The mail function has been disabled by an administrator.

Finding Home in a Foreign Country

Gillian (front, centre) poses with her soccer team in Perth.

How to make friends in a new environment.

Moving to a new country can be terrifying. You don’t know the culture, you have no job, nowhere to live, all of your friends and family are a 24-hour plane trip away.

I wasn’t really feeling any of this when my boyfriend, Alan, and I originally moved over to Perth. I had just been backpacking on the East Coast for three weeks, I was tan and on that new-adventure high. Plus I couldn’t wait to be reunited with Alan and start our life in Perth together.

Reality set in pretty quickly however. We were sleeping on the couch of some of his friends, neither of us had a job and we knew this would have to be a very temporary situation. Even though our friends were amazing for supporting us for the time they did, friends can only be expected to accommodate you taking up their space for so.

Luckily, we landed on our feet pretty quickly. I got a café job and Alan searched for a while until he found a great job in his field. For me, all of the aspects that many people find the scariest when considering a big move—including finding work and a place to live—came easily. It was the social aspect that I found difficult.

Alan had it much easier than me in that way. When he left his home in Ireland, not many of his friends were left living there. They all live here in Perth! I swear it was like he moved back to his hometown, only on the opposite side of the world.

Of course I felt extremely lucky. Here we were in a new city in a new country and we automatically had a group of about 30 friends to rely on. There was always something going on, someone’s birthday or just a group going for dinner and drinks. In the beginning I didn’t think things could get any better.

And I don’t have a negative thing to say about my group of friends. They welcomed us with open arms and made us feel like part of the group. But I had left behind some of my lifelong friends—people who knew everything about me without me needing to tell them a thing. And while I did make great friends with a lot of the girls in the group, I was really struggling to make that close connection I have with some of my girlfriends at home.

For a little while I was feeling lonely. And I’ll admit that for a bit I pitied myself. But then I decided to do something about it. I signed up for every single social sport I could find in the area. I put my name and number on websites like Sportsmatchmaker.com so that people needing a teammate could give me a call.

It was through these sports team and the people I have met that I have truly found myself again all the way over here in Perth.

I am playing soccer, volleyball, touch rugby—you name a sport and I am trying to get involved.

The other night, my indoor five-a-side soccer team played in the championship game. Unfortunately, we lost in penalty shots (which is a horrible way to lose a championship game in my opinion), but it was after the match, when we were all hugging each other and congratulating each other on having made it so far, that I realized who these people had become to me.

We only see each other once a week, we all have completely different lives that we go back to after the match, but we have formed a friendship based on our common interest and that is often where the best friendships are made. Some of them have kids at home, they work different jobs, they come from different countries, but our love of soccer and competition brought us together in Perth, Australia of all places.

Every one of my teams is made up of a completely different group of characters and I have come to love every single one of them! In a time when I was starting to feel so far from home and from the people I love, social sports has been that connection back to my true self.

Moving away can definitely be scary. And at times the distance from friends and family can make the loneliness feel unbearable. What I’ve learned since getting back into sport is that there are friends out there waiting for you. Whatever your interest might be, reading, sports, cooking, dance, there are other people who share that interest. And just when I felt that I might never feel truly at home in Perth, those people and those connections have helped me to finally feel like myself again.

Add this article to your reading list
Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Gillian Arfin

Gillian Arfin is from Oakville, Ontario. After years of travelling and backpacking and constant itchy feet, she has found herself settled in the most isolated city in the world--Perth, Western Australia. Curious what it’s like to live on the other side of the world? Read what Gillian has to say about it.

Join the Verge Community

Verge Magazine Membership

Join our community of savvy travellers and put nearly two decades of inspiring articles, authoritative information and expert advice to work for you.

Show me more > Login >


Travel Intelligence Bulletin


The latest openings overseas—direct to your inbox.

Subscriber Login


Travel with purpose; travel for good. Articles, resources and events for ethical and meaningful travel, volunteering, working and studying abroad.

Verge believes in travel for change. International experience creates global citizens, who can change our planet for the better. This belief is at the core of everything we do.

Like what you see?

Follow us on social media