I studied Anthropology as part of my medical degree a few years ago and part of our course looked at narratives in medicine. We often use military metaphors in the context of the illnesses and diseases that affect us: we ‘fight’ disease; our body has ‘defences’; when someone dies, especially after long illness, they have ‘lost their battle’. I find this stuff absolutely fascinating, and many authors more eloquent than I have written about it.

As part of my own story-telling, in the last couple of weeks, I viewed homesickness as something I had snap out of. Not a big deal, just like a cold – sit it out, plenty of fluids, analgesia and it will go. Except it didn’t: and the symptoms were getting worse. I would wake up feeling sad and despondent and in the same day I’d bounce back, enthusiastic and ready to take on the world, and that in itself was leaving me exhausted and emotional.

Waikiki beach, Hawaii 2009. I took this photo the day a huge wave of homesickness overcame me

I opened up to some of the people in my life and a very wise friend told me to think of homesickness as a chronic illness – it’s not something I can merely purge from my system, but something I must learn to manage. And she’s quite right. Homesickness can be debilitating; its unpredictable nature means I may wake up and have a good day or a bad day, or both. I cannot ‘help’ feeling the way I feel and there are triggers that will set it off. I may go years feeling fine, then an event may take me back to the early stages feeling vulnerable and desperately scrambling for the tools to deal with it.

There’s no easy solution. I can feel the strings of home tugging at me and with the lack of job security, I have to constantly re-evaluate my plans. But the place I call home is constantly changing, even as I speak (my mother is having the bathroom done) trinkets move, books get sold, furniture moves around, so the place I remember is not the same place I’d return to. At this stage, I still have time on my hands and I aim to have something to focus on each day, be it taking photographs, running, cooking or meditating. If circumstances force me out, then I’d like to look back knowing I soaked up every available opportunity in the place I attempted to call home.


I really enjoy keeping a blog and taking inspiration from the words, ideas and values of others who take the time to write about their passions. I have gained so much (including inches on my waistline, thanks food bloggers!) and one of my favourite aspects of jumping online is to go through my bookmarked folder of an ever-expanding list of people and their blogs, whose paths I may not ordinarily cross.

That said, the narratives we create online are not reflective of our lives behind the screen – but why should they be? I enjoy posting photos of my surroundings, I doubt anyone wants to see an unmade bed, a baking disaster or tears of frustration. I chose to start this blog because I wanted to write about my life as an expat, and I would be doing a disservice to myself if I wasn’t being honest about the realities of my situation. I’ll include some pretty pictures along the way.

The truth is: I am struggling. There have been days where I have sat with my credit card ready to book the next available flight back to the UK. There have been days where as a non-smoker, I have raided my friend’s emergency cigarette stash. And on some days ending in ‘y’ I have taken a leaf out of Radiohead’s book and asked, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’

My decision to come to New Zealand was a very hasty one – and I don’t necessarily think of that as a negative thing, but I became infatuated with the idea of moving abroad that so much so, everything, including my career became overlooked because of the overwhelming need to change my narrative: girl goes to medical school and grows to hate it. After crying in the toilets for the nth time, she decides to take a risk and book a ticket. Girl graduates safe in the knowledge that her fate is not sealed in an NHS hospital, finds a home in one of the most beautiful places in the world and everything comes up roses.

How things actually turn out is often different – not necessarily better or worse, just different. I fell into a trap of assuming my medical degree was a golden ticket – I had forever been told by my seniors and anyone else that as a doctor, I could go anywhere and do anything. This is not strictly true; in London, perhaps. In New Zealand: not really, and getting a job isn’t as straight forward as simply applying for one.

This leaves me in an interesting situation. I may actually have to use my medical degree as intended, if the medical council will let me work here. It’s not really what I want, but as time goes on, I cannot afford to be choosy and let’s face it, there are far bigger problems in the world than a white, middle-class, well-educated woman in a developed country having a mini career crisis, oh the horror(!)

So… I am going to bite the bullet, and try to get a house officer job out here. If I can’t, I will simply return to the UK for 12 months and complete my first Foundation Year and consider my options after that. Until then, I’m stuck, but stuck in a wonderful place.


Thanks to a wave of homesickness, my enthusiasm for writing withered and died: in fact, all my creative juices evaporated! A crochet pile remained untouched, I didn’t take any photos and baking attempts resulted in disaster (although I blame the lack of an electric hand whisk for the latter). In the last few days, I have slowly got my mojo back thanks to people in my life cheering me on from the sidelines and I have decided to adopt the mindset of the ladybirds on the apple tree at my mother’s house: get on it.

Looking back in the run-up to the wave, I guess I developed an anxiety: I got the absurd idea that I had to perform as the ‘perfect’ expat. Doing myself no favours – having an anthropology degree and coming from a family of immigrants made me acutely aware of my place as a foreigner in a different country and culture. It seems silly now, but looking back on it but in recent weeks, I made decisions such as only buying books from New Zealand authors (a new friend howled with laughter when I told her this), not allowing myself any imported foodie treats from home, insisting I try to make friends with locals than relying on other expats and generally indulging my fears, which made me wonder whether I should have been quietly escorted into the nearest padded cell.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities; making an effort and getting to know a new place is good, but in any tense, nervous situation, you fall into autopilot and lose sight of what is important. As mentioned, my friend – once she got over her hysterics – reassured me and said, ‘Us Kiwis are a fairly chilled out bunch. You really don’t need to worry.’

Crossing my fingers to come back as a ladybird in the next life.