Archive | October, 2013

T minus 10 days – A reflection

22 Oct

Vientiane (Photo credit: Kippelboy.)

Time has flown by, kind of fast, kind of slow.

In some ways, it only seems like a few days ago that I got an email from Austraining International telling me that I was successful in my interview and application for the role of Environmental Engineer on a 12-month placement based in Vientiane, Laos. In actual fact, that was 3 months ago. I only had a few days to accept or decline the offer. I accepted.

I completed and signed the mandatory forms, had a check-up with my GP, did a blood test and began a course of vaccinations. Throughout this time, I was also trying to work out whether this placement was the right decision for me or whether I was making a huge mistake.

I have a secure and well-paying job, I have a girlfriend who is not planning on moving overseas to one of the least developed countries in the world and take up a life as an expat’s partner. I also have all my friends, family and life’s comforts here in Sydney. Why would I put all that in jeopardy to take up a placement in a foreign country, undertaking plenty of field work in dangerous locations, exposing myself to many lethal diseases and taking a pretty significant pay-cut in the process?

I spoke to lots of people and got plenty of mixed responses. My dad thought (and still thinks) that I’m making a mistake and doesn’t understand why I would leave my job to work in a different country where I can’t speak the language or know anyone. I understand where he is coming from. He was born in Ukraine, during the reign of the communist empire, when times were a little tougher than they are now and people didn’t just leave their jobs that they spent 5 years studying for, to move to some random country where they didn’t know a word of the language (well he did make that same move when we immigrated to Australia in 1992 after the fall of communism in Ukraine).

My mum was much more understanding and I think she’s just used to me undertaking these random adventures. My girlfriend was at first hesitantly supportive, then flat-out did not want me to go and has now resigned to the fact that I will be going and we’ll be doing long-distance for a while.

My friends were all generally really supportive and positive about this opportunity but it’s always easy to be supportive and positive about something that you don’t need to do yourself. A lot of my friends are passionate about humanitarian-type work and were always going to be really into the idea of me going.  Change is never easy and I am about to undertake A LOT of change. New food, new friends, new house, new job, new boss, new language, new culture.

It’s now only 10 days till I get on a big plane and jet off to a place I’ve never been before. I know very little about the place I’m going and even less about the region that I will be living in. The most time I’ve spent in that area was when I took a 3-week holiday to Vietnam a couple of years ago.

I have completed my week-long pre-departure training in Melbourne (which was awesome!). Finished the course of vaccinations, handed in my notice at work, moved out of my apartment (and back in with the parents for a couple of weeks) and semi-packed my bag. I’m ready and really excited to go. Just gotta count down the minutes…


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