internship, that these relationships help you later on.

Looking for a job in another country made me realise that knowing people is important. Because through your network you find the interesting job openings.

Without this, you need to become a pretty good investigator to find the good jobs. And applying for publicly available jobs means the competition is murdering. It will be ten times harder to stand out of the crowd.

  1. Not being an Australian citizen

It makes me angry, but it’s a reality to deal with. Lots of jobs ask specifically for Australian citizens or permanent residents. Even though I have a visa allowing me to work without restrictions and indefinite in time.

  1. Not having experience

This is something every graduate looking for a job is frustrated with. Recruiters want to hear about your previous experience to get the job, but how will you ever get experience if no one gives you that chance.

I found it often surprising that people with experience were applying for entry-level positions. This shows how many people were looking for a new job.

  1. Endless processes

Looking for a job is exhausting and disappointing and can take forever. For every interview I spend time and energy on preparing, researching the organisation and answering key selection criteria.

Then on to a second round of interviews, completing tests, meeting the team. And with every step I would get more enthusiastic about the job and wanting to work for this great company.

But more than once, after all these tests, I heard nothing back. No email, no phone call, nothing. Running out of patience I would contact them to hear that I did not get the job.

And after weeks of investing time, you often don’t get feedback about how you did. “You did great, we loved you. But we chose the other candidate,” is useless feedback.

  1. Accepting rejections

Being rejected over and over is not only bad for your ego, it affects your mood, self-worth and the willingness to move on and keep on looking. Taking in rejection after rejection is hard. But it is necessary to remember it is their loss, not yours.

What are/were your frustrations when looking for a job? Leave them in a comment or message!

Looking for some tips on finding a job overseas, read them here.

Finding your dream job

With my first days at my new job passed, I am looking back on the whole job process. One with ups and downs, but with a major reward at the end. A job that fits me perfectly!

When I got the call offering me a job, I was thrilled! However, it wasn’t easy to get there. If you want to know my frustrations and struggles, read my blog post about major hurdles here.

I would love to share some tips on managing to secure that dream job. Because I know it is hard to believe you can land a dream job when you are in the job seeking process. For everyone who can relate, some tips for keep going on.

  1. Don’t give up

When you are dealing with many rejections for jobs you thought would excel in, don’t start lowering your standards. I got close to just start looking for any job. And the people around me were also advising me to give up looking for a job in the field I wanted to work in.

However, I felt sad when looking at other jobs. Writing cover letters felt insincere. I could not promote myself for a job I wouldn’t be motivated for and it also doesn’t pay off.

Keep looking for your dream job, with patience it will come along.

  1. Find a good match

You will only land a job where there is a good match between you and the job you are applying for. If the job doesn’t feel like you, you probably also won’t get it. So, follow your gut feeling in applying for the right jobs. It is worth putting more time and energy in positions you feel confident about than to apply for everything that comes along.

  1. Stand out

Recruiters will never know how awesome you are, when you’re never invited for an interview. So stand out of the crowd early. I did this by creating an original resume for every job. Mine was an infographic, using the colour scheme of the company (easily findable on the website). I used Piktochart for this, but there are numerous ways to create an attractive resume.

Also think about what makes you special, and mention this in your cover letter. For me in Australia it was my European background (which is great on social issues), the languages I can speak (3 opposing to 1) and the degree I have (master’s anyone?). These are aspects my Australian competition would not offer, so I tried to leverage it.

  1. Build up a reference list

Australians are big on checking your references. If you are like me new to a country, it is hard to present these references.

Find a way to connect with people in your field willing to give you a reference. I started volunteering at Sacred Heart Mission, a charity helping people who are homeless. I volunteered in their communication team and was able to grow a network over there.

Their reference was essential in getting me a job offer.

  1. Get experience

Find a way to gain experience in your field and in the country you live in. By volunteering as a communication officer, I could show examples of my writing in English, for an Australian organisation. Without some relevant experience it will be hard to give good examples to new employers. However, don’t get stuck in unpaid work. Do it only as long as it benefits you as well.

  1. Do what you love

Nothing shows more confidence than being happy with yourself and what you do. I was stuck in a negative spiral when looking for a job. I felt all my free time should go to applying for jobs and writing cover letters. But I was being rejected more and more because I was losing confidence more and more.

Take a step back and spend time on your passions. I volunteered in communications for a great organisation. But I also took the time to read a good book and started writing again. This was not only a good exercise for me, but I felt more relaxed and better about myself. Don’t get sucked up in the job hunt and take time for yourself. It will show in interviews and you will get a job easier.

Alone in a crowd

My friends mean the world to me. It is so important to have some good mates beside you. To have fun with. To complain to. To cry with. Basically, to share memories with.

With moving overseas and starting a new life, I was eager to make some new friends. I have always been good at it. When on exchange I met some of my besties in my first week. And I was only 5 months there in total.

However, here in Australia I find it mightily difficult to meet some people I really connect with. Even though I try to put myself out there, meet people, go to parties and have conversations.

It is only now I realise how lucky I have been in the past meeting great friends I truly get along with.

My childhood friends, who probably formed me to the person I am today. But also at uni I was part of a great group of people. How lucky was I to meet them, and accidentally getting along with so well?

Here, I feel alone in a crowd sometimes. There are so many young people living in Melbourne. And I am sure there are hundreds I would love to hang out with. I just don’t know how to meet them.

Making friends as an adult is hard. When there is no place you have to be, like uni, school or a hobby, it is difficult to meet new people.

I am tremendously grateful for the friends I have, all over the world.  However, I am sad to be so far away from most of them. And even though I love them, it is hard to stay in touch.

We all have busy lives, and a Skype call is sometimes an effort on both sides. Some of them, even though really missed, I barely speak to anymore.

But I know this will not hurt our friendship. It is just the way it is. Something you need to accept when moving overseas, you can’t keep in contact with everyone.

To all my friends, wherever they are. You are missed. Come over to Melbourne whenever you can, all of you are always welcome. If you want to talk, let me know.

In the meantime, I will meet all those cool, awesome people out there and find my own Melbourne crew.

If you have any tips on how to meet new people and make new friends, or want to share a story, leave a message!

Arriving in Christmas spirit

We arrived in Melbourne one week before Christmas. Starting our new lives in Australia during the Christmas holidays, it couldn’t be more perfect. And, most importantly, it was the middle of Australian summer.

And yes, it was a dreamy Australian Christmas. Melting in 35 degrees on a horse farm in the countryside, having a barbecue and delicious salads like only Australians can make them.

The holidays and catching up with everyone kept me and my partner very busy the first weeks. However, then the question rose, what to do now?

I did not have much time to think about what to do in Australia before I left. Which, in hindsight, might have been a mistake.

I would advise everyone making a big move, to have something planned for the first months after you arrive, to make transition easier. Make travel plans, arrange an internship, already find a job, anything.

James found a job when still in Belgium and was starting at the National Australian Bank one month after we arrived. I probably should have looked a bit sooner as well, as I did not expect the job hunt to be as difficult and frustrating as it was.

When he started work, it was time for me to find something to do, I have always lived a very busy life, and I suddenly had all this spare time.

I started doing everything I never had the time for in Belgium. Binge watching a whole Netflix series. Reading books for hours in the sun. Going for adventurous walks. Sporting more and starting a yoga class. However, this was not enough.

I needed a job, but I wasn’t allowed to work yet on my visa. I decided to do some volunteering. I always wanted to help people living in poverty.

I searched and found a fantastic organisation, helping people experiencing homelessness, that welcomed my skills in strategic communication.

Having something to do during the day was a welcome change. I was meeting interesting people and doing exciting work in this volunteering opportunity.

The first months in Australia were overwhelming. I always wanted to live in another country, not necessarily as far, but it was harder than expected.

To anyone making a big move. Expect the first weeks or months to be difficult. Especially when you move to your partner’s home town, where he has a million things to do, and you only a handful.

It is when you get bored, you start missing friends and family and getting very upset because you are not able to go to your best friend’s housewarming or your grandparent’s anniversary party.

There will be many ups and downs, however they keep life interesting. The downs go deep, but the ups raise to tops you will never experience at home. So enjoy them, and things will get better. Just wait for it.

Feel free to leave a comment about your experiences moving overseas.

Warming up at the bonfire Firelight Festival

This girl is on fire!

On a relatively cold winter night (yes it gets cold in Melbourne), James and I spent our Sunday night outside at the Firelight Festival.

From June 30 to July 2, Docklands was lit up with fire torches, fireworks, music and warm winter food.

Bringing a winter festival to Melbourne might seem odd, but it does work. Since the nights were chilly, the fire warmed up all the visitors who managed to fight the cold and get outside.

There were food stands, gas fires to warm your hands on, live entertainment and a gigantic burning torch on the water. Great fun for everyone, young and old.

Mayor Robert Doyle said the Firelight Festival is the perfect way to bring people together during winter (Source: Herald Sun). And we were very close together.

The promise of fireworks, mulled wine and warm finger food attracted thousands of people and families.

I don’t think the huge turnout was expected, since the setup didn’t accommodate the large crowd well, resulting in hold ups and massive cues.

We did manage to sample some delicious donuts, crepes and a hot chocolate, and all was forgiven again. Of course, the fireworks were the highlight of the evening.

The only downside was the lack of drinking stands. I truly missed our Belgian winter drinks such as some delicious jenever!

We have never seen Docklands this busy on a weekend night.

Docklands is a new part of Melbourne hosting mainly large business offices. Most of the time it is deadly quiet here at night.

This initiative from the city of Melbourne is a very smart one to successfully attract more people to Docklands and their restaurants.

All in all, a very enjoyable evening. We will go again next year!