Moving for fellowship during pandemic by Maree

If you asked my husband and I a few months ago what our hardest move had been, there would have been two definite front runners – trying to buy our first home in Melbourne (with one of us crashing at a friend’s place interstate and the other temporarily living in a budget hotel on the outskirts of Melbourne); or the time we needed to orchestrate our second interstate move in 12 months with our 5 week old baby who had failure to thrive. Little did I know that soon we would move overseas for fellowship in the middle of a global pandemic with 8 week’s notice and a new baby. Queue the drama.

Firstly, we had partially renovated our Melbourne home, and had been toying with the idea of a much grander renovation in the future. But, when you need to move quickly, and leasing looked like the best option, our 8 week timeline had to include the completion of significant renovation works to ensure our property was leasable. This significantly amped up the stress levels and was a big surprise hit to our hip pockets.

This led to a lot of financial questions including – how were we going to fund this move? Fellowship moves are generally at your own expense, and in some cases, they are unpaid positions. Luckily, ours is a paid position, but throw in a renovation, new baby, maternity leave, uncertainty about my return to work and a higher cost of living abroad and you have yourself a decent financial conundrum to work through.

Of course, with all financial and real estate conundrums, you have to then say hello to a huge amount of paperwork. Add to this flights, new passports for children, visa applications to enter a border that is closed, and the painfully slow process of international medical board registration. There were many sleepless nights tossing and turning about whether forms had been signed, filled in correctly and would be approved in time for departure.

After all of that effort, we were left twiddling our thumbs in Melbourne waiting for our visa to be approved and a spot to open up in the hotel quarantine system, already two weeks late for the job. At 5:30am one Saturday morning, we received the email – the one that tells you, you have a spot… TODAY. We secured the last seats available on the last flight out of Melbourne on day 1 of another snap lockdown and were packed, at the airport and checked in within 3 hours. Relieved as we were to have secured a spot, it meant that we missed saying goodbye to friends and family – especially heartbreaking not knowing when the borders might open again.

Finally, when we thought we could relax, we landed in our two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine. Our very small hotel room had 2 beds and a small bathroom, which became our baby’s bedroom. We had no seats, so ate all our meals on the carpet… anyone with a baby and a toddler will know that it was far from pleasurable! Quarantine with the two kids was survivable and they really were troopers. However, I can’t deny the really tough moments –  like when our toddler woke up one night crying and saying ‘Mummy, I don’t like this New Zealand.’ We often wonder if the hotel quarantine experience will be her first living memory. We can only hope that she remembers how she learned to play UNO and had unlimited access to the Wizard of Oz.

I deliberately did not write this article as soon as we left quarantine. I have gained what I hoped for – some perspective. As I scroll back through my quarantine photos and then further back through all our moves and all the places we have called home, I am only really left feeling two things: grateful and proud.

Grateful for our friends and family who always have our backs no matter how many times we move – always ready to welcome us back like no time has passed at all. Grateful for the wonderful medical community – through which we were able to lease our home, car and get invaluable advice for our application to enter New Zealand. And, incredibly grateful to be exploring this beautiful country and being able to live relatively normally in what is a very abnormal time for the world.

And I am proud. Proud of my 3 year old who endured hotel quarantine and left all the things she loves behind with great resilience and a cheeky smile. Proud of my husband who is starting the beginning of the end of a long road of surgical training. And proud of myself – I think I made it to the other side with most of my sanity intact.


*This post was written in early 2021, now with the author having moved again back to Australia and to a new state to begin again. These stories go to show that no matter the time past, we all experience the hardships of moving and all have our own stories.*