By the time I finished medical school, riots and chaos were constant in Venezuela. Sometimes I felt like I was trapped in George Orwell’s 1984! For example, I needed to trade things with my colleagues like toilet paper or deodorant. And we didn’t even have basic medicines like antibiotics or chemotherapy agents for our work. I asked myself, What kind of doctor I was going to be if I couldn’t look after my patients?
So I did my research, and decided that Australia was the best option for me to get out. However, in order to meet the monetary requirements for a student visa to study English, I first needed to work for two more years!
When I finally arrived in Melbourne, I stayed with family friends for the first year. That helped me a lot but I couldn’t live there forever, so I eventually moved out into my own apartment. Unfortunately, soon afterwards, I lost my waitressing job when they got rid of all the casual staff in winter. And at the same time, I needed to pay for an extension of my student visa.
As I couldn’t pay my rent, I had to give up my lease, and the only thing I could afford was a room in a backpacker’s hostel where I lived for three months. Even though I tried to get another job, I couldn’t find anything, so I had to live off my savings.
Soon I only had $25 left in my bank account, so I reached out to a friend from Venezuela who was also on a student visa. She was great. She helped me to find a job as a cleaner, and let me live with her in her tiny student accommodation for two months. And in that time, I was able to put together enough money for the bond of a very simple room with no windows.
During that time, I managed to take my first medical exam, a multiple choice exam, and I passed. Next, I took the Occupational English Test, which I also passed. The third exam is the clinical exam, which tests not only your medical knowledge, but also your communication skills and empathy.
Unfortunately, this exam is very expensive – $3 700, and I didn’t have the resources to pay that. So for months I kept working as a cleaner and trying to save, but it was difficult on a low wage. I ended up getting very depressed because I felt trapped. By then, it had already been almost two years since I had arrived in Australia, and the gap in my practice kept growing.
At that time, I met the man who was to become my husband. He was an engineer, but he was also working as a cleaner while he was trying to find a job in his field. He helped me a lot. He was able to sponsor me on a partner visa, which was a huge relief for me, as it meant I didn’t need to keep paying for study. And because I’d always wanted to do paediatrics, he encouraged me to try to find work with children, so that at least I would be doing something more related to my future. I eventually found work looking after a disabled child and his little sister.
During this time, I studied for the clinical exam and six months later I made my first attempt. Unfortunately, I failed because I didn’t understand that they wanted me to verbalise everything I was thinking. Then I had to save up to take it again. Finally, that time I passed!
Next, I started looking for work. I applied to many hospitals. Some of them were very understanding and accepted my resume and interviewed me. But some of them were not so understanding. They said the gap in my practice was too big. That I would never find a job in Australia. That I should go back to my country. That made me feel horrible. But then I started applying for work in rural Victoria. And finally, after 7 months, I got my first job as a doctor in Warrnambool.
The day I found out was amazing. I just really couldn’t believe it – I cried tears of happiness! It was one of the happiest moments in my life. My husband also found work in Warnambool, which was great.
I worked there for two years, but I still wanted to get into paediatrics, which meant I would have to do a training program in a bigger city. The first time I applied, I didn’t get in anywhere. So I left my husband behind in Warnambool and came to Sydney to try to get some experience as a paediatric registrar. Unfortunately, at that time, the borders closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and so for five months, we couldn’t see each other!
As the next round for the training program approached, I started getting advice from my colleagues and my boss about how to get in. I got them to check my resume, to give me interview coaching, anything that might help. Thankfully, it worked, and I was accepted into the program in Newcastle, which was my dream location! My husband has also found work here.
I had to work very hard to get to where I am today, but I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. Because of all that I have been through, I have a different perspective on life now, and I see my patients in a different way. For example, when I see a mum struggling to make ends meet, I can relate, because I’ve been there.
I have also really learned to value my job, and to know that there’s nothing else I want to do more. And also, that if you really work hard for what you want, it will happen. The only person that can stop things from happening is yourself.
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