Bendigo resident Emily Earl is preparing to travel back to Australia after being left stranded in the UK 21 months ago when international borders slammed shut.
Emily initially moved her December, 2020, flights to March, 2020 in an effort to get home early only for her flights to be cancelled and being informed she could only get as far as Dubai.
Since then, Emily has had three more flights cancelled on her as she tried to return home.
She is now scheduled to return home in mid-November when Australia's international borders reopen.
"When I left Australia at the start of January last year I was meant to be home for that Christmas," she said. "So when I'm still in the UK nearly two years - and two birthdays - later I can't wait to finally be able to see my family and friends again.
"When we've finally been able to get a flight, they have been cancelled as close to two days before I was meant to fly home.
"After the last flight I had cancelled in September it meant having to reschedule the mandatory COVID test that was needed to board the flight, though thankfully the various companies that supply these tests have been very understanding with the flight cancellations.
"It hasn't been easy being so far away from family during such a difficult time where I could only see them through a phone screen."
The 18-year-old said there has been a lot of fear and worry coupled with the disappointment of having her flights home cancelled again and again.
"It's all been quite scary to deal with so far away from home and at such a young age," she said. "There's always been a lot of uncertainty surrounding it all and having to be prepared for yet another cancelled flight.
"After the announcement of international flights into Victoria, I had so much hope and excitement and when I was able to book a ticket I was practically bursting with joy.
"I'm so lucky that I have been able to become fully vaccinated during my time in the UK which has aided being able to make plans to return home just that little bit easier."
During her time in England, Emily has been able to continue working in the education sector in Sidmouth and North Devon and has family in Newcastle who have helped her.
"Even during the lockdowns I was still able to keep busy and work with the key-worker children," she said.
"When the UK was in lockdown in January of this year, it had been implemented that staff and students completed weekly testing that happened on the school campus. It meant that some staff and myself included were required to take on a different role to what we were used to.
"It was a very odd situation because suddenly we were in full PPE and making sure staff and students were doing the tests properly but despite it all we managed to keep a smile on our faces.
"I've been so fortunate to have been staying with mum's cousin and her family in Newcastle since the end of the 2020-21 UK school year in July - they've been amazing as we've kept trying to get a flight home.
"And the British Government has been very helpful when flights have been cancelled and visas needed extension, so compassionate and understanding."
A bagpipe player, Emily was also scheduled to play at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo before it was cancelled last year.
"Whilst my time in the UK has not gone as planned, I've still managed to make the most out of it," she said. "I had been looking forward to being part of the Tattoo after first performing there in 2017 but COVID stopped that."
Emily is expected to fly into Australia in mid-November.
"It's been a long time away and I know that my family and I will be so happy to be reunited once again. We're counting down the days," she said.
"Everyone has suffered in some way during the pandemic so it's important to stick together and do what we can so that life can return to some form of normality.
"I think one of the biggest things I've learnt throughout my experiences is that life is short, you can never know for certain what will happen tomorrow and how the world will change, so cherish every moment with your loved ones and be kind."
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