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I have lived in Manchester for just shy of 18 months now and I am yet to come across another person from New Zealand. Now, I don’t know if that’s because there aren’t many of us in the world, or whether Manchester isn’t up there on anyone’s radar as a top place to move to. Either way, I consider myself a lonely Kiwi here in Manchester.

But that isn’t a bad thing.

When I look back at the series of events that lead to me my current life in Manchester, I see it as a domino effect, a series of events that ultimately led me right where I needed to be. But, before we can talk about where I am now, we have to start at the beginning.

I can’t say I went to University with the intention of becoming a physiotherapist.

I had never been to a physio in my life prior to completing my Bachelor’s degree in 2013. I had always done well in education so upon finishing college I went to University with my best friends, and it wasn’t until I was halfway through my first year that a friend of mine dragged me along to a presentation about studying physiotherapy. I didn’t have anything better to do, and what I knew of physiotherapy as a career didn’t seem bad. So I thought, why not?

The reality of physiotherapy as a career was completely different to what I thought I was getting myself into, and thankfully I can say I’m glad I was wrong.

The knowledge and skills I gained throughout my physiotherapy degree were interesting, useful and timeless; injuries may change, but the human body remains relatively constant. Giving me a lifetime to become really good at what I do.

Following my graduation, I took a job working as a musculoskeletal physiotherapist in one of the biggest sports injury companies, in Tauranga, New Zealand. Apart from the amazing weather and white sand beaches, this job gave me my first taste of acute injury management, working tirelessly with regional level football teams as well as everyday people suffering from common injuries.

I honed my skills in injury assessment as well as learning useful manual therapy techniques and how to effectively apply kinesio tape. Whilst still in New Zealand, I also completed my Level One and Two certification in Dry Needling which allowed me to utilize alternative treatments for my patients.

I was happy in New Zealand, until the fateful day on October 3, 2015 when I tore my ACL as well as my medial and lateral meniscus playing indoor netball. It would be easy to see this event as an annoyance, a negative event in my history which meant I needed surgery and could no longer lead the active life I was living.

In retrospect, it was one of the biggest dominos to fall, triggering a series of events which led me to quitting my job 3 weeks’ post-op, still on crutches, and booking a one-way ticket out of New Zealand.TaurangaSo why did I do it?

I had always wanted to travel, but never had any immediate plans to do so. Like I mentioned, I was happy with my job and life in New Zealand.

My brother, Patrick is two years older than me and one of the coolest people I know. At the age of 21, he left New Zealand to chase the snow with his best friends and live Canada for a year. Since leaving for this first overseas experience, he hasn’t lived in New Zealand for the last 8 years. My brother has since been a big advocate for travelling, seeing the world and growing up whilst doing so.

Following my surgery, it was as if the clouds had parted and I could finally think clearly. What if I just don’t go back to my job? What if I just go overseas? I thought to myself, I have no house, no kids and no partner. These opportunities don’t come around very often. Those where you only have to think about yourself and what YOU want to do.

So I did it. And here I am.  

Like you can see, the decision to move from New Zealand was a swift and unexpected one. I had no plan, no savings and no clue where I was going when I booked my one-way ticket out of New Zealand.

People always comment on how brave I am for making such a big move with no real support structure waiting for me on the other side, and in retrospect, I would probably agree with them. However, at the time, I had no real point of reference as to what I should be afraid of.

At the ripe old age of 24, I had only left little old New Zealand once in my life, that being 6 months before I made The Big move to the other side of the world. I didn’t know what to be afraid of, or really, what I was getting myself into. So, I packed my life into one big blue suitcase and waved my family goodbye.

More often than not, the first thing my patients say to me is “Oh, where are you from?”, and when I reply, ‘’New Zealand’’. Their second question is “Why on Earth did you leave New Zealand to come here?!”. My usual response is that, as nice as New Zealand is, it is in the middle of bloody nowhere.

You can’t travel extensively, let alone see Europe without having to sell your left kidney to fund it. The closest country is Australia at 3.5 hours away and will set you back £200 just for the flights. Not exactly cheap. This is in contrast to England which has 40 countries within the same flight time.

I wanted to see the world, and I just couldn’t do that from New Zealand.

After deciding that I would go ”anywhere but London”, I eventually I found my way to Manchester. As appealing as the glitz and glam of London sounded, I had had enough of living the poor life when I was a student and wanted to avoid another city that made living expensive and difficult, so I thought why not try somewhere “off the beaten track”.

To be honest, I took the job in Manchester before ever having visited the place, and my first impression when arriving in late April didn’t exactly wow me. I arrived by bus into the pouring Manchester rain, where it subsequently snowed for two days and didn’t stop raining in between.

I didn’t let a little rain (or snow) put me off though. I began my first job in Manchester, again, working in private practice. The nature of how physiotherapy is used in the U.K is very different to that in New Zealand, and it took some time getting used to it.ManchesterIn New Zealand, the majority of any treatment cost for any injury deemed an ‘accident’ will be covered by a government fund called ACC – Accident Compensation Corporation. That means that any person who received an injury and can remember the exact time it happened, can have their treatment subsidised, and it worked on a self-referral basis.

If you’re hurt, you walk into a physiotherapy clinic and can be treated straight away for a grand total cost of around £5.

This is not the case in the U.K. The funding system is very much different, with the majority of those being referred by insurance companies following road traffic accidents. I would consider myself somewhat of an expert on whiplash injuries following my first 18 months in the country!

The alternative to this are those people who self-refer for treatment which I would consider to be more in line with what I was used to treating back in New Zealand. Regardless of the nature of their injuries, understanding how physiotherapy worked in the UK was a learning curve. It also made me realise that New Zealand’s process for subsidising physiotherapy treatment is very unique, and those people living in New Zealand don’t know how lucky they are to have such easy access to subsidised health care services.   

I have since moved on from my initial place of work following my move to Manchester and can say I’ve landed in the right place with Physio.co.uk I am already expanding my skill set by instructing pilates classes and am on my way to completing my certification in APPI pilates instructing.

As for what I think of my time in the UK so far, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have grown up and changed for the better, learning new skills and meeting some amazing people along the way.

I like to think that everything happens for a reason, and for every negative experience, you may have, something amazing will come from it. Hell, I’m still here living in a city that is grey 90% of the time and loving it.

So for those of you who think a stint abroad might be for you, all I can say is grab it with both hands.

You might just have the time of your life!