By Dinah Whitear (University of Melbourne, Australia).
The bustling life of a study abroad student means unfortunately it has been a while since I last posted. However, I’m back in action and ready to continue from where I left off…
So, after spending a few days in the comfort of a familiar friend’s home, it was now time to break away from the known and take my first steps into what I would be calling home for the next few months – student halls. These halls were something that I had pre-organised before coming to Australia. I had pondered over the subject of accommodation for quite some time and eventually came to the decision that ‘RMIT village’ – the said ‘halls’ – would be the best option for me. As I am only here for a semester, I wanted to make the most of every second and so I decided against finding a house share upon arrival as not only is the thought very daunting, I also wanted to be a part of a social atmosphere where I could meet lots of students, and I have definitely found that here! Of course there are other options regarding accommodation and it’s worth having a good look into – I would recommend going onto your chosen university’s website where I’m sure they’ll have a lengthy list of different options for you to consider. My place here is pretty cool – not only do we have an outdoor heated pool, a fully inclusive gym and a lounge, but the committee here organise a fair amount of events throughout the semester too. Something that is quite different to the student accommodation in England is that pretty much all of the rooms are room-shares, in that you have a roommate! I was quite apprehensive about this at first, but come to think of it I really wouldn’t like it any other way! I was fortunate enough to get an Australian roommate – something I really wanted because I think it’s important to remember where you are in the world and actually get immersed in the culture etc.! One thing that did take me by surprise is that the rooms here don’t have an oven (my roommate and I share a small kitchen and bathroom). I literally did a double-take when I first realised – it basically means no easy meals.
Accommodation aside, I spent the first week getting to know the people in the village – there was something called ‘o-week’, basically the equivalent of England’s fresher’s, and that was a great chance to meet the people I would be living with. The people I met in this week are still pretty much the friends I hang out with now. What was great is that they organised a few trips to orientate ourselves around the city – I got my first glimpse of the whole city and I was gradually learning to love it! The skyscrapers at night never fail to amaze me – they look so stunning! As the first couple of weeks went on I was beginning to learn the ins and outs of the city – don’t get me wrong, it took a bit of time and I’m still learning the names of the streets even now, but eventually you get there and that’s when you feel so chuffed that you’ve moved away to become a part of such a cool city! I swear it still hasn’t hit me! I think I’m gradually working out what Melbourne as a city is famous for; firstly, the amazing food and drink outlets (for anyone that knows me, it wouldn’t surprise them that this is my first thing on the list!) – but seriously, it takes so much willpower to resist the amazing smells you get as you walk down pretty much any street! For any coffee-lovers, Melbourne is the place to be! I’ve spoken to a few people who work in the cafes here, and to emphasise the lengths Melbourne goes to to produce top-quality coffee, they actually hire people just to pour milk! Only the very senior members of staff are actually allowed to make the coffee, because the standard here is just that high! Unfortunately though, coffee really is not my cup of tea so I don’t think I can appreciate it to the extent that some people do. I don’t mind though, because the food certainly makes up for it! Name any type of cuisine and they’ll have it here – known to be a very multicultural city, they even have designated precincts for particular cuisine. Lygon street, for example, is known as the Italian precinct and has an amazing variety of restaurants and ice-cream parlours! There’s even a China town here! And those are just a few of the many examples! Melbourne is also known to be pretty quirky, with many downtown alleys with impressive graffiti art, lots of very cool street artists offering an array of talent, and just generally it has a very lively and fun atmosphere, with so much going on all the time – it’s pretty hard to keep up with it all!
The second week in then involved taking my first look at the University I’d be studying at for a semester. I went along with a few people from my halls, but you gradually get broken off as you sit in on welcome talks for your particular subject area. I was pretty impressed with the campus at Melbourne I have to say! Usually with a city you expect everything to be so far apart, but unlike Manchester, the main Parkville campus means the majority of the university buildings are found within 10 minutes of each other, but most importantly, there are actually places to hang out on campus. The student union completely blew my mind! Again, not only was the food there amazing, but they have so many quirky places to just relax, with bean bags in the ‘library’ and a bar upstairs, bands playing outside in the sun, and so many free bbqs!! It really is a great place to be! I’d say what I found hardest about enrolement here was the fact you had to sort out your whole timetable practically by yourself! I was quite used to just having one pre-made for me but this time I actually had to register for particular classes, as well as sort out clashes and things that I had never really thought about before! It’s okay though because as an exchange student, you can easily pull out the ‘I have no idea what’s happening’ card and of course the staff are so willing to help!
It may take a little while to get used to things but as you realise just how much there really is on offer, it’s so exciting! I’ve so far joined the surfing club, as well as the wakeboarding/waterskiing club, and I’m even considering volleyball! I’d say the best thing to do is get involved in as much as you can, especially in things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do back home, because let’s face it, when would you ever want to join a surfing club back in Manchester??!