Academic Differences at Melbourne

MelUni

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.

laneway bar
A typical Melbourne Laneway
brunswick street
Brunswick Street, one of Melbourne’s favourite watering holes!

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!

And so the Melbourne Adventure Begins!

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!

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
My group for the Melbourne Welcome Week
Wine tasting in the Yarra Valley
Wine tasting in the Yarra Valley
Australian themed party at the welcome week
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!!!

Anna x

Off to Aus!

By Anna Powell (University of Melbourne, Australia).

Preparations: 07/07/2013

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.

Goodbyes: 10/07/2013

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!

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Departure: 11/07/2013

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!!

Anna x