Sophie Sterling has learnt a lot since she left Kincumber High School as a Year 10 student in 2014. From horses to cars, and from Australia to England, Sophie is soon to return to Australia and is excited about the possibilities.
Sophie has always loved horses, and ridden since she was five years old, and so at 16 she quickly took up a scholarship offer at Tocol, an agricultural college near Maitland. Sophie says, “At the time there was lots of excitement and not much else but when the day came to say goodbye to home, mum and dad, emotions of nerves, anxiety, uncertainty and sadness kicked in. I was hours from home and instead of seeing the ones that meant the most everyday I saw them only every few weekends.” However, Sophie says it was all worth it as she worked towards gaining a Certificate III in Horsemanship. She and her peers rode every day, training three-year-old Stock Horses, weaning and handling six-month-old foals and breaking in two year old’s. Her teachers and trainers taught lessons she will never forget.
Once Sophie turned 17, Tocal became easier. She gained her provisional license, bought her first car and was able to go home to visit her family more often. Sophie stayed at Tocal for two years, before setting off to England with plans to explore equestrian opportunities. While overseas, Sophie completed a Diploma in Agriculture through Tocal online. She says, “Diploma was challenging and there were deadlines but the stress now seems so worth it, even if at the time it was so much easier to just turn the laptop off and never turn it back on.” However, Sophie quickly realized that wages in Britain leave a lot to be desired and decided to pursue her second favorite career; cars. Sophie gained employment at Volkswagen in Bath as a Showroom Host, intending to make it onto the sales team in twelve months. After only three months, Sophie was awarded a role as a sales executive. Sophie says, “A pay rise, a company car and double the working hours were exciting! I felt proud of myself. I was achieving goals I had originally thought may happen years down the track.”
“Being away from familiarity, family and friends is hard but it certainly puts you on your own two feet. It’s up to you to sort out what’s for dinner or how to get a new job. It’s up to you to figure out the next move."
Sophie says, “Our horses became like our own, we were with them every day and faced challenges with them that we may never face again.” At the end of the year, Tocal held an annual horse sale during which the three-year-old horses Sophie and her peers had spent the year with were sold off to the highest bidder. “It was a rewarding experience and it was exciting to ride in an auction. The bonds you have with four legged friends will never be forgotten.”
Despite her excitement, Sophie began to feel increasingly homesick. Her mum had recently visited, and they had explored the Amalfi Coast together. The trip reminded Sophie what she was missing out on by being so far from home. She says, “England was shifting into Winter dullness, the mornings always started in the minus’s and turning my car on 20 minutes before I had to drive it anywhere to de-ice it was becoming a routine. I missed the sunshine and I missed the lifestyle I had at home. Most of all I missed my family's constant support and the familiarity of home.”
Sophie now has only two weeks left in England. She has left her sales job and booked a one way ticket home. Her time living overseas has rewarded her with trips to Paris, Dublin, Spain and Italy, but she is ready to come home. She says, “Being away from familiarity, family and friends is hard but it certainly puts you on your own two feet. It’s up to you to sort out what’s for dinner or how to get a new job. It’s up to you to figure out the next move. Change can be a wonderful thing. Embrace it, because you never know where it may take you. Push yourself, because you’ll only regret settling. Follow your heart and your dreams, they go hand in hand. Do what’s right for you. And above all follow your gut because it never lies to you.”