By Anna Powell (University of Melbourne, Australia).
For me, studying in Melbourne has been very different to studying in Manchester. Considering that Australia is such a young country, Melbourne University is one of the earliest established and prestigious universities in Australia, and Australian students have to perform insanely well in order to make it into the university. Those who make the cut take Melbourne Uni life extremely seriously, they really do STUDY and the atmosphere is highly competitive. As an exchange student (who only needs to pass the year!) I’ve found myself working harder than I ever did in Manchester just in order to keep up with my classmates. I don’t know if you’ve had the same experience, but in Manchester I found that in what tutorials I did have, students were not particularly vocal or engaged, despite staff’s best efforts! However in Melbourne, I have far more tutorials and students in them are highly involved, people aren’t shy to spark discussion and debates and often, people battle it out in order to have their say. At first this was pretty daunting, as being new to the place I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself. However now I’ve completely settled in, I find myself getting involved more and more and as a result, I’m getting so much more out of my modules, as it really helps me to get a grasp of the course material. Another thing I’d say is people come extremely prepared to tutorials. If there is reading to be done, it’s been done by the vast majority of the class, and it’s expected of you to have something to say about it. In fact, if you haven’t done your prep you’re almost looked down on. One time I admitted I hadn’t had the chance to do my reading and my discussion group looked at me rather baffled. I think it’s because most third year Psychology students at Melbourne are aiming to go on to do their Masters, a highly competitive programme for which only the top students are selected. And pretty much everybody wants to make the cut. Lectures are almost identical to Manchester however again, I’d say I’ve found people far more vocal. I’ve also found that a few of my lecturers are really big names in their field and so researchers that have come up with important psychological theories have actually lectured me on their work which is pretty impressive and engaging.
This isn’t really academically related, but one thing I’d say about Melbourne is that the uni culture is extremely different to Manchester. In Manchester you can pretty much go out on any day of the week with a tenner in your pocket and roll in at 4 am after a night’s worth of partying. However Melbourne’s night life is more low-key and bar orientated and there’s not really such thing as student priced drinks as we know it. Put it this way, you won’t find a $2 Jaegerbomb ANYWHERE! People on the whole go out earlier and places don’t tend to stay open until the early hours (with a few exceptions). In fact, Australia as a whole tries very hard to discourage binge drinking, which from my experience is rather different to student life in Manchester. So as a result, people are usually pretty fresh in Uni, I’ve very rarely seen someone lurking at the back of a tutorial keeping a low profile after a mad one, or if they are, they don’t show it!
Another thing is that many students live at home and commute to uni, whereas back home most of us live at uni. This is simply because the distances are so vast between cities that most people go to the university closest to their home (as well as accommodation being incredibly expensive). It means that there’s no student hub similar to Fallowfield or Withington, and students are spread right across the city. At first I found this really strange after two years living in Fallowfield being constantly surrounded by students. However now I love it! It really feels like I actually live in Melbourne, whereas back in Manchester I definitely felt I was in a bit of a student bubble and rarely ventured into the city centre at all! So to sum it up, in Melbourne I work harder and drink less. That sounds really boring doesn’t it?! But honestly, it’s felt like a practice run for real life, a really good transitional period leading up to graduation and the real world. Despite only needing to pass the year, it’s made me a more conscientious and competitive student, which is great preparation for final year back in Manchester. You pick and choose where and when you want to go out, and Melbourne’s world famous laneway bars certainly don’t disappoint. And anyway, if you’re looking to have a wild one there’s still a wealth of really great places to go to, just a tenner isn’t going to get you very far!