Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia
It has taken longer than I thought to feel I have grasped something of what it feels like to live in Melbourne. The city feels pretty vast; the CBD itself is rather compact but the extensive suburbs make Melbourne feel much bigger. As is often the case with Uni life, it is equally as easy to busy yourself with your neighbourhood and the campus and look no further. But do!!
I live in Parkville which is a stone’s throw away from the university, lying just above the Royal Park. It’s a lovely lush area with the slightly ambiguous ‘native grassland’ at the top which is popularly frequented by joggers and a beautifully sculpted children’s play area at the foot. This conveniently forms the back garden for the Melbourne children’s hospital (this was the reason the building of the park on hospital property was sanctioned). Our area then is unforgivably middle-class and family orientated, so much so that number 23 has a reputation for rowdiness as our surely neighbour likes to remind us. However, I have been determined to still explore other areas and at this point I would like to extend my gratitude to a disastrous excuse of a bike I bought off gumtree for $40 but which has enabled many a expedition to Brunswick. A slightly more happening and hip area than Parkville, here you will find many a fun and affordable bar/pub, all up and down Sydney road. The Penny Black boasts quality IPA and pizza for 9 dollars on a Monday and the Runway Hotel has a buzzing beer garden. There is also Brunswick baths which is charming all year round because the outdoor pool is heated for the colder weather and morphs into a Lilo when the sun comes out. My housemates and I took to going for 9pm swims when it was dark and the pool was empty for exam stress release (only 4 dollars!). Brunswick was also home to my café job before my shifts were ridiculously given to another who goes by the name Astrid-a bitter slap to the face. However, the low prices characteristic of the area means wages are correspondingly lower than what you can get for similar work elsewhere, particularly in the CBD. In our orientation introductory lecture we were told 18 dollars p/h is minimum wage but most people I know have been earning considerably more (sadly, not I).
For the particularly adventurous, it is well worth taking the time to continue further down Sydney Road in hunt of the Coburg drive-in. The space is home to a brick and brac market on the weekends with plenty a food-truck and hosts outdoor cinema screenings in the summer. The latter is apparently a trend which is a big part of Melbourne’s summer season and I can speak from experience when I say watching a film in the outdoor summer air is more fun than you ever imagined! When my family came to visit for Christmas, we saw Allied at the Moonlight cinema in the Royal Botanic Gardens. We were poorly prepared in contrast to local Melbournians, who as ever made an excessive effort to make the night a treat. People arrived with bedding, cushions and sleeping bags, one of which we were lucky enough to borrow from a nearby couple. Koodos to them because as the sun set (the screening began around 9) temperatures did drop to a biting 11 degrees as the bats made for bed above the screen. We, like many others, also brought a picnic dinner and wine and cheese which all in all made the occasion pretty magical.
On a more sombre note, global warming’s been at it again which means summer hat hit Melbourne later than ever. Comfortable temperatures in the 20’s only really kicked in about a month ago, in late November and even then, Melbourne weather is so changeable and sporadic there are still days of 30 degree scorching sunshine followed by 15 degrees and rain. However, this also means I have only just seen the city in its prime and have now planned various travels which keeps me out of the city until second semester. It seems to be the done thing among exchange/international students to obsessively travel in all the spare time we get, which for summer has turned out to be a generous 4 months. Of course, this is incredibly exciting in itself and I’m clearly mulling over first world problems here but it does mean I feel I will miss out considerably on the famed Melbourne summer, a season which is rumoured to truly bring the city to life. Perhaps, there is a lesson to be learnt here about not being swept along with the crowd. Woe is me that a trip to Vietnam, Hong Kong and the Philippines means I miss out on festivals, rooftop bars and picnics alongside the Merri Creek! The year abroad life is so indulgent.