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Have you visited any countries during the past ten years?
Visa application form asks to list all the countries, the purpose for the visit and the entry and exit dates. Excuse me! How can I possibly remember things that happened 10 years ago? Or the entry dates for all the 11 countries where I stopped by when I was travelling in 2014?


Australia is famous for its strict surveillance of who, when and why crosses its borders. Not an immigrant. Just a student visiting for a half a year. After spending hours on end filling in the pages of the online application I was still confused. I didn't know when I could enter the country if I got the visa. Neither did I know if I should provide my insurance details when I got them. Was I doing everything wrong? Then an email arrived saying that I had been granted a visa. And it's valid until August.

When I got off the plane in Sydney, I was still afraid that someone would say that I wasn't allowed to enter the country. But the officer smiled and stamped the passport.

I had no place to live in by the time I arrived in Sydney. I didn't want to arrange my accommodation through the university although that would have been the easy option. I thought that arranging my own accommodation would give me more say to where I would live and what I would pay for it. It did, but it also added extra stress to the process. I finally managed to get a half a room in a reasonable priced flat near campus.

After sorting out the accommodation getting an Australian phone number and opening a new bank account were next in line. Local phone number is quite convenient if you wish to keep in touch with new acquaintances. And the cheapest deals are just $10/month. Bank account, on the other hand, might not be essential for a short visit, but it doesn't cost anything for students. So why not? It all helps with getting adjusted to the life in Sydney.

I admit that the process leading to an exchange semester in Australia was daunting. So much paperwork and worries. Apply for the programme, apply for the university, apply for the visa, fill in papers for the home university, fill in papers for the host university, arrange insurance, change insurance details, buy flights, submit this and submit that. It was an extra commitment added to the normal life of studying, working, moving, sorting out life in general etc. Luckily the exchange coordinators in home and host universities were (and are) willing to help with everything. I am not the first person coming to the University of Sydney to study even though it sometimes feels like that. Others have had the same problems before so seeking help from those who know more about the process is smart.

Just before I left home, a family friend worded out the big question: “Is it worth all that?”
I think I'll have to wait until the end of the exchange to give a full answer but for now I'll just say: yes. I made it through the piles of paper and it looks a lot brighter on this side.

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