Updated: Jul 25
Every month on WOMENCANFLY.CO’s blog series, The Way, we introduce inspirational women who live abroad.
In this segment, we meet Yuka Shimizu, a florist living in Sydney. At age 29, she came to Cairns, Australia on a working holiday visa to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. After emigrating for two years, she quickly obtained permanent residency (PR) within ten months of applying.
It generally takes more than four years to get PR but how did Yuka manage to get it in two years? We’ll share Yuka’s process of receiving her visa, how she found her calling to become a florist and her struggles before landing a job.
At 29 years of age, Yuka came to Australia on a working holiday visa as her last chance
Yuka worked in the hospitality industry for about ten years after she graduated from a hotel management school. She was good at her job but the whole time she never felt like it was her calling. That’s why she backpacked around the world during her 20s and visited 25 countries including India and Nepal.
Even though she met various people and went to a variety of places, it was hard to find a place where she felt like, “that was it”. Not being able to find her place in the world has always been something she has struggled with.
In order to change this, at age 29, she decided to come to Australia on a working holiday visa.
“I felt like it would become harder to move the older I got so I took the plunge to apply for a visa. After researching plane tickets, they happened to be $100 at the time which made me think it was a sign.”
It took courage to take the first step but after she did it, the second and third steps came naturally. It is said that sometimes, it’s important to take action before considering any implications.
Her close friends strongly opposed her decision and said things like, “If you have any hopes of getting married, you should date in Japan,” or “You’re nearly 30!” However, Yuka has always trusted her intuition whenever she has felt lost.
The fact that Yuka was able to remain unswayed by her friends’ remarks makes her even more inspiring.
From doing a working holiday for two years to getting PR
To lengthen her stay after moving to Cairns, Yuka started a farm stay as soon as she arrived. In Australia, you can apply for a second visa which allows you to further extend the duration of working holiday.
During the first two years Yuka planned to go back to Japan but the people she met in Cairns advised, “You can speak English so why don’t you try to get PR?”, so that’s when Yuka decided to go for it.
“I hadn’t felt like I’d accomplished anything at this point in my life so I wanted to build my confidence up by taking on this huge challenge.”
There are various approaches to getting PR. Each case is different and the information is constantly changing so she recommends seeing a professional like a lawyer or visa agent.
Yuka decided to apply for restaurant management positions because she had a lot of experience in the hospitality industry. At the time, the conditions for her visa were that she had to score above 6 on all subjects for the IELTS test, find a workplace that would sponsor her and have three years of experience as a Restaurant Manager.
Luckily, she already met the requirement of having at least three years of experience as a Restaurant Manager in Japan. As a result, Yuka was able to concentrate on getting a sponsor and passing the IELTS test.
Yuka applied for a Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (known as the RSMS Visa subclass 187). This is a visa for staying in rural areas whereby there is an exemption for what would normally require a compulsory two years of work experience. The rules have significantly shifted since a system change in 2019 so if you are interested, please check the latest information.
What’s important is your luck and resilience.
On the road to obtaining a sponsor, Yuka worked so hard to the point where she ended up getting hives.
On the road to obtaining a sponsor, Yuka worked so hard to the point where she ended up getting hives.
Yuka quickly started to look for sponsor companies by focusing on Japanese restaurants. This was because she heard that as a Japanese person, it would be easier to get PR by working at a Japanese restaurant because Australians cannot fulfill specialisations related to Japan.
However, Yuka wasn’t able to find a business to sponsor her. As a result, she visited a major sushi restaurant that had the financial resources and sponsorship experience and negotiated by saying, “Please hire me for now and if you like my work please consider sponsoring me!”
“From a management perspective, it’s a big risk to hire someone who you don’t know is capable of doing the job. That’s why I negotiated by letting them see my work first. I was confident that they’d support me after seeing the way I work.”
Yuka didn’t give up even when she was told it wouldn’t work. If you look at it from the business’ perspective and strategically develop a plan that is mutually beneficial, no matter how difficult it might seem, you will find a way to pull through.
During the day, Yuka did double the work of the average person; she studied for the IELTS test on her own for three hours everyday after work. She even got hives from being so busy but passed the criteria for the IELTS test on her third attempt after all her hard work.
“Even after I was hired, I continued to appeal to management for them to become my sponsor. When you’re abroad, being persistent and following up is essential.”
Eventually, Yuka’s manager recognised her daily efforts and strong work ethic and negotiated with the owner. An agreement was made for them to become her sponsor.
Be honest with your own feelings.
Yuka’s journey from Cairns to Perth and getting PR.
Yuka was delighted to have been offered a sponsor but she had to stop in her tracks. Although there was an attractive sponsor right in front of her, she just couldn’t ignore her inner voice to move from Cairns.
So she decided to take a week off and went to Perth.
“As soon as I arrived in Perth, I went to a local lawyer and was told that if I found a sponsor, I’d be able to get PR. They gave me a list of businesses that had a track record of sponsoring people.”
Yuka visited each of the companies on the list and negotiated with them to become her sponsor and ended up finding a sponsor during her first week in Perth.
Afterwards, she quickly moved to Perth and changed jobs to her sponsor company. Within three months Yuka gathered all the necessary documents and applied for PR. Seven months after applying, PR was finally handed to her. It’s a wonder how the process only took ten months altogether.
Find a job that you truly want to do and let it fuel you with excitement
After getting PR, Yuka started working at a local restaurant with a nice vibe but the question of, “What is it that I really want to do?” lingered which has always been on her radar.
When a wedding was held at the restaurant, that was when Yuka reached a turning point. The Event Stylist coordinated the restaurant’s interiors from scratch and built a stunning space. After seeing the Event Stylist in action, Yuka thought to herself, ”This is the kind of work I want to do!”
“I asked the Event Stylist, “Please let me be your assistant, I’ll work for free.””
Once again, Yuka took immediate action. You have to take a chance on yourself and put yourself out there when it counts.
When Yuka worked as an assistant, she realised that she actually needed a wide range of knowledge about floristry, lighting, colour schemes, performing arts and more. This made Yuka decide to pursue studies in floristry.
By that time, Yuka was 32 years old. She decided to dive into a world she was inexperienced in and started attending a floristry school in Melbourne.
Pursuing her calling to become a florist from scratch
A florist is a designer for the arrangement of flowers. At floristry school, there were a large number of topics about flowers that were taught daily and at the same time, there was a compulsory internship at a florist for students to gain practical skills.
As florists open early, Yuka woke up at 5am every morning to leave for work. She worked until around 3pm and went to her job at a restaurant during the evening to earn money for her tuition and living expenses and finished her school work during breaks. She continued to struggle to make ends meet with her time and money.
“I didn’t have time to spend with friends so I felt lonely. There were times when I’d be walking down the street and suddenly couldn’t stop crying.”
However, Yuka felt proud to be able to be involved in a job that made her feel like she was on cloud nine. Even during the hard times, it’s in Yuka’s nature to take initiative so she enthusiastically enquired at a flower shop she admired and started an unpaid internship. In other words, she juggled school while working three jobs.
“Once again, after my internship ended, I took the initiative to ask if they could hire me as a paid employee. So, everyday I worked efficiently, paid a high attention to detail and was considerate and proactive with everything I did. I was desperate to steal the designers’ skills and tricks by watching and shadowing them.”
Yuka’s career as a florist came into fruition at the store she admired. Her method proves that you really can be hired once you complete your internship.
New-found happiness in Sydney
Yuka now resides in Sydney. After accumulating a year of experience at the shop in Melbourne, she came to Sydney to take the next step up as a florist.
In Sydney, Yuka feels blessed to have encountered her Italian boyfriend who she met through doing Salsa (Latin dance), a common pastime. She is now pregnant with their child.
“In life, you never know what will happen. It has its ups and downs but everything is connected and nothing is ever wasted.”
It took Yuka more than 10 years of hard work to work out what she really wanted to do in life. While overcoming various hardships, Yuka also got the chance to see Australia.
“I like Mother’s Day. I enjoy seeing things like kids using their pocket money to buy flowers or the way men walk around holding bouquets.”
‘Yuka’ literally means final flower and her surname, ‘Shimizu’ means clear water. Her parents named her ‘Yuka’ because combined with her surname, it has the meaning of clear water someday being tied with a large flower so you could say that Yuka was destined to become a florist. While thinking about how far Yuka has come and how she contributes as a florist, we think of moments like choosing hard work and perseverance, receiving smiles from people and feeling healed from flowers people buy for themselves. To this day, Yuka arranges flowers that warms everyone’s hearts.
Thank you for reading and we are always here for you!
Women can fly.
Much love, xxx