J M Cressman and his girlfriend were lured to the Sunshine Coast by the many reciprocal agreements between Australia and Canada. Already well versed in sports and activities from his studies and work in Canada, he enjoys the outdoor life in his new Queensland home.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: Where are you from?
I grew up in a small town called Mannheim, Ontario. Mannheim is just outside the small twin cities of Kitchener-Waterloo in the centre of south-western Ontario. Looking back on it now, it was a very unique place to grow up. Since it was right in the centre of the Great Lakes, it was just an hour’s drive to a fresh water beach in any direction. I grew up with the illusion that most big bodies of water had little to no waves and were salt-free. Being here changed that.
What did you do there?
I recently finished a Master’s degree in Kinesiology, focusing in Sport Psychology. After graduation, I worked in the sports industry for 9 months, right until the time I moved to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
How did you end up in Queensland?
Queensland, in particular, came as a somewhat random decision. My girlfriend and I made the mutual decision to move to Australia. I always had a desire to move internationally to live the ex-pat life. She wanted to go to teacher’s college after here graduation. There are heaps of programs set up in Australia that cater to Canadians, so we saw it as an opportunity to get the best of both worlds. Why Queensland though? The name of the university got to us I think… who wouldn’t want to go to the “University of the Sunshine Coast”?
Have you lived abroad before?
During university, I had the opportunity to live in Spain for 2 summers, teaching English to Spanish kids in a summer camp setting. Both summers I lived with a group of Canadians in small, dusty rural towns, soaking in the culture and language from the locals in my time off. I think it was that experience that really sparked my interest in long-term travel. I felt that to properly understand another culture, you need to fully immerse yourself. I wanted to get past the superficial details of a destination and feel the heartbeat of a nation and it’s people. I began to see travel as an experience that would challenge my own thoughts and beliefs, something that would shape who I am moving forward.
What’s so good about Queensland?
Queensland is the definition of bright and vibrant living. I’m lucky enough to live directly across from the states prized-jewel: it’s endlessly sandy beaches. Right out front of my door is a perfect surfing spot that I can access at will. The climate is naturally one of the best in the world. The weather here is sunny and warm year round and it is reflected in the temperament of the people. Everybody is generally friendly and talkative with a lively and outdoor-oriented lifestyle. The beach serves as the unofficial meeting place of the region and is always packed with happy people.
And what don’t you like?
Living on the Sunshine Coast is a financially-trying time. First, Australia in generally is a very expensive place to live. Going to the grocery store almost makes you cry. For something as simple as a bottle of Coke or a coffee from a cafe, you pay around A$4. Any savings that you come with widdle away quickly, especially with a strong Australian dollar. Second, since it is such a desirable place to live, the job market is VERY competitive. It took me at least 100 applications to find my first job here. The wages are good once you start making money… it can just be tough to find that good, lasting job.
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
Funny that this question was asked because it is something that I give a lot of thought towards. Only after being here for 7 or 8 months am I starting to feel like an insider. I found that it took a job where I was surrounded by Queenslanders to finally feel like I was fully integrated into the culture. A large discrepancy for me was the language difference and finding novelty in the accent and the unique and colourful Aussie slang terms. However, with complete immersion, I’ve started to feel that novelty fade. Over time, I’ve started to notice myself communicating seamlessly with everyone around, without any second thoughts of how things are different in the language. I felt full integration came for me when I started to say “how ya going?” in casual conversation or refer to almost anyone as “mate”.
How do you support yourself?
Currently, I’m working 3 jobs to try to keep up. I was lucky enough to get a job as a Tutor at the university in my area of interest, Sport Psychology. The only downside is that the hours are limited to one day a week. To support myself, I had to pick up a job coaching soccer to young kids on weekends as well as tutoring high school students during the week. Before I got the job at the university, I worked a mixed-bag of jobs. Over the first few months, I worked as a landscape labourer, telemarketer, face-to-face marketer, and even worked a couple shifts packing fish at the docks.
Any advice for wannabe Queenslanders?
Save before you come here. As mentioned, the job market is tough. The best thing you can do to prepare yourself is to come with some disposable income to give you some breathing room for the transition. Also, do research into the area that you want to work ahead of time. Queensland is VERY specific in the certifications or “tickets” that you need to work in specific areas. For example, before I could work as a labourer, I had to do a course to receive a White Card. It is so specific it is ridiculous, really. In order to work as a barista in a cafe, you need a certification that clears you to be able to serve coffee! Also, don’t come thinking you will land a dream job in your area. Be willing to draw on any previous experience you have, even the stuff you said you would never do again…
Is the move permanent?
The move is not permanent. I am only on a Working Holiday Visa which grants me a year in the country. I am planning to be back in Canada by Christmas. Next, I’m hoping to teach English in Asia to gain another unique ex-pat experience. I’m also looking to attend teacher’s college myself and would love to try to work in international schools across the world. However, Queensland has made a lasting impression on me from a lifestyle perspective so I may find myself back here someday.
Finally, tell us about something typically Queensland?
Going to down to the beach with friends and family to have a BBQ on the weekend. Or getting some fish and chips then heading to your local club to take in a few schooners of XXXX and a rugby league game. Queenslanders go crazy for rugby league action, with the the annual State of Origin series between Queensland and New South Wales being the biggest sporting event of the year. XXXX is the beer of pride for the state… although it doesn’t exactly have the taste to back it up.
J M Cressman is a 26 year-old Canadian living on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Between his tutorials at the University of the Sunshine Coast, he spends his time ungracefully flopping around on a surfboard and trying to stay current with every ball sport known to man. He blogs about ex-pat life in Australia through a series of short stories and observations at jmcressman.blogspot.com. He can be reached on Twitter @oz_blog.