Many students have aspirations to move abroad. This might be for a number of reasons such as to find a new job, to improve language skills, or experience a new culture.

Today we spoke to ex-student and employee Maria Gutiérrez, whose chirpy face some of you may remember from reception before she moved to Australia back in October 2015.

She tells us why she decided to move to Oz, what she’s been doing since she arrived, why it’s a great place to live and the different options available to those who fancy starting a new life down under.


Maria’s Story


Where It All Began

Moving to Australia | Oxford House Barcelona

I had just finished studying a degree in Psychology at the University of Barcelona and I was itching to learn more. But I was also looking for adventure and the opportunity to improve my English, so I started looking for courses outside of Spain.

One option was London. It’s not too far from Barcelona and it’s a cool city. But the weather can be terrible and there are a lot of Spanish speakers living there.

I briefly considered moving to the US too. However, the courses were crazily expensive and the visa process was extremely complicated.

Then I remembered a friend mentioning how much she loved her recent trip to Australia.

As it turns out, there are some top universities specialising in clinical psychology (which is what I wanted to study). You have to speak English all the time, you can work part time on a student visa (up to 20 hours a week), and the job opportunities are excellent.


Obstacles To Overcome

For the masters degree I wanted to apply for I needed to pass the IELTS with a score of 7 across all four bands (reading, writing, listening and speaking). This is the equivalent to a strong pass at C1 Cambridge Advanced.

I was quite confident, but, after taking the exam a number of times, I couldn’t get a 7 in the writing section. As it turns out it wasn’t as easy as I thought. I was devastated.

But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I decided to go ahead and move anyway to improve my English and study for the IELTS from there. The master’s could wait.

Australia here I come!


Aussie Life

Maria's Story - Moving to Australia | Oxford House Barcelona

When I first I arrived I lived in Brisbane, a city in Queensland on the east coast. I started my IELTS course and within a week or two had found a job in a shop. Perfect.

I instantly fell in love with the laid back, yet high quality way of life.

There is very little unemployment, the jobs pay well (even in shops, bars, cafés etc.) and it’s really safe – where I am at the moment I don’t even lock the door. And when I go out and the people are super friendly and easy going.

Even living in a city you are surrounded by nature and never more than about an hour from a good beach. It’s perfect for those who enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and there’s a lot of opportunity to travel.

Although I’d recommend Australia 100%, there are a few things to be aware of. The food doesn’t quite live up to the Mediterranean diet I’m used to. There’s not as much fresh fruit and vegetables as you’d expect and people eat a of chinese takeaways and other fast food.

It’s also an incredibly long way from Europe. You can’t just pop home for the weekend when it’s your mum’s birthday. However, as the wages are high, it’s quite easy to save for a flight and I try to come back at least once a year.

You also need to accept that there will be A LOT of creepy crawlies. Spiders the size of your head, as well as snakes, jellyfish and other creatures that take some getting used to. It’s not all bad though – there are some cute animals. I think possums are my favourite and I got the chance to hug a koala too.

Maria's Story - Moving to Australia | Oxford House Barcelona

No Looking Back

I’ve now been in Australia for almost three years. I finally managed to pass the IELTS with the score I needed and I’m in the middle of applying for the master’s programme I always wanted to do.

I’ve moved to the Sunshine Coast, just up from Brisbane and have found a job I really enjoy working with adults with learning disabilities.

I’ve since changed my visa from a student visa to a work and holiday visa. This lets me work and travel in Australia for up to a year. (You should take into account though that with this visa you can only work for the same employer for up to six months).

This is a great choice for those who don’t have the money to study for a long period of time (or would rather travel) and is available to a limited number of people from Spain aged 18-31. You also need a minimum of 4.5 in the IELTS and pass a medical test to be eligible for this visa.

Read more here.

Another option for those with a skilled occupation, such as architects, nurses and engineers, could also consider the Skilled Independent Visa, which allows you to live and work in Australia permanently.

Click here for a full list of eligible skilled occupations.

After living in Australia for a number of years on a work or student visa you may be able to apply for a permanent visa, which is what I’m currently doing.

Maria's Story - Moving to Australia | Oxford House Barcelona

Get Professional Help

I recommend speaking to the experts. The visa process is long and complex and there’s no guarantee you’ll be accepted. However, there are numerous agencies in Barcelona, such as GoStudy Australia and AUssieYouTOO that can give you free advice and help you apply. They also organise activities so it’s easy to meet new people when you first arrive, assist with visa extensions and even offer discounted flights.

So what are you waiting for? If you are looking for the adventure of a lifetime and want to improve your English or find well paid work in one of the best counties in the world – get started today!


IELTS At Oxford House

Do you need a certificate to prove your level for visa or work purposes? Oxford House offer intensive IELTS courses during the summer and each term to help you prepare for the score you need.

For more information visit the website or come in to the school today for a free level test with one of our expert teachers.

Find out more about travelling the world with IELTS in our article: IELTS: Your Ticket to the World.

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Aspirations (n): something you want to achieve .

Chirpy (adj): very happy and active.

Oz (n): another word for Australia.

Down under (n): another word for Australia.

Itching (v): want to do something very much.

Aussie (n): a person from Australia.

Live up to (pv): fulfill expectations.

Creepy crawlies (n): a spider, worm, or other small creature or insect, considered unpleasant or frightening.


n = noun

adj = adjective

v = verb

pv = phrasal verb

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