I always wanted to leave Germany one day, but I never thought of moving to Australia. I didn’t even plan to travel there, it seemed so far away, and I knew so little about this place.
In 2018, I was backpacking through Southeast Asia. When I was in Thailand one morning and wondering where to go next, I found a cheap flight to Sydney that same day. I figured I would probably never get the chance to travel to Australia that cheap, so I just booked the flight without doing any research at all.
I had the perception that it’s always hot in Australia. I was proven wrong the minute I landed in Sydney. It was August and I didn’t know that this meant it was winter in Australia. I was standing at the airport in shorts and a top while it was 10 degrees, so my first stop was a clothing store to get some winter clothes.
I stayed at a hostel at King’s Cross. I wouldn’t recommend staying in this area, but I met so many other likeminded travellers to explore Sydney with and I can’t really explain why, but I fell in love with the city instantly and after 5 days I was convinced that I wanted to move here. I then also did the typical East Coast trip and after this trip, I had no doubt that I wanted Australia to be my new home. It’s the combination of big city life, nature, ocean, lifestyle – just everything. Once you’re in Australia you will understand, I promise.
Life In Australia
After 1 1/2 months I had to go back to Germany because my semester break had finished. On my first day back at uni, I discussed options for transferring my studies to Sydney as we had a partner university there. I still had a few modules left that I needed to complete in Germany, but I was allowed to complete my studies at our partner university. So, after a year I gave up everything in Germany, I was moving to Sydney.
It was super exciting but also scary because I barely knew anyone. I had three months before my semester started and I used this time to settle in and build my new home overseas. I already started to look for accommodation online before I arrived, however, I was a bit overwhelmed as I had no idea where to look. There were just so many different platforms. I was used to live by myself for many years. However, rent prices in Sydney are much higher than in my hometown, so I inspected a room in a shared house via FaceTime, hoping it would be just as nice in real life as it was online. Luckily it was. The next step was to try and find a job as I thought this would be very easy given my previous experience and qualifications, but I was wrong. I was browsing the usual job boards, but most of the jobs advertised on there weren’t eligible for internationals.
After a few months I gave up searching on those job boards. I was lucky enough to find an au-pair job in Australia through a personal contact. I loved it, the family was great, I had my own flat again, it was easy and I still had lots of free time to study and explore. I met a lot of other internationals, however, all of them were just travelling, thus leaving again. In the beginning, it was exciting to meet lots of new people all the time, after a while however, it started to become exhausting always having to say goodbye to friends and introducing myself over and over again. When my semester started, it was also super easy to meet other international students, but all of them were leaving again after one semester. I however, wanted to build lasting friendships with people who also planned to stay in Australia long-term and lived in the same area as me. That’s when I started to feel really lonely in Australia, even though I was around so many people. I found it hard at times to deeply connect with locals because they already had their set social circle and most of them weren’t really looking for new friendships.
Finding Friends in Australia
So, I started to think about different ways to connect with people like me.
Obviously, there are lots of different social media platforms, but none of them was the ultimate. During that time, I was already starting to think about developing an app that could help people like me to connect with others and also help with other challenges I faced in my first few months in Australia. Then the pandemic began and pretty much all internationals in my area except me left the country, which only increased the feeling of loneliness. However, it never crossed my mind to leave Australia during that time. Although this time was incredibly tough, being away from family and friends on the other side of the world and not sure when I would be able to see them again, I saw it as opportunity to really work on myself and on my dreams.
I was also so grateful for the place and country where I lived. Being able to see the ocean and be in nature every day kept me sane during this time, and I fell in love with this country even more. As I had finished my studies and was left with lots of free time, I thought more seriously about the idea of an app for internationals to help with all their social and administrative needs.
From Student Visa to Working Visa
That’s when I faced my biggest challenge yet: applying for a work visa since my student visa was about to expire. I was misadvised before coming to Australia and thought that I would automatically be eligible for a work visa after completing my course. I didn’t realise there were more requirements I had to meet. I could probably write a separate blog post on this topic, but long story short, I really had to fight with a lawyer to meet all of these requirements. And to top off all these struggles, my lawyer suddenly disappeared the day before I had to apply for an Australian work permit visa and I had to find someone else to help me with the application process. As you can imagine, express help costs extra money. I had already envisioned myself on a boat on the way to Mexico. I really didn’t want to go back to Germany and leave this beautiful country I now call home. But everything worked out in the end and today I am actually so gratefully for these challenges. They showed me what I really wanted in life and opened up so many opportunities for me that I could only dream of. I was more convinced than ever that I don’t want others to have to go through as many challenges as I did, but to really enjoy the whole process of travelling or moving abroad, be brave to step out of their comfort zone and explore the whole world.
Luckily, during this time I met David (Co-Founder) and Ben (Consultant) who shared the exact same dream and that’s how GoTo started.