By Anna Powell (University of Melbourne, Australia)
I thought that returning to uni after a whole year away would be tough. This year counts for 67% of my final degree (a little different to last year’s pass or fail requirement!) and over the summer I watched loads of my friends graduate from Manchester. I’ve been a little concerned about adjusting from a pass or fail year to my crucial final year as well as wondering what would remain of my social life back in Manchester. Despite my concerns, returning to Manchester has been fine, great even!
There are far more people around than I had expected; it turns out that a surprising number of people did a year abroad and quite a few are doing a masters year. This is nice as, although a lot of friends have graduated, I’ve grown closer to other people who are still around. Also, those of us who have been abroad from Psychology have already made contact and have been sitting together in lectures. It’s been good not to feel like the newbie on a course where everyone else has had classes together for two years. I’ve loved hearing about where everyone has been, from America to Canada to Australia, what our experiences were like and how they differed.
Although the academic year has only just begun, I already sense a change of attitude in the people around me as everyone has developed a really strong work ethic. Because most people are either final year or masters students, partying has been seconded to working hard, which feels like a good environment to be in. For me, I feel like my year abroad has made me a lot more driven. After seeing many friends graduate and be launched into the real world, I’ve seen the importance of working as hard as possible in my final year, as well as continuing to beef up my CV in preparation for job applications. Being away has given me a bit of a breather from the intensity of my degree, so that I’ve returned feeling refreshed and ready to take on final year. Fingers crossed all goes well!
By Anna Powell (University of Melbourne, Australia).
I know that everybody says it, but I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. It’s been over a year now since I was saying goodbye to friends and family and boarding a flight to Australia, feeling somewhat unprepared and apprehensive about what to expect when I would land over 10,000 miles away from home.
I remember my arrival as a whirlwind of activity. Melbourne Welcome Week was intense; I stayed at Trinity College with other exchange students from across the world and we were shown the city by local students. It was such a great few days, but after it had finished I didn’t have a plan. I’d expected to meet potential housemates during the week, however nearly all the friends I made had already arranged their accommodation prior to departure.
I moved myself into a hostel and shortly after, uni began. This was a really stressful time, as I was juggling finding a house, familiarising myself with the city, starting my classes as well as trying to catch up with my friends from Melbourne Welcome, who were now spread right across the city. After such a busy week, the lack of social contact was hard for me. All of a sudden, I had a lot of time to think about my situation and I began to miss home horribly. Whilst in my dingy hostel, I’d hear about all my friends and family from Manchester and home who were on summer holidays, going to festivals and most importantly, together! Meanwhile, I was feeling sorry for myself in a drizzly version of Australia I hadn’t envisaged when setting off. Even worse, I discovered that my Gran had fallen ill. I’m incredibly close to my Gran and before I’d left I had worried about her how her health would be during my year away, so hearing the unexpected news that she was in hospital and awaiting heart surgery made things 100 times harder. All I wanted was to be at home.
Luckily, things soon picked up. I got an offer to move in with a group of Brazilians that I’d met during Melbourne Welcome Week and I jumped at the opportunity, and having my own room felt amazing after my time in the hostel. My Gran’s surgery was successful and I began to hear news of her feeling better than ever, which helped me to relax and actually enjoy life in Melbourne without feeling anxious and guilty for not being at home. The Exchange Society put loads of social events on for us and I was enjoying my classes, so soon I’d cheered up considerably.
Still, life in Melbourne took some getting used to. It was strange not living in a student area like Fallowfield in Manchester. A lot of local students live at home in Melbourne and so there is no particular student area. Where I was living was a mixture of families, a care home and apartments for young professionals and so it had a very different dynamic compared to Manchester, there was certainly not a house party on every street! Furthermore, going out in Melbourne is extremely expensive and so I found myself going out far less than usual. But soon, I began to adjust to Melbourne living, going to laneway bars, brunch and coffee, great Asian food, live music events, all balanced with working hard at uni – I found the students at Melbourne very hard working compared to Manchester. It felt like I was really living in the city of Melbourne and experiencing it for what it is, as opposed to living in the student bubble of Fallowfield and my time there being a blur of partying and cramming for exams.
By the time I left for Christmas, I had fully settled in and was sad to see many of my close friends leave for home – they were only doing one semester in Melbourne. At the same time however, I was really excited to spend Christmas at home with my family, followed by a two-month trip around South East Asia, so leaving wasn’t too hard. I won’t go on too much about my time in Asia, there’s too much to say! But my friend Ruth and I had a blast travelling through north Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, before flying back to Melbourne just in time for the start of uni.
Returning to Melbourne felt like I was coming home. It was so amazing to see my boyfriend Anthony after three months apart (he’s one of the local students that showed us around during Melbourne Welcome) and the city felt so familiar and welcoming – quite a contrast to when I first arrived in Melbourne. Rather than the start of term being a mad scramble to make friends, find a house and get to know the city, I instantly felt settled and I vowed that I’d make the most of my final months, which I knew were going to fly by. It was great to get to know the new batch of exchange students, but I also had a solid base of friends from my first semester and so didn’t feel pressured to forge any friendships for the sake of not being alone.
After a great semester of challenging study and incredible trips around Victoria and to Western Australia, my final few weeks were soon upon me. During this period, I remember finding it unbelievable that soon it would all be over and that my new home and the life I had made there would be merely a fond memory. I found it frustrating that there were so many things I still wanted to do, but the ever-present threat of deadlines and exams meant that I could no longer jet off to a corner of Australia like I had grown used to. Instead, Anthony and I planned a trip to Sydney and the Blue Mountains for after exams, the last chance I’d get to travel before returning home.
The gap between the end of exams and our trip was hard for me. Many of the people that had made my year abroad left for home one by one. Gradually, the Melbourne I’d known for a year was becoming more and more unfamiliar. The trip to Sydney gave me a chance to get out of the city and have a breather. We spent a fantastic week sightseeing in Sydney and exploring the beautiful Blue Mountains in a campervan (despite it getting to freezing at night when we were camping!). When I returned I found it much easier to start saying goodbye to Melbourne. Nearly all my friends had left now, so there were no more drawn-out goodbyes. I spent my last few days pottering around the city and appreciating every last minute.
It was obviously really hard to leave Anthony, but my journey home was much easier than I expected. I began to think about what was waiting for me at the other end: friends, family, home and a British summer (I was leaving winter in Melbourne). Being at home again was like breathing a sigh of relief, I hadn’t realised the effect that awaiting my departure had been having on me. It was comforting to be back in a stable, familiar environment, where I knew nothing was going to change dramatically for a while.
It’s a massive cliché, but nothing has changed at home. I’ve slipped back into this life as if I’d never left it, but I feel different in myself. This year has been so good for me. I feel more confident, I know that I can land in a country with nothing but my suitcase and a scribbled address of a friend of a friend and make a life for myself. I feel more mature, I studied harder in this pass or fail year than I ever did in Manchester. I’m excited and motivated for my final year in Manchester; this year exploring Melbourne has made me want to explore Manchester in the same way. I can’t wait to have my international friends to visit and to visit them over the coming years. Finally, I’m excited for what continent, country, city I’ll be calling home next, as being abroad for a year has only made me want to see more.
By Anna Powell (University of Melbourne, Australia)
During the Easter break I was lucky to have my parents visiting Australia. After a very stressful few weeks of deadlines, my mum, dad, sister, boyfriend and I flew out to Western Australia to enjoy two weeks of snorkelling on one of the most spectacular coral reefs on the planet, Ningaloo.
After a 6 hour flight (Australia is so big!) we arrived at the smallest airport I’ve ever been to, Learmonth, near Exmouth. Apart from boasting the new addition of a cafe, it was literally a room with arrivals at one end and departures at the other. We hired a car and made our way across the baked landscape to the town of Exmouth, one of the very few settlements in that part of Western Australia. Its population is about 2000 and the place relies heavily on tourism.
We spent our days in Exmouth exploring the almost deserted coastline; the snorkelling was really incredible. We couldn’t believe that all it took was to wade out a few meters and dive down and you’d find yourself surrounded by colourful fish darting around impressive coral formations, as well the occasional sea turtle or stingray. My dad reckoned he saw a small shark too, but I wasn’t too jealous of that!
As well as Exmouth we stayed in Coral Bay, and this is where I did encounter a shark, in fact the biggest of all sharks, the whale shark. The Ningaloo Reef is lucky enough to be the home of migrating whale sharks; an opportunity we were not willing to miss. The day we went whale sharking was undoubtedly the best day of our whole trip and an experience I’ll remember forever. However, it didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped!
The day of our trip was extremely rough day at sea. Despite glorious blue skies, the sea was choppy and churning from a huge swell, which meant spotting a whale shark was extremely difficult for the airborne spotter pilot (a guy in a plane covering vast distances to locate whale sharks and then direct boats like ours to their location). Despite the tricky conditions, an hour or so into our voyage we received word from the pilot that a whale shark had been spotted. Whilst racing across the ocean, our group were eagerly trying to get ready for our dive – not easy on a boat rolling from side to side whilst 20 people are frantically trying to put on flippers, dunk their snorkel masks in anti-fog solution, sit on the deck and recall all the instructions we’d been given: ”How many meters do I have to be away from the shark? What did they say the distress signal was again?…”
Once we were ready we had to sit and wait on the deck. Another group had beaten us to it and were already swimming with the shark. We sat and waited and waited and waited. After quite a while of patiently sitting in our snorkel masks, the group became a little restless. Eventually, our crew informed us that the whale shark had dived. We’d been waiting for it to resurface but unfortunately, it didn’t look like it was going to be back anytime soon. Disheartened, we peeled off our snorkel masks and wetsuits and instead of jumping into the water to swim with an ocean giant as anticipated, lunch was served. We were encouraged not to lose hope, but as the day wore on and the tally of sea-sickness sufferers grew ever larger, the positive mood on the boat dwindled. Our crew tried in earnest to keep the positive feeling going, but as the end of the day neared, the chances of us seeing a whale shark became quite unlikely.
It was just as we were about to return to land that we got a call from the spotter pilot. Unbelievably, he’d been on his way back to land when he’d spotted another whale shark, however, due to flying for hours on end, he’d run out of fuel and so had no choice but to land. Thankfully, he’d had just enough time to tell our crew the location. Before we knew it we were again racing across the ocean at full pelt whilst clambering around, getting ready to enter the water. Until this point I’d been flat out on the floor of the boat trying to fight the inevitable waves of nausea that come with spending an entire day on a rocky ocean. With news of the sighting however, I, like the rest of the group, was eager to be ready in time. It wasn’t long before we came to a halt and were receiving urgent instructions on what we needed to do in the moments that would follow. We were lined at the back of the boat, one of the crew members jumped in to locate the shark and then signalled for us to join her.
Because of the choppy sea, as I stood close to the edge and was instructed to jump in, it was a big drop into the water and when I hit it, it took a while to compose myself and find the group. As I turned to see them swimming away from me I saw it. I couldn’t help an “oh god” escape through my snorkel. The whale shark was 5 metres long (actually quite a small one, they can be 12 metres!) and it was swimming towards me with its famous mouth stretched into a wide oval.
Before I knew it we were hauling ourselves onto the boat gasping for air. I was surprised at how tiring it was to keep up! Luckily that wasn’t it, and we were able to do another 3 dives with the shark. It was incredible being in the huge swell of the ocean with the creature. If I popped my head above the water I was surrounded by towering waves and could just about see a huge dorsal fin slicing through them ahead of me; amazing! A very memorable moment was when I was waiting to get back onto the boat when a shadow beneath me caught my attention. Another, unidentifiable shark was swimming at a greater depth. I shouted in shock, “There’s another shark!!” and was promptly directed to get out of the water and calm down. I later found out that despite rarely attacking humans, unlike the whale whark this shark, a bronze whaler, is regarded as dangerous. I’d been so absorbed by the whale shark I’d had no idea we had other company!
After our final dive we headed back to land just as the sun was setting, a very happy group. I couldn’t believe that half an hour before I’d been in the open ocean with a giant. It was truly incredible. I would recommend the experience to anyone. Although expensive (around $400), it was 100% worth it and already I want to do it again, but when, I don’t know!
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!
By Anna Powell (University of Melbourne, Australia).
So my arrival in Melbourne was, how do I put it? Surreal. Armed with the address of Glen, the brother of a family friend (tenuous connection, I know) who had kindly said I could stay with him and his family for my first couple of nights in the city, I announced to the taxi driver at the airport that I was going to ‘Caulfield South’. My jaw dropped when we finally arrived at the address. Glen’s house was a massive, modern home, charcoal grey and with huge, two-story windows. Inside was no disappointment either. After being warmly greeted I was whisked into their foyer, which led straight to a spacious, open plan living area. “I could get used to this” definitely crossed my mind. Glen and his family were incredibly welcoming and made me feel so at home. They also had a boarder called Ben, a student, like me, studying music at the University of Melbourne, who had his best friend Liam from the Gold Coast visiting him. Ben really took me under his wing. Despite my jet lag, I was offered a ‘Dirty Granny’ (don’t worry, it’s a type of cider) and after a couple more Ben, Liam and I were on our way to a gig a few of his friends from uni were playing at. Ben gave me a spare Myki card (used on trams) and off we went. Whilst on the tram however, Ben seemed a bit jumpy. “Is everything alright?” I asked. “Yep. Totally. Yeah. Well, actually. There’s not actually any money on that Myki card I gave you…but don’t worry. There’s none on mine either. But erm, well if we’re caught it’s a $200 fine. So basically, I’m just keeping a look out in case we have to run from any tram inspectors”. And so really, this was my introduction to the rather odd tram system that Melbourne has: ‘Public transport is free… until you get caught’. Basically, if you choose to risk it and not pay for a tram, you’re pretty much going to get away with it. Unless, that is, a tram inspector hops onto your tram whilst you’re on it. They could even be working undercover in plain clothes. This results in quite an interesting journey, split between constantly eyeing up your fellow passengers (especially the shifty looking ones) and looking out of the window, in order to spot a high-vis-orange-jacket-clad inspector within enough time to spare for you to jump off as inconspicuously as possible. Well, at least it livens up your journey…
Ben and I on the tram!
Anyway, Liam, Ben and I didn’t encounter any inspectors and made it to the gig without any trouble. It was in the centre of the CBD (Central Business District), the heart of the city, and this was one of the first chances I got to get a real feel of the city. First impression: I loved it. That night I met tonnes of Aussies – they couldn’t believe I’d only arrived that day. They were as friendly and fun as I’d imagined Aussies to be.
Once my couple of days at Glen’s were over, it was time for my welcome week. For this I stayed at Trinity College (the posh one!) for four nights and it was a great chance to meet all the other international students. I’m so glad I did it! Brazilians, Americans, Danish, Dutch, Japanese, pretty much all nationalities were there and it was great to get to know people from all over. Our days were packed full of activities, including wine tasting at vineyards, tours of the city and an aussie rules football taster day, so we were constantly seeing the city and getting adjusted to aussie life. Probably the most memorable part of the week for me was our ‘Salsa Social’, but not for all the right reasons!! A salsa instructor came to teach us a few basic steps, which was great fun, at first. It gave us a chance to meet everyone in the group (albeit whilst being hip to hip, which was….interesting) and was a really good icebreaker. I was partnered with Naoki from Japan when the evening took a competitive turn. The room was divided in two and each side had to dance for the other, whilst the best couples were selected for a dance off. For some reason (to this day I don’t know) Naoki and I made it to the dance off. We did not know the steps. We did not have style. I think, we were in actual fact, the novelty couple. Anyway, the dance off happened and it was excruciatingly embarrassing. But nevertheless we stumbled though the steps and reached the end of the dance with our dignity relatively intact. The crowd then had to vote for their favourite couple and miraculously, for whatever reason (pity, being the most likely) Naoki and I were crowned salsa king and queen. It was really quite embarrassing. Anyway, the night went on. This time, we were learning the Merengue. Thankfully, Naoki and I didn’t make it to the Merengue final and as it came to the end, I breathed a sigh of relief. No more public humiliation. Wrong. Before I had a chance to reject my title of ‘Salsa Queen’ Naoki and I were again, asked to take to the stage. Cruelly, the instructor had another surprise in store for us. “So we’ve already seen what the Salsa king and queen, and the Merengue king and queen can do together. But what can they do solo? There’s no hiding now. Just yourselves and the music. Take it away!” And with that, we were ordered to dance for the crowd. Solo. Honestly, that’s the closest I’ve come to dying of embarrassment. After the ordeal, I was consoled by a kind Danish girl with “Anna, you were very brave”. My other friends merely said “we could not have done that”, so at least people felt my pain.
My group for the Melbourne Welcome Week
Wine tasting in the Yarra Valley
Australian themed party at the welcome week
Anyway, those were a few highlights from my first week in Melbourne. It was such a great week, the Melbourne Welcome was a perfect opportunity to throw myself into Melbournian life and I would 100% recommend it. Most of my current friends I met in that first week, which has given me a really solid social base, which is great when you’ve just move to a strange city where you know nobody. My only advice to you would be to steer clear of salsa dancing!!!
By Anna Powell (University of Melbourne, Australia).
Leading up to my departure the time has flown by and the only thing on my mind has been moving to Melbourne. About 10 times a day I stop what I’m doing, look at/text Mum and say something like: “Toothbrush! I need to put toothbrush on the Australia list!” As you can imagine, ‘The Australia List’ is getting rather long and I only have a few days left now to tick everything off. This, along with trying to see friends and family as much as possible, is making me feel a bit hassled. I wish I’d sorted my packing out much earlier, so that I could just relax and enjoy these last few days at home without constantly feeling like I’ve forgotten something. Or without casting my mind to the mountain of hopeful clothes piled on my bedroom floor, compared to the less optimistic size of my suitcase. Inevitably, at some point, the two will clash. And it’s not going to be pretty.
I’m getting very close to leaving now and the time has come for the goodbyes to begin. I’m feeling quite emotional actually! The lead up to going away has felt pretty rushed. It’s been like, exams, done. Post exams partying, done. “See you” uni friends, done. “Hi again” family and home friends, done. Holiday, done. Packing for Melbourne, done. And now it’s “see you family and home friends” time… but I don’t feel quite ready yet. I’ve only been home in total about two weeks! Ideally I’d have liked to have time to settle down after the highs and lows of leaving uni behind before leaving, but instead I still feel overwhelmed.
I had my friends over last night for a goodbye barbeque and any worries I’d been having about leaving have been erased. I think it’s because I’m finalllyyyy packed, but also because everyone’s so excited for me! We had such a fun evening, I hadn’t seen a few of them since getting back from uni but honestly, it felt like no time at all. Which makes me think it’s going to be exactly the same with me going to Australia. When I get back nothing will be different, which I think was what I was worrying about, having not seen them properly for so long. When it came to saying goodbye to everyone it really was more of an excited “see you!” which was much more cheerful than I was anticipating. They’re so cute; they’ve given me a big brown envelope with my name on it to take with me. Apparently I’m not allowed to open it until I miss them. I hope that’s not too soon!
Finally, it’s departure time, and I’m currently sat waiting for my flight. It’s worked out nicely really, my flight isn’t until 9pm, so Mum, Dad, Beth (big sis) and I went for a leisurely lunch at a nearby pub before they dropped me off at the airport. It’s been such a gorgeous day, so I’ve been feeling pretty excited/happy. Basically, life is good! Ok, I had a little cry in the car after Gran and Grandad waved me off from home, but that was inevitable. Apart from that I’m feeling great. Just got off the phone to my friend Megan (Who’s going to Perth!!) and that has got me ridiculously excited now. Also, I feel very adventurous and I am enjoying the idea of flying solo. It feels so independent, I like it! Right I’d better go, I should probably go to my gate… but I’ll keep you posted! Eeeek!!