4 years in Australia – Catalina Bonavia

Catalina Bonavia | 20 January 2022


20/01/2018 was one of the scariest days of my life, and today… 4 years later, I can’t help but smile...

20/01/2018 was one of the scariest days of my life, and today… 4 years later, I can’t help but smile every time I think about the moment when I took a deep breath and jumped into the plane that would take me and my partner from Argentina to Australia, the exact opposite side of the world. 

I remember, as many of you already know, telling him “Let’s do it, but 2 years and we go right back to the airport”. 

Being an expat has its great things and also its challenges, especially during these ‘unprecedented times’ that are just starting to feel so precedented LOL (I don’t need to tell you how much I’m dreading those hugs).  

Here are my key tips for anyone starting their life in Australia (and maybe other countries as well, but my experience is only here) are: 

  • Volunteer in organisations where you can help with your unique skills – you will be helping but also meeting people and starting to get some local experience. 
  • Look for meetups and groups of people that do what you would like to do (I found RHoK, for example) 
  • Network, network, network – add people in LinkedIn and just go for a coffee 
  • Don’t ask for a job, ask for recommendations and introductions – eventually that job will come 
  • Look for those that are willing to help and give you an opportunity – in my case, those people were @SunilBahndari who looked at my portfolio way too many times and helped me polish it, and @gwynethbowen that hired me for my first job in Australia 
  • And once you get your career started, give back – meet with others, review their CV’s and portfolios, connect them with others. 

These last four years weren’t exactly easy but I wouldn’t change them for the world! Here are some of the things that I learned and achieved in these four years: 

  • I volunteered at NFP such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters and VicDeaf 
  • I went from having zero confidence in my English to doing weekly videos in LinkedIn talking about the things that I am passionate about 
  • I worked with 12 Victorian councils to help them set up their business permits approval experience – and made great friendships in the journey 
  • I helped developed the strategy of a mutual bank that has its customers at the heart of what they do and is ready to change lives (If you ever worked with me, you know I am all for positive customer impact and innovation) 
  • I had 2 jobs that helped me get to my current one at @three6, where I get to do what I love, design innovative customer experiences and services, and work with smart and values driven colleagues and clients 
  • I partnered with an aged care organisation to improve their customers experiences in all their services 
  • I introduced and championed HCD to the HR team at RMIT University and worked with University of Melbourne supporting their Student Experience initiatives. 
  • I taught at RMIT and University of Melbourne during 2021 and I have just confirmed that I will be leading a subject in the Master of Digital Marketing for 2022 

The most important part is that I made great meaningful friendships and connections, both in my professional network and my personal circle (which are kind of mixed, especially when you meet the kind of people that I was fortunate enough to cross paths with).