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THE WAY of Life in Australia (EN)

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Every month on Women Can Fly (WCF) blog series, The Way, we introduce inspirational women who live abroad.

In our first interview of 2021, we meet Yoko who lives in Brisbane, Australia. She is also a team member of WCF.

She has worked with WCF since its inception but was originally a nurse in Japan. However, when she was 28, she thought about being more involved in medical care overseas so she left her job and her boyfriend at the time and came to Australia.

During her nursing school days, Yoko tended to focus only on what she couldn’t do due to her perfectionism and lack of self-confidence but during her life in Australia, she’s learned to do things in good moderation and now lives her life to the fullest.

Here, Yoko shares her goals, what it’s like to live in Australia and what she does at WCF.

How a photograph inspired Yoko’s journey in becoming a nurse

Brisbane is the third-largest city after Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. It’s rich with nature and has many clear sky days throughout the year. There are many kind and friendly people and it’s the perfect place to raise a family. (The Gold Coast is an hour away by train while the Sunshine Coast and Byron Bay are also close by.)

It will soon be eight years since Yoko has been living in Brisbane. She currently lives with her partner from New Zealand and while working in a hotel, in 2020, she joined WCF. She has made many friends here in Australia and calls it her cozy, second hometown.

Yoko has always been interested in foreign countries since she was a student. What sparked her interest was during class in primary school when she was shocked to see the photograph, 'The vulture and the little girl', that captures a girl on the verge of starvation.

“Even though I was in my earlier years of primary school, I still remember the impact that photograph made on me. In the same world, someone’s life is lost every 5 seconds due to starvation but when I got home, I got to eat delicious food and have preferences for what I want to eat. I came to question my privileged surroundings.”

After seeing this photograph, Yoko developed an interest in poverty, starvation and conflict and chose the theme of nursing for a personal research project in primary school. She admired the thought of nursing being her job and gradually felt strongly about her calling to become one.

After that, Yoko was never disappointed about being a nurse. She worked as a neurosurgery/neurology nurse for four years in Japan.

With her colleagues who gave her the utmost support during her nursing days

How being in the medical field shaped Yoko's motivation to just start something she wanted to do

After becoming a nurse, Yoko experienced two major changes in her life.

The first one was giving herself recognition for her achievements.

When Yoko was a nursing student she was a perfectionist who would beat herself up over 1 point despite achieving 99 points. No matter what she did, she wasn’t able to convince herself otherwise but as a nurse, she constantly faced life and death. However, her gratefulness towards her patients and their families led to a boost in her confidence.

The second major change was starting what she truly wanted to do.

At the neurosurgery/neurologist Yoko worked at, there were a lot of patients who were bedridden or had died due to an accident. It seemed to Yoko that she was never just another person when a family was holding the hand of a patient who had suddenly been deprived of their whole body.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow but whenever there’s something I want to do, it should be done now.”

From then on, Yoko started to become aware of medical activities overseas.

Her first thought was to join Doctors Without Borders. Doctors Without Borders is an organisation that conducts medical activities in poor areas and conflict zones. The reality of conflict and poverty was what inspired Yoko to become a nurse.

However, while they understood that it was a noble job, her parents told her to think twice about spending time in areas of conflict. It was the first time her parents who had always respected and supported her ideas had opposed her.

Yoko didn’t want her parents to worry about her so she found another way to work in the medical field abroad. This opened the door for Yoko to study nursing in Australia.  

Yoko amongst Australia’s blue skies and abundant nature

On the road to Brisbane: Studying nursing abroad, doing a farm stay and travelling solo

Australia is famous worldwide for its high medical standards. If you have a Japanese nurse license, you can work as an assistant nurse at a local medical clinic or institution by taking a three-month (minimum) course.

Yoko migrated to Australia on a working holiday visa and upon finishing a one-month language training course, she completed a three-month nursing course.

Even though a working holiday visa allows you to stay for a year, Australia has a system called a “second visa”. The conditions are that if you work for more than three months at a place designated by the government, you are eligible to apply for an additional year of stay.

To get her second visa, Yoko did a farm stay in Cairns for about three months after she completed her course. After that, she travelled by herself for a month while car sharing with strangers on the way to Brisbane, 1700 kilometers from Cairns. As soon as she arrived in Brisbane, she started working at an aged care home that was attached to a major hospital.

Yoko’s favourite city in Australia, Brisbane

Yoko also met her boyfriend from New Zealand in Brisbane.

New Zealand nationals are treated as the equivalent to a permanent resident in Australia. Also, her partner was able to get a “New Zealand family relationship visa” by providing evidence like cohabitation for 12 months or more and common-law marriage proof including finances. Through this visa, Yoko was able to stay in Australia but needs to prove her relationship and renew her visa every five years.

Enjoying time with her beloved partner

Making a career change to hospitality and laid-back Aussies who face new challenges regardless of their age

Yoko’s job as an assistant nurse had a big gap with her role as a nurse in Japan which at times, was confusing.

While Japanese care is polite from the patient’s perspective, in the Australian medical field where Yoko worked, speed and efficiency were prioritised and she felt that nursing came from the staff’s perspective.

For example, after assisting a patient with their shower, socks may be put on even though the soles of their feet are still wet which worsen bedsores that could’ve been prevented otherwise. Although Yoko had nursing knowledge, as an assistant nurse, there were many things that were out of her control which bothered her.

“There was a gap between the patient care I wanted to deliver and the nursing expected from my workplace. I could have adapted to the local method of prioritising efficiency but I didn’t want that to become the norm for me.”

After frustratingly working in aged care for about three years, Yoko retired from working as an assistant nurse. She decided to take the plunge in making a career change to the hospitality, hotel and restaurant industries.

She chose the hospitality industry due to her interest in food and health. During her nursing days, many patients suffered from diet or lifestyle-related diseases and she felt that their health was linked to their dietary choices. Another major reason was that Yoko saw her grandfather’s fight against diabetes up close.

“I like to eat and I was interested in making coffee so I got a barista qualification. I’m really enjoying my current job where I interact with people through the food I love.”

Yoko at the 5 star hotel she works at

There were people who told Yoko that it was a waste to change jobs from medical care to hospitality which are completely different industries. However, Yoko says, “I wanted to do my best to do something that made my heart dance”, and felt it was a positive career change.

“It would be nice if I were to work as a nurse again. As making the change to hospitality felt like a once in a lifetime chance, I thought I should do what I wanted to do straightaway. I don’t think there are limits to what I can do no matter how old I am. As long as I have the mindset to try things.”

Yoko is surrounded by many who are challenging themselves with what they want to do regardless of their age. She knows a hotel manager who went back to university to become a psychologist and a head chef of a restaurant who quit their job before turning 40 to become a nurse. Yoko feels proud of them and is constantly inspired.

Yoko and her colleagues who she has the most fun with

In 2021, Yoko moves on from WOMEN CAN FLY and challenges herself with her side hustle

In 2020, Yoko started working for WCF. She is an old friend of the Founder, Kimiyo.

When Yoko was contacted to launch WCF, she had a genuine desire to help and flew from Brisbane to Sydney where Kimiyo was living, just to hear the story. Yoko still remembers the joy of being asked by Kimiyo to work with WCF like it was yesterday.

On top of being attracted towards Kimiyo’s nature and ability to act, Yoko decided to become a part of WCF because she empathised with their mission to broaden options for women to live their own way.

“I myself wanted to build a career in food and health but I didn’t know how to take the first step. A friend of mine who worked as a nurse became a full-time housewife after giving birth. She left an impression on me when she said, “I want to contribute to society because someone out there needs me as a person.” I felt that WCF was a needed service because everyone, including myself, is subject to the problem WCF is trying to solve.”

At WCF, Yoko manages public relations mostly on Instagram. She enjoys the challenge of learning about a new field and has also started studying social media marketing. With each post she uploads she takes design and copywriting into consideration to reflect the activities and emotions of WCF’s followers.

In 2021, her goal is to start a food and health-related business as a side hustle by using her business knowledge that she has learned from WCF and her experience as a nurse.

A side hustle is different from a main business in the sense that interest and passion is more rewarding than earning money. Yoko’s side hustle focuses on organic production and sustainability.

“I felt the feeling of wanting to do something burst inside me. Life isn’t long enough to postpone emotions that make me feel that way. I want to keep on challenging myself.”

Yoko’s grandfather was someone who continued to take on challenges like starting to learn English and painting up until just before his death. Through the way her grandfather lived his life, Yoko has learned that age and physical limitations are not excuses.

Yoko may have actually inherited her challenge-embracing spirit and ability to take action that burst into life after coming to Australia from her grandfather a long time ago.

It’s easy to become positive when doing something Yoko likes in Brisbane which is rich in nature where she lives with her partner and dog with smiles on their faces. For both Yoko and WCF, 2021 is another challenge! Let’s do our best together this year!

With her beloved dog, Harry!

Thank you for reading this, and We are always here for you!

Women can fly.

Much love, xxx

Team WCF

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