Esther: Arriving on the Other Side of The Ditch

Welcome one and all to Esther’s guide through one of the most livable cities in the world! You’re only stop for all things Unimelb. Today, we will be covering my arrival in this wonderful city and I’ll be sharing some of my experiences on the first few weeks.

I would like to first start off with a small analogy that my mother would often teach me during her many Chinglish (i.e. Chinese + English) lectures while I was growing up: “What’s below your nose?” Now if all of you answered pimples like me then DING! DING! DING! You would be wrong. She would reply, quite exasperated, with: “Your mouth!” 
To put it in plebeian terms, this was her way of telling me that no matter where I travelled to in the future, I should never be afraid to talk and communicate with others. It may sound pretty obvious at first but when you’re travelling, some of the most obvious things just might escape your mind.

So how does this relate to my arrival in Melbourne? Well, I’m glad you asked. I’m going to warn you now that this is going to be a long story, but I suppose that’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Then let us begin!

It started on a very chilly Thursday night in Melbourne, Victoria. After my unceremonious landing from a 4 hour flight over the Tasman Sea (or as I, and many other Kiwis like to call it, The Ditch), I found myself standing in my dorm room of my accommodation at Little Hall just a little under 30 minutes after I left the airport. My roommate was nowhere to be found, the temperature was 6 °C, it was nearly 12pm, and I had to wake up at 7am tomorrow morning for a compulsory welcome day for all study abroad and exchange students. The room was small yet quaint. A king single bed with a sleek office desk setup, a nice kitchen paired with a clean bathroom.

The next morning came sooner than expected and after a 5 minute walk onto campus, I was swept away immediately into the jam-packed orientation day that they had prepared for us. While waiting for the formal welcome to start, I struck up a terrific conversation with a fellow exchange student from Sweden who coincidentally had chosen UoA as his first option for exchange. It was quite the conversation starter that’s for sure. From there, we were invited to an all-too-familiar sausage sizzle with the classic bread and sausage with onions and coleslaw. Just smelling the sausages and onion in the air brought me all the way back across The Ditch to Aotearoa. It definitely helped me to realise that although I’m in a new country, I can still find intimacy in the little things. 

My roommate turned out to be an awesome girl who worked as a bartender.  She enjoyed my note and even wrote me a note of her own and we hit it off almost immediately. Being an interstate student (i.e. from another state), she had also gone through the phases that I was experiencing and helped me tremendously with exploring all that Melbourne has to offer. She even became my in-person dictionary for some of the regional slangs in Melbourne. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Woolies = Woolworths (basically Countdown)
  • Sanga = Sandwich
  • No wucka’s = No worries

Now, one of the most important pieces of advice that I could ever give to anyone who wants to study overseas is to get your classes sorted! I unfortunately had to spend my orientation week chasing after people to get my classes approved. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take everything into your own hands. Contact the course coordinator personally if you have to, which was something I had to do otherwise the semester was going to start without me being enrolled into the classes I needed.

Easing into the semester, the pressure of my classes started to take a toll on me and where there was once curiosity, homesickness replaced it completely. I’m still feeling the lingering effects of homesickness 3 weeks into the semester, but after pushing myself to go out and meet new people, I feel as though its hold on my mind has loosened significantly. I’ve made friends who are also exchange students and we make sure to check on each other, and I even go to the gym together with my roommate 6 days a week. I’ve successfully become an events officer for a uni society, and I’ve also taken part in a few psychology experiments for PhD students. I know for a fact that had I not done these things, my experience would have been quite different. 

I guess that my lesson for today is to always take the extra step to communicate with others, whether it’s for social purposes or just getting what you need done, especially if you’re travelling abroad. My mother’s analogies were always a 50/50 for me, and even though I took the liberty to expand simply ‘talking’ to ‘connecting’, I still never regretted any of these interactions that I started. Just try it! I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Till next time! 

Your friendly Unimelb guide 🙂

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