Meet the couple who left Brazil ten years ago to study English and ended-up staying in Australia for good

It was in early 2007 when Erika and Thiago made the decision to pack their things and leave their home country of Brazil.

Their idea was for a temporary get away to study English, and if possible, enrol in short-term courses related to their university degrees, before heading back to Brazil.

A few months later they landed in sunny and booming Perth, in Western Australia.

Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Australia.
Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Australia.

At that time, Perth was a relatively unknown city to the rest of the world. Its remote location (a five hour flight from Sydney and Melbourne) had earned it the name title of “the most isolated metropolis in the world”. This all changed with the Australian mining boom which started in the mid 2000s and saw capital start to pour in. All of a sudden thousands of jobs were available and with a shortage of skilled workers, the city quickly became popular to people from all around the world.

I was actually living in Perth in 2008 when I met Thiago at one of our regular "Peladas de Domingo" (weekly casual soccer games between Brazilians). By that time, Thiago was already starting to thrive in this new city and was always happy to help out newcomers, including me.

But he hadn’t started that way. To overcome the many initial challenges and succeed in Australia, he had to re-invent himself and adapt to countless new situations. Before moving to Perth, Thiago worked as an IT Support Analyst in São Paulo (Brazil). The language barrier was the first sign that things would be a lot tougher than he thought. In his words:

If I could sum it up in one word, it would be: Intensity! In a year a lot has happened. Time seems to run differently when you have so many new things to assimilate to. Cultural differences, not knowing many people and especially, the language barrier, can create a tough challenge for an immigrant.

Erika and Thiago found the first years were quite difficult, but at the same time, they worked really well as a team and were slowly getting used to their new “Aussie” life.

They had moved to Australia under a student visa, and because of that, they had restrictions on the number of hours they could work in a week. After many different jobs and short-term courses, they realised they wanted to stay longer, but this meant they needed to sort-out the immigration visa situation.

Erika had already been planning to get a Masters Degree, so their strategy was to have her as the main applicant for a new student visa and for Thiago to be her dependent. Which meant he would have no more work restrictions and could try to get back into the IT industry with a full-time position.

It was easier said than done. Most companies would ask for local experience, but he was struggling to find that very first role. That was when he decided to work as an unpaid intern for one month. It was this step that completely changed the conversations with recruiters.

Not long after his internship, Thiago finally landed a full-time job in IT and it didn’t take long for his employer to be impressed with his performance. The company decided to extend his contract and to sponsor his visa, which meant the Brazilian couple could move from their student visa to a temporary residency visa and from there everything started to fall into place.

Fast forward to 2017, when I actually got a chance to talk to Thiago again, I heard the great news that, after so many challenges and adventures, they were both now Australian Citizens.

They currently have no plans to move back to Brazil. Not just because of the current political and economical crisis there, or the constant news about violence, but also because of what they’ve accomplished in Australia. They have better professional prospects, have created new relationships with amazing people and have a great sense of accomplishment in a wonderful country. Oh, and I almost forgot: They love being so close to so many paradise destinations in Asia and having the flexibility to explore them :)

Erika and Thiago Santos
Erika and Thiago Santos

When asked what advice he would give to people thinking about moving to Australia, Thiago concluded:

Spend time researching your destination and always have a down-to-earth plan. Do not just listen to success stories, understand what can go wrong and be prepared for it. Be resilient. Living abroad is not for everyone, but it will certainly be an incredible life experience.