Lydia Edoni from Milne Bay met her friend Michelle Cresp while studying on an Australia Awards scholarship at the University of South Australia in Adelaide. While she began her relationship with the Cresp family as a tenant, Lydia says she very quickly felt like part of the family.

“Michelle and her family’s friendship and hospitality played an important part in the successful completion of my Australia Awards scholarship journey.”

“I fondly remember the first time I visited their family home. The first thing I noticed was a sign that read: ‘Please come on in, I am already disturbed’. Then as I walked through the door, Jas, the cutest and friendliest Chihuahua-poodle, ran up to greet me. I remember Michelle offering me juice with honey-joys – I had never had these before – while we discussed formalities of rental conditions. The next day, I cancelled all other accommodation inspections I had lined up, because I knew this lovely, warm home was exactly where I wanted to live while completing my studies.”

Lydia stayed with Michelle during her second year of studies in Australia and feels she learned a great deal from the differences in culture, lifestyle, Michelle’s interests and those of her three sons who returned home between their studies.

“They made me read up more on music and art. They also introduced me to healthy vegetarian dishes, which I now occasionally prepare back here in PNG. Michelle also makes the best brownies with nuts in them, and they are my all-time favourite. Michelle is one of the fittest people I know. When we went on the occasional jogs or hikes, I found myself really trying to catch up with her. One of my favourite hiking memories was a fun 14km cliff-hike from Waitpinga Beach to The Bluff, Victor Harbour.

“When I remember Michelle’s home, I sometimes picture Michelle painting, with Dom and Jas hanging out in the lounge, and The Waitress Song by Seth Sentry playing in the background. This memory still makes me smile on a stressful day.”

Lydia says that she felt supported by Michelle during her stay in Adelaide, and this created the foundation of a friendship that has lasted to this day.

“Michelle was writing a book when I moved into their home, and it gave me a glimpse of how amazing she is: a wonderful mother, hardworking and brilliant professional, a creative artist who was also writing a book. Despite how busy she was, she always checked in on my progress with my Masters’ Project and my volunteer work. She always made time to listen to stories of my tree-planting volunteer participation along the Fleurieu Peninsula, or beach clean-ups during conservation volunteer work. Her support as a friend helped me through some of the toughest moments of my study program. Through these regular check-ins and updates despite our busy schedules, we developed a bond that still continues today. I believe it is always important to keep in touch with friends and family, and Michelle and her family are one of my group of friends in Adelaide that I routinely keep in touch with.”

“Michelle taught me how important it is to maintain contact with friends and family. She reminds me that no matter how busy my life gets, to make time to give meaningful gifts, do routine check-ins and spend time with friends and family. She also taught me the value of taking time off my busy schedule to do something I love, be it painting, hiking, volunteering, or going on an adventure, because it is important to take care of my mental health too.”

Michelle and Lydia still communicate regularly: “Every month I flood Michelle’s phone with my millions of photos from work, adventure or just random updates on my life. I have yet to hear complaints from her about sending too many photos. I actually just got off the phone with her; as always, we had a really great catch-up conversation today.”