Sarah Bickford on pushing through fear and moving interstate – for great reward

By Emily McAuliffe

Sarah Bickford made the move from Cairns to Trinity College, Melbourne, wanting to push herself out of her comfort zone. Though she was nervous about the move, her leap of faith paid off.

Sarah Bickford at Melbourne University

‘I was terrified. Absolutely terrified,’ says Sarah Bickford, reflecting on her to move from Cairns to Melbourne after graduating from Cairns State High School. ‘I remember the final day when I was packing my bags, I was thinking, "What are you doing? You are leaving your mum … You're leaving all your friends. What's going to happen if you don't make new friends? What's going to happen if no one likes you? What's going to happen if you don't find any interests or if you don't like your uni course?"’

The voice of doubt can be pesky when it comes to major life decisions. But Sarah pushed through it, telling herself that even if her worst-case scenario eventuated, at least she’d tried. But her leap of faith didn’t lead to a worst-case scenario – in fact, she says it turned out to be more of a perfect scenario.

‘Within two weeks down here [in Melbourne], I found the closest group of friends I could possibly ask for. I found my new best friend. I found an absolutely incredible support network,’ she says. ‘I think my fears were quite valid, but with all the effort I've been putting into make new friends and to keep up contact with my mum on a regular basis and my family back home, it's just been so much easier than I thought it would be to adjust.’

Sarah says her transition to Melbourne and study at the University of Melbourne was eased by the fact that she moved on campus to Trinity College. Sarah always knew she wanted to go to university – though admits she wasn’t quite sure what to study – and was also intent on living at a college after hearing many a fun story from her dad about his college days at the University of Queensland.

‘Dad always told me how fantastic college was, and even now, every year he and his college friends go away for a weekend somewhere. So I went, I want that for myself, I want that experience.’

Now at Trinity, Sarah’s college experience has seen her join a number of sports teams and other extracurricular activities. She has continued playing volleyball, as she did at school, and found a new and unexpected love for cricket. ‘One of my friends [at Trinity] was trying out for cricket and I went, "Ugh, may as well”, I thought I’d just put myself out there. I did one game and absolutely was obsessed with it and now I love cricket.’

Though Sarah says she could have gone to university in Cairns or followed in her parents’ footsteps to the University of Queensland in Brisbane, she wanted more of a challenge.

‘I'm always looking for new challenges, always looking to grow and expand, and to find as many opportunities as I possibly can. I didn't want to go to university in Cairns because I wanted to move somewhere new. Then all my family is in Brisbane and, while that's not a bad thing as I would have had an amazing support network, my ideal uni situation was moving away from my whole family so I could force myself into a situation of, "Okay, you're by yourself, learn how to deal with it." So I decided to move to the complete opposite end of the country.’

Sarah continues, ‘It really pushed me as a person to put myself out there and when I went back home for the mid-semester break, my mum looked at me like I was a different person. Not in a bad way, but the first thing she said to me was, "You seem settled," which was so lovely. … A year ago, I would not even think for a moment I could be as confident or as settled as I am now. There's such a peace when it comes to completely coming out of your comfort zone and then being rewarded with finding people who are so in tune with you. … For the opportunity to be able to meet those people and have those opportunities, it's so worth the anxiety and the stress of moving, of leaving family, of all of that. No matter what kind of person you are, it is so worth it in the end. … And if you're at Trinity, you have so many people around you to help you and to give you ideas about what subjects you can do and what pathways you can take.’

And Melbourne? Despite the weather difference when compared to Far North Queensland, Sarah says Victoria’s capital city suits her perfectly, and thinks it would suit most other people as well, particularly those from Cairns. ‘Cairns is quite multicultural. Especially going to a state school, I grew up with friendship groups that had a person from every corner of the planet. I think that set me up really well for life in Melbourne, which is also very diverse.

‘Plus, you'll never get bored in Melbourne. There is so much to do here. So many people to meet. So many places to go – you can drive to Daylesford or the Grampians. You can go into the city and go shopping. You can go to the beach. You can do so much down here and it makes you feel very welcome. Whatever pocket of the city you're in, you will find something that is so in tune with who you are and what you're interested in. In fact, this whole city just screams opportunity to me. Honestly, with any degree you do, you'll find so many opportunities. For example, if you're an arts student, there is art, theatre and exhibitions everywhere. …. It blew me away the first time I visited Melbourne just how much culture and beauty and art was everywhere.’ Sarah, who’s studying commerce, also notes that the main branches of the ‘big four’ accounting firms and many consulting services are all based in Melbourne too, which makes her career prospects exciting.

‘To anyone thinking about moving to Melbourne and living on campus at Trinity College, I would say don't be afraid – just make the jump. If you are worried that you won't keep up contact with your friends or won't keep in contact with your family, remember, it's completely up to you how much effort you put in. Plus, there are so many people [in Melbourne] and you could come down here and find a group of people who better you in ways that you could never even imagine.’


29 Aug 2022