Talking to Some of the 25,000 Aussies Stuck Abroad: Steph’s Story


Steph is a 28-year-old from Sydney who decided to move out to LA last year for a bit of a change of pace. Working in the hospitality and tourism sector, she found work drying up as the pandemic started to bite and quickly ran out of money to afford the rapidly rising cost of airfare. She talks about being caught up in the panic and anger of both the pandemic and the George Floyd protests.

“I have been working in events since I moved to the States, predominately for nightclubs and festivals. I had many locked-in jobs and travel plans in 2020.

Luckily, I was still able to work at Envision Festival in Costa Rica as it was still the early stages of the pandemic, which was in February 2020.

Once I came back from Costa Rica, I headed straight to Sydney for a friend’s wedding; at that point, three of my jobs had been cancelling due to the virus. That is when I started to feel the impact of this pandemic.

Three days after arriving back in the States, Donald Trump announced a national emergency, and we were advised to stay at home and not go outside.

Within a week, the whole city was a ghost town. All restaurants, cafes and public areas were forced to closed and were told as a country to stock up on food and water.

“It felt like the world was ending”

You can’t even imagine what this place turned into; people were going crazy at the supermarket pushing each other, not respecting seniors or disabled people.

One of my most terrifying experiences was seeing how busy all the gun stores were; the lines were longer than the grocery stores. It felt like the world was ending.

Most businesses were closed; only essential companies were allowed to be opened therefore I was entirely out of work and with no help from the US government.

I work on a 1099 contract, which is for freelancers so I was not eligible for unemployment which was $600 a week.

I did consider coming back to Sydney however I moved over here with my greyhound and with no income coming in it didn’t seem like an option.


“It looked like a war zone”

When the riots started after George Floyd was killed, things went from bad to terrifying. The whole county of Los Angeles was put on 5:30pm curfew, and the National Guard was  brought in.

My mother was living in downtown LA; it looked like a war zone. Hundreds of people were looting and blowing shops up, including the Starbucks across the road from her building.

After this, I was so desperate to come home. I’ve never been so afraid of a place I lived in.

By this stage, Australia had already implemented the mandatory quarantine enforcement which cost $3000 so even coming home for a few weeks was impossible for me.

“I wish Australia made it easier for Australians who need to go home at desperate times”

Things have significantly settled here now. Many businesses are closed for good. We have to wear masks everywhere we go and sanitise our hands before entering a store.

The impact of this virus has been extraordinarily prominent. We are living in a new world here. It’s all very unknown what will happen next after the elections in November.

I wish Australia made it easier for Australians who need to go home at desperate times without these high fees”.

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