It was the first time Zita Stark had felt that way since immigrating from Hungary four years earlier.
She was receiving a 2016 Queensland community service award for her volunteer work promoting cultural diversity in rural Australia.
"It was the most important moment of my life," says Zita.
In 2012, the former tax advisor left what she describes as a joyless existence in debt-ridden Hungary working up to 14 hours a day on low wages to survive.
Up to 190,000 immigrants are admitted to Australia each year but unlike the majority, Zita did not settle in a major city.
She found the life she'd hoped for in the agricultural and mining town of Chinchilla, 300km northwest of Brisbane.
Four years ago, Zita saw a need to help the growing number of families from non-English speaking backgrounds who'd moved to the region during the coal seam gas construction boom.
'Remedy to isolation'
She formed Conversations in English, a language support group which quickly evolved into much more than that.
"They are highly educated people, but they were seeking connection and integration into the Australian community, to learn more and to share their own cultures," says Zita, who speaks several languages.
While skilled immigrants who come for work may speak good English, this might not be the same for their spouses.
"Quite a few people in town feel very isolated and they don't trust themselves to go out into the community. The hardest challenge for me is to find them and make them believe they can come along to the group," says Zita.
"So it became more about giving remedy to isolation and somehow transforming the town into a multicultural hub."
From Lahore to ChinchillaQueensland Gas Company engineer Osamah Mahmud moved from Lahore, Pakistan, in 2011.
His wife Hena joined him in Chinchilla later, where their son Azlan was born.
"I was very lonely," says Hena
"But then I met Zita who introduced me to the Conversations in English group and everyone welcomed me with open arms.
"I wasn't sure how locals were going to react because I'm a Muslim from Pakistan but it was totally the opposite to what I had in my mind."
Osamah admits that moving to a rural town was a culture shock, but the isolation is outweighed by the joy of living in a peaceful, close knit community.
"I will always feel blessed to be part of this country, the rule of law, respect for the law and people looking out for each other," he says.
At its peak, Conversations in English operated in Chinchilla, Dalby, Miles and Tara, before the construction boom ended.
Ray Brown, a Western Downs councillor for 29 years, has watched Chinchilla's population swell, shrink and then even out to about 6,500.
"At one point, we were nationalising up to 100 people a month in citizenship ceremonies," says Mr Brown.
"Our schools are booming but we found that 18 per cent of children were struggling with English."
He credits initiatives like Conversations in English with improving community relations.
"Zita is a phenomenal woman who is very well respected.
"It started from nothing, but she is making a big difference in peoples' lives," he says.
Zita gives her time to visit immigrants in their homes to help with paperwork and academic assignments. As well as hosting weekly Conversations in English meetings and excursions, she helps with multicultural food events like Harmony Day and One Long Table.
Rural towns are notoriously hard to break into. But Lisa Harth, who runs the Dalby branch of Conversations in English, says Zita's warmth has encouraged a cultural exchange that's enriched the community.
"People are very shy when they first come along to the group, but it works so beautifully because Zita gets it," says Lisa.
"She knows what it feels like and the support that she gives comes from a place of understanding."
What's next for Zita?Zita is now waiting for her citizenship application to be processed.
"I would love to fit in fully, to give more," she says.
"I miss Hungary, I miss my mother, I miss the people. But I'm home.
"Being a migrant, you always have two homes. You go home to visit where you were born and then you come back home to live your life."
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