I Am Lucky Enough to Meet Them
Looking back on my journey, there were many difficulties, but there was also lots of happiness thanks to the love and generosity of my Australian family.
Taiwan, Eastern Asia
Story by Tiffany Ko. Edited by Melaina Dyck
Published on May 30, 2021. Reading time: 4 minutes
This story is also available in
When was a turning point in your life?
For me, it was when I first came to Melbourne, Australia.
At age 16, I saw a poster in my high school about Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE). RYE sponsors high school students to study abroad for one year. My school was seeking a student to represent our school in the RYE program My teacher recommended me because I was always ranked top of all the students in English class. Her recommendation gave me confidence to apply.
After a complicated application process, I was accepted to study in Melbourne, Australia. On July 23, 2014, I flew from Taoyuan International Airport (Taiwan), leaving my hometown by myself for the first time. I was full of excitement, looking forward to my new life in Australia. Although I had good grades, I spoke little English and did not know much about Australia, but I was more excited than scared because I was finally released from the Asian-style education that I was sick of.
My host family, the Laidlaws, made me fall in love with Australia. They accepted me for who I was and treated me like a part of their family. Our home in Melbourne was beautiful with a big yard and a colourful garden. My host dad, Andy, is a garden designer. He liked to show me around his precious garden, including his plum trees. One of my favourite things was going to the plum trees after school and picking beautiful plums to put in my mouth. I loved hearing the stories from Andy about his plants.
I enjoyed helping my host mum, Sarah, with dinner and talking with her. She was a good listener. I also enjoyed the running-up-to-the-hill workout with my host sisters, Phoebe and Jessie. Phoebe was my best friend; we always had a good laugh. Green grass, warm breezes, cows and horses, beautiful nature and lovely people: All these small things brought me simple happiness.
I love my Australian family. They gave me the family love I had never experienced.
I am an only-child from a single-parent family with a busy mum. I went to school, did homework, and ate dinner by myself. I had no one to talk with about my day. Before I went to Australia, I was an unhappy, lonely Taiwanese student hating exams and studying and the expectations of being “a good student.” I was like most Taiwanese students—striving to get grades but not knowing why. The only thing I knew was that I would get more attention from my mum if I did well in my exams. In Taiwan’s education system, students are defined by their grades. They lose themselves and lack confidence and social ability. In Melbourne, I took classes I did not have in Taiwan, including drama, project design, and poetry. After school, I had the evenings for family or sports, instead of constantly studying.
When I returned to Taiwan, I missed Australia a lot. In February 2016, I started my bachelor’s degree at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.
Life is an ongoing journey, with many ups and downs. My life didn’t just switch to be all good because I moved to Australia. However, when I think about the Laidlaw family, I know I was the lucky one. The Laidlaw family loved me beyond our language barriers and cultural differences. Through hugs, picnics, and bike rides, I saw the beautiful scenery of Australia and the loving hearts of people. They gave ordinary me extraordinary love. For that, I am beyond grateful.
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