02. Dezember 2018

We are all so different and that is the one thing that I believe, unites us as Australians

The life my parents led before me gave me a somewhat broader global perspective outside of Western Australia, which encouraged a curiosity within me to figure out where in this world I associate with the most.

Am I part Maori, because I was born in New Zealand and that’s where my Mum is from? Or am I British, because that’s where my Dad is from? Am I Australian? Am I all three at once? I spent a majority of my youth confused as to where I fit within the bigger picture. At school we used to sing songs that promoted multiculturalism such as “we are one, but we are many, and from all the lands on earth we come.” But over time, the persistent identification of difference of my peers led me to question what it really meant to be ‘Australian’. I wasn't born here, and nor were my parents, yet we fit into the norms of our social environment. In comparison, some of my friends who were second generation Aussies but were ‘racially' different to me in regards to their ethnic heritage, were questioned frequently about where they're “really” from. I became very aware of an ever present racial (or white) prejudice within my environment. I don't think there is one non-indigenous Australian who doesn't have ethnic heritage from somewhere overseas, we are all so different and that is the one thing that I believe, unites us as Australians.

16. Dezember 2018

I came from Colombia to Australia, because I felt like only that way I could find the best possible future. But in the end, life is the same here.

Family is such an important thing for South American people. Still I plan to build a life here in Australia, far away from them. After more than a year away from my Colombian family, the thing that strikes me the most is how much I start to act like my parents. I remember how my dad always listened to the radio back home and now I find myself listening to the same radio shows that he used to. When I video call my parents, it scares me how old they look now and this upsets me, because I realise how much I miss out on their daily life. I’m not a part of it anymore.

I came from Colombia to Australia because I felt like only that way I could find the best possible future, but in the end, life is the same here. I’ll be working the whole time, no matter where. The yearning to be back home is the hardest part of being an immigrant. There's nothing better than home. Here in Perth, people seem to be so much more comfortable with loneliness and more focused on their individual success. That’s why my feelings are in the constant conflict between being happy about the opportunity to study here and the feelings of homesickness.

25. November 2018

Mir wurde zum ersten Mal richtig bewusst, dass ich gerade daran bin, einen meiner langgehegten Träume zu verwirklichen

Letzte Woche durchsuchte ich ein Mäppchen mit Dokumenten, welches ich von zuhause mitgenommen habe. Dabei fiel mir ein handgeschriebenes Blatt in die Hände, das ausversehen in diesem Mäppchen gelandet sein muss: Meine Bucket List, die ich vor einiger Zeit angefangen habe aufzustellen. Nummer 14 auf der Liste war: „Für eine Weile in London leben“.

 Das war ein spezieller Moment für mich, ein kleiner Moment des Glücks. Mir wurde zum ersten Mal richtig bewusst, dass ich gerade daran bin, einen meiner langgehegten Träume zu verwirklichen. Solche leisen Momente des Glücks sind gar nicht so selten, seit ich hier in London bin. Ich schätze die kleinen Dinge bewusster, vielleicht weil ich weiss, dass meine Zeit hier begrenzt ist. Einfache Freuden wie mit einem guten Buch und Kaffee ausgerüstet in den sonnendurchfluteten Kensington Gardens zu sitzen oder an Halloween mit neuen Freunden Kürbisse zu schnitzen und dabei lauthals Weihnachtslieder zu singen – das sind Momente, an welche ich mich immer erinnern werde!

Klar bedeutet ein Austauschsemester einen gewissen Aufwand, vom Bewerbungsprozess bis hin zur Wohnungssuche und Modul-Kompatibilitäts-Abklärungen. Aber es gibt einem auch so viel zurück; der graduelle Wechsel von einer fremden Stadt zu einem neuen Zuhause und tolle Menschen, welche zu Freunden werden. Für uns als Humans of UZH Journalistinnen, die dieses Semester in Perth und London unterwegs sind, ist es zusätzlich eine wunderbare Chance, Einblicke in eine andere Uni zu bekommen und Menschen aus einem ungewohnten, neuen Umfeld zu portraitieren.

03. Februar 2019

If I had the choice, I wouldn’t want to exclude the chapter of cancer from my life. The time when cancer’s icy fingers grasped me was the most horrifying, yet most important experience I’ve ever had

I was 16 and having the time of my life on exchange in the USA when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I was convinced I was going to die. Facing death is scary, it makes you realize how fragile you are. I was terrified of being forgotten and not being able to love my family anymore. I immediately returned to Denmark for treatment. During chemotherapy, I once shared my hospital bedroom with a boy my age. Meeting people in the hospital is often awkward, since the ice breaker usually is “So which type of cancer do you have?”. It turned out he had a cancer growing in his knee and was about to get his leg amputated. I realised my situation wasn’t that bad after alI. If I survived I would still have both my legs. Positive thinking became my most important tool in coping with the stress that I developed from the diagnosis.

I promised myself that if life granted me a second chance, I’d live it in the most meaningful way possible. So here I am, free of cancer for over 6 years. I don’t know how long I’ll be living and neither do you. But I do know that I’m not going to waste my time here on earth.

03. März 2019

Acting in the States was so much about rejection and looking good enough. One day I woke up and any sort of passion for that life was gone

During high school back home in Romania, theatre was everything I did. I decided to move to New York to take an acting class and never felt more at home anywhere else in the world. In Romania, I was always a bit too loud and I always thought that was something wrong about me but in New York, everyone was freaking crazy. If I wore a crazy outfit, instead of people going “ugh”, they’d be going “oh girl, I love your outfit”.

In the middle of applying for a working visa, I realized that I didn’t want to be an actress anymore. I woke up and any sort of passion for that life was gone. Which was really tough, because I had just spent a fortune and four years of my life living in New York, working on this application. Acting in the States was so much about rejection and looking good enough. I ended up hoping to do commercial work because it’s the only thing that pays but then I wasn’t skinny enough or the accent was never quite American enough; there were so many things happening that had nothing to do with the pleasure of acting. And to be completely honest: I wasn’t that good. So, I thought: ‘Maybe I have a talent for something else and I’m wasting it by being mediocre at this.’

Accepting this, and that that’s okay, was such a relief. It gave me the freedom to try something new. Everyone told me it’s impossible. Even after I got into King’s Law programme, people would say: “Congratulations, but you know the hardest part hasn’t even started yet.” So yes, there were a few hurdles but here I am.

05. Mai 2019

How can you be racist about your own culture? My time here in London has made me realize some things that are wrong back home in Mexico that I always took as natural

People in Europe are so proud of their languages. There’s a particular language for Luxemburg, I mean how many people speak that? Or Catalan? But they’re all so proud! In Mexico, there are a lot of native languages but the people who speak them are starting to give them up for Spanish. For example, young Nahua people in urban areas might be ashamed of other people listening in on them speaking Nahuatl, or some Oaxacans are trying to promote rap and poetry in Mixe, their mother tongue, so that people see that it’s alright to speak it. Here in Europe I’ve witnessed a radically different approach to pride and heritage.

I think the lack of pride about indigenous languages is historically explained by how our country developed, by the fact that Mexico is a racist country in a sense: In every ad we see, there are white people. But most of us are just not white. You never see an indigenous Mexican in an advertisement. And this has been going on for centuries, since the castes were introduced after the Spaniards. Depending on how much European heritage you had, you would disregard the ones who didn’t have as much as you. But most of us have some indigenous heritage, too, right? So, how can you be racist about your own culture? One would think racism implies dislike towards someone from a different culture but in Mexico, if you’re speaking indigenous languages because that’s your heritage, it might make you seem less.

Editor’s Note: Since the interview was conducted, Yalitza Aparicio became a prominent figure in mass media due to her role in “Roma” and the ensuing Oscar nomination, marking a starting point for representation for Mexican indigenous people.

24. August 2019

No matter how scary it may seem, I can promise you that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will change your life forever

I often wonder why there is fear in the world. Is it some ancient survival instinct that is somehow still deeply rooted in us? But what is there to be afraid of in today’s modern world? I believe that without fear, we are not really living and without conquering fear, we are not really living life to the fullest.

I knew deep down that for a long time I was too comfortable in my life. I used to be constantly afraid of trying new experiences even with things as simple as tasting new foods or meeting new people. There would have been no way to convince me to contribute to a blog like this. I was living in a bubble and never putting myself in uncomfortable situations because I was too afraid. Yet, this is exactly how I believe we grow as human beings. By putting myself in situations I am not comfortable with, I get a better insight into who I am and who I want to become.

Moving to Australia for six months has taught me that my fears have been holding me back and by pushing myself out of my comfort zone I have learned to say yes to new experiences.

02. Februar 2020

We live on a land with heart-breaking stories; our story of European colonization still has massive consequences on the Indigenous peoples of this land today

I grew up on Aboriginal land in Perth, Western Australia. I grew up not learning too much about our Indigenous history or having much contact with Aboriginal Noongar people apart from passing them in the street.

At school we learnt a little about the stolen generation – the state project of taking indigenous children away from their families. But we barely scraped the surface of our country’s history and relations with the Indigenous people of this land. It was only until leaving school that I started to educate myself on our country’s continual brutal history. Studying Social Planning at University of Western Australia, I have learnt of our urban planning processes, which are implicit in the erasure of our darker moments. Why do some stories get told and others don’t in our physical landscape? And why does the school curriculum direct us to some parts of our history and not to others? We live on a land with heart-breaking stories; our story of European colonization from 1788 still has massive consequences on the Indigenous peoples of this land today. This land was never ceded to the British, it was taken quite brutally with drastic effects. These are hard stories to tell and to hear but erasure of the Indigenous experience through education and our physical environment is only to our detriment as a nation. It prohibits us from moving on in a more educated and compassionate direction towards a more united Australia.

26. April 2020

When you are stuck in the U.S. thanks to COVID 19

Middle of March I was told that I didn’t need to worry about my exchange semester in America, that everything was going to be fine again and will go back to normality… Honestly, I don’t know what normal feels like anymore. 

I stayed during the spring break in my apartment in Utah while everybody I knew was leaving to their homes and families. Everything on campus closed, the busses stopped running. I literally found myself in a ghost town like shown in old western movies. 

Well, I thought, it would only be like that for a little bit. But after spring break all students and staff members got an email, warning us not to return on campus and to leave behind our belongings if we hadn’t taken them with us before spring break in the first place. This was my sign to start looking for a flight back home. 

Because of my Visa I wasn’t allowed to leave immediately. There were many aspects I had to consider before hitting to the airport. At the same time President Trump ordered new travel restrictions, not only closing the borders for incoming tourists, but also limiting different Airlines travelling to the U.S.

However, the date of my flight came closer and closer. And then my flight was cancelled - for the first time. I contacted the flight agency for days, but they never answered. I informed my insurance about it and they argued that I had to figure it out with the airline directly or the agency. They would not intervene yet. I downloaded all possible apps that were recommended, like the highly appreciated Travel Admin App. Not useful at all. I travelled to the Swiss Embassy in New York, but they could not give me an appointment before end of April…. 

I started to get scared and frightened. I bought a second flight. My flight was announced and scheduled on time, but arriving at the airport NOBODY was working.  

I informed my insurance again and finally they intervened. Right now, I am sitting at the airport for the third time and can only imagine how my children will laugh one day when I tell them about my Swiss Odyssey Story.