IN HER first visit Down Under, when she was just 10-years-old, Sarah Holmes' strongest impression was the abundance of green, open spaces and the sweet air.

Having lived all her life in Hong Kong, where skyscrapers dominate the skyline and pollution is rife, it was an eye-opener.

Little did she know that Australia would soon become her home.

A few years later, Sarah moved to the Tweed Shire after her mum Frankie fell in love with local resident John Holmes.

Enrolling at Murwillumbah High School, the Cantonese speaker said she expected to be isolated, as her English was a bit rusty.

But her only problem was when people wrongly guessed which country she was from and kept trying to talk to her in Chinese or Japanese.

"Everyone was so friendly towards me," the now 19-year-old Biomedical Sciences student recalls.

"I really like this country. It's really free.

"You can achieve whatever you want in Australia because people give you opportunity here and I just want to be part of it."

She says as a naturalised citizen she will feel a deeper responsibility to her adopted country.

"There's an obligation to protect it; this is my country now."

Frankie too will be getting naturalised later this year.

One of the things she loves about Australia is the friendliness and openness of the people.

She says in Hong Kong a couple of generations of families would often live cheek-to-jowl but yet rarely share their thoughts and feelings with one another.

"People live close but their hearts and minds are very far away," she said.

"But here people who don't know each other sit down and have a beer and a good laugh."

But some of our dubious habits may have rubbed off on her.

Frankie didn't drink alcohol for the first 46-years of her life until she moved to Australia and learnt to enjoy Bundy Rum.



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