Expat Chats: Carlie Bonavia

Former Fox 101.9 newsreader Carlie Bonavia has called Europe home for the past few years.

Having carved out a news reading career at SCA and DMG Radio (later NOVA Entertainment), she decided to head overseas to forge a new career.

After time spent in London, Carlie is now based in Strasbourg, France. It’s a far cry from breakfast radio in Melbourne, but there are no regrets.

She chats with Radio Today about life in Oz and making the ‘big move’.

Where did you get your start?

I volunteered at community station SYN Media while I was in high school. I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but SYN got me hooked on broadcast, and I was able to dabble in everything from reading the news to presenting and producing.

Through connections I made at SYN, I got volunteer  (Comswitch) – and then paid – shifts at Fox FM answering the phones for shows on weekends.

Where did radio take you?

After a year of studying PR I completed Jim Barbour’s Commercial Radio course at Swinburne Uni. My first full-time job was as a newsreader for 2LM and ZZZ in Lismore, NSW.

From there I moved to Nova Brisbane and then Nova Sydney. And finally Fox FM in Melbourne where I read the news for the Matt and Jo show for 3 years.

What prompted the move overseas?

I had a European passport burning a hole in my pocket! I was also at a bit of a crossroads; commit to buying a house or move abroad? Stay in radio, or see what else I could do career-wise?

There was a lot of change happening in newsrooms at the time, and I felt like I needed to diversify.

How was the adjustment to life in the UK and France?

Culturally in London it was pretty easy. Living in a flat with three housemates and no living room was crappy but affordable. The first 12-18 months were humbling career-wise.

I really wanted to move into PR & Communications and also do a bit of travelling. I didn’t anticipate how difficult a career move would be, you know, in another country and in a quite competitive jobs market.

I had this surreal moment while working a temp job at the 5-star Claridges Hotel for a press junket: I was stocking the journalist waiting room with fresh coffee and pastries, wondering why on earth I was doing that and not sitting there waiting to interview the celebs. But I got into PR eventually.

France has been a cultural learning curve, but a mostly positive one. I live in Strasbourg, the country’s 6th or 7th biggest city, very close to the German border. I’ve had to adjust to the language of course, but also the lifestyle and values. Strasbourg is a much smaller city compared to London, with a slower pace, but there’s still a lot going on.

What are you doing ‘over there’?

After a couple of years in PR, I’m now a content manager/writer with a global company. In my spare time I record podcast interviews for an expat website. I also do the odd corporate voiceover. They’re nice ways to scratch that radio itch!

Has your radio experience helped in what you’re doing now?

I’m using my journalism skills and instinct all the time in my day job. I develop the content strategy for various marketing campaigns, and I interview our company experts in order to write articles aimed at our target audiences.

One day I’m writing about Brexit, the next it’s all about the latest tax or payroll changes in various countries. Similar to working in news, you become a mini-expert on a variety of topics that are constantly changing.

Do you listen to much radio… what’s it like?

I wanted a break from radio when I moved to London, so I didn’t listen to much aside from a bit of talkback. I mostly listen to podcasts now – in English but also French ones to help with my comprehension.

There are some great (seeming) shows on local radio stations here in Strasbourg, but I am not able to follow the conversations well, so I get frustrated quickly!

Any plans to come back home to Oz?

For now, France is home, but maybe one day.

Any advice to anyone thinking about upping stakes?

It feels like a giant leap, especially if you’ve put your heart and soul into your radio career, but it’s a great thing to do. Even temporarily.

Embrace the fresh perspective that comes with working outside the ‘media bubble.’ And in a 9-5 job, you get lunch breaks! Here in France it’s even illegal to eat lunch at your desk, and you have a ‘right to disconnect’ and not check emails outside of work hours.

Living and working abroad has given me a new perspective too. Know you can always go back to radio, or find a way to keep a hand in.

The best advice you’ve been given?

“Just keep swimming!” Because new opportunities come up when you least expect them.

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