This is my final blog post for this exchange! Unfortunately, this entire exchange has been online, and I won’t get to share my post-lockdown life on here. But you can follow me on Instagram @gywchen for future updates! I will share some thoughts I’ve had about this exchange and life and some advice to future exchange students.
Robert Frost said
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference”.
Ever since starting university, I always wanted to go on exchange. I had planned meticulously two years in advance what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. But those plans were all cancelled when COVID hit the beginning of last year. When I got notice from the university this year that a possible exchange for Australia was on the cards, I got a little excited as going somewhere is better than not going anywhere at all.
However, as soon as I arrived in Australia, lockdown was imposed for both Sydney and Melbourne. Life always throws surprises at us, and the most important skills one can have during this unprecedented time are adaptation and resilience. We cannot change things external to us, but we can make the most of what we have. Although I am unlucky, I am still grateful that I’m here and able to experience everything that I have experienced and going to experience. Life is short and unpredictable. COVID has taken the lives of some but changed the direction of many.
My only advice to future exchange students going to Australia or anywhere in the world is to be grateful that you get to go on exchange and make the most of what you can. Do everything you can because lockdown could be just around the corner. Although it seems the world is finally transitioning out of lockdowns, you never know what the future holds. Just like COVID in 2020 and Delta in 2021 was unexpected, we don’t know what 2022 holds.
So go out, explore, be silly and take the road less travelled!
The video below is a video about myself reflecting back on my exchange experience and a little tour around the University of Melbourne.
Also! Some advice for future exchange students considering coming to Australia and looking study at the University of Melbourne.
If you happen to live in the CBD area where University of Melbourne is located, I suggest that you use the free trams that goes around the CBD. It will save you a lot of money!
Also, unlike New Zealand, I think food delivery culture is amazing in Melbourne. You could order, pretty much any food around your area through Uber eats, Menulog, Deliveroo, Doordash, and more. So when you are busy and don’t have time to cook food, or just a little lazy to go out, getting foods delivered to your home would be a smart way to save time and energy!
In terms of academic life at the University of Melbourne. They use the same learning system, Canvas (pretty sure most of the Universities around the world use Canvas!), so everything should be familiar.
In terms of Workload, the length of the lectures are also the same as UoA. For a 3rd year course (they call it subjects here) it is a standard 2 hour lectures and 1 hour tutorials per week. The assignments are pretty much the same too. I am majoring in Criminology and Sociology, and it is the usual essays that you have to write. But the main difference that I found was that at the University of Melbourne, the amount of weekly readings you have to do is a bit more than UoA and most of the courses also have a hurdle requirement, which means that you have to attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials to pass the papers. This forces you to really read your readings to be engaged in tutorials.
The lecture delivery format is also the same (this is during lockdown), the lectures are delivered live through Zoom and are also recorded. But for one of my papers, they have seminars instead of lectures, where there are a lot more discussions and interactions with other students and the lecturer.
This is all from me! I hope my videos and posts have helped you to decide whether you would want to come to Australia and study at the University of Melbourne.
I’ma paint it, paint it, paint it, how I want…..2014 Forest Hills Drive on repeat during this lockdown. What can you do during a strict Melbourne lockdown? Well, not much, feeling déjà vu daily.
One of my favourite things to do when I’m alone is to ride around the city on my bicycle. Exploring new sights while covering a lot of ground is one of the many reasons why I love biking through a new city.
As soon as lockdown was announced, I immediately shared my biking thoughts with Alan. He shared the same sentiment as me, so we both hit up Facebook Marketplace and got whatever available bike. Even if we weren’t living in a COVID environment, I would be biking through the graffitied streets of Fitzroy or down the Yarra River. With everything locked up, this is now all I can do.
Other than biking, I also love to go on walks. I try and leave the hall at least once a day to get some fresh air and to get the limbs moving. I would find a place to go to everyday, and along the journey, I would discover and see new sights and might even encounter something unexpected! It’s also a great way of getting more familiar with the city!
II went on exchange to study less, not more. But with the whole semester under lockdown, I’m studying a lot more than expected. With the entire semester online, it is difficult to make friends. So desperate times calls for desperate measures – Alan told me he selected a few people from his zoom classes and hit them up on FB. I went and did the same but also directly hit some people up on zoom during our lectures. Surprisingly, most people responded, and some even helped out!
So biking, walking and studying sums up what Alan and I have been up to during the past month or so!
This might be the routine for a while, but hopefully not!
It truly was an eye-opening experience. From the first steps into the university I knew that this exchange would be a wild ride. Of course, with the occasional lockdowns, we really had to make the most of each day of freedom! Every other day I made sure to visit some of Melbourne’s esteemed monuments, landmarks, and national parks.
First thing’s first though, gotta get settled in. K-Mart and Woolies (short for Woolworths, which looks suspiciously like Countdown…) were a regular trip I found myself going to in the first few days! Who knew there were so many things to buy when you settle in to a new place! Everything from a kettle to clothes-hangers we had to buy!! [Luckily I bought my own rice cooker though 🙈]
We were granted a 5-km radius circle around our home where we were allowed to exercise and buy groceries during the lockdown, so we made the most of it! Luckily we lived pretty close to the CBD, which in itself is very close to a lot of national landmarks, and houses many interesting places.
The Queen Victoria Market was like your typical farmers market, but like 15x the size. Pretty cheap too – if you find the right vendors 😉 The food here is pretty good! Though, I have yet to truly come across something that I wish we had back in Aotearoa.
What I really like about Melbourne is that there are such interesting artworks and details in every nook and cranny, corner and roundabout! Everything from different paintings and sculptures really make the city pop, and makes even a standard walk down the road a unique and photo-worthy experience.
I had a couple of walks through the Melbourne Uni campus and honestly it’s so big! I have had to take multiple trips and it felt like I was only scratching the surface of what there really is to see here. I’m pretty sure there’s a word limit for this blog, but a picture is worth a thousand words! So here are some pictures from my journey thus far 😉
So many more stories and pictures to come! But in the meantime, check out this cheeky vlog I made of my first day in Melbourne 😉
I have been in Melbourne for the last month and it has been a great experience so far. Although we have been in lockdown for most of it, being stuck in our homes has never been better. Apart from occasionally falling into the Netflix and YouTube rabbit hole, I have been productive with things like chores, uni work and settling in. I have also somewhat enjoyed doing adulty tasks like going to the supermarket/Victoria market and trying new recipes (some turned out pretty inedible though). Even though we haven’t explored much of Melbourne yet, there have been many memorable moments. These highlights include playing Monopoly Deal in the Royal Victoria gardens, going for a cute walk along the Yarra river, and dinning at vibrant restaurants that I definitely can’t afford.
In many ways, Australia is very similar to New Zealand. But there are a few things that caught me by surprise, for example:
University classes: Here in Melbourne, we generally have less classes with most of them being longer than that in Auckland. As a result, I would start to doze off halfway through every lecture which never used to happen.
Supermarkets: The supermarkets are great here, but don’t expect to find your favourite food items here in Australia. For example, I noticed that their ice cream section is a lot smaller than New Zealand’s and items like kettle chips and iced animals are nowhere to be seen.
Public transport: Unlike Auckland, public transport in the city is so convenient and frequent. One reason for this is the tram system that runs throughout the city all day for free. You can expect trams every couple minutes into the city.
City size: Of course Melbourne city is much larger than Auckland but I didn’t realise how large it actually is. One minute you’re walking down a random alleyway checking out restaurants and the next you’re in a hidden 5 story mall. Also, The University of Melbourne is massive. I thought the new UoA engineering building was impressive but expect 20 of those scattered around campus.
So far the trip has been great and I cant wait to experience everything Melbourne has to offer. Lets just hope we aren’t in lockdown much longer.
Thanks for reading this amazing work of art Until next time!
I think I jinxed all of Victoria when I said in my ambassador bio ‘assuming there isn’t another lockdown and the borders close’ …
Because I have been here a little over three weeks and we have had 2 lockdowns and honestly it’s tragic enough to be funny. At least I had mentally prepared myself for Melbourne not being the same as it was nearly 4 years ago when I came.
Nevertheless I was really excited to meet my new flatmates, attend all the re-o week events at my student village and at the university and make friends everywhere in a fresh new place. However as I arrived at 11 pm, the RA showed me to my flat and it was ..completely empty. I was a little disappointed as I’m not usually one to want to live alone but I thought it might even end up being better as long as I made friends in the village to visit and invite over. Two days later we went into lockdown.
I’ve never really thought I was that extroverted until I had to do a two week lockdown basically on my own and I learnt that I really like being around people. Honestly though I think I have really made the most of the situation and despite all the covid-19 issues, Melbourne is still an amazing place to be in. The city is so vibrant and interesting with fascinating and historical architecture whereas I’ve always thought Auckland was too grey.
I’ve also really appreciated how the university has welcomed us and hosted a zoom call to go over some things and check in on us. I’m really excited for when we can finally have the welcome day in person and go back to university in person. It’s such a beautiful campus. The exchange club at the university (MUSEX) have also saved my social life and I’ve met some lovely people (in the ~1 week between lockdowns).
I feel like a first-year again walking around campus because everything is brand new again and I love that feeling – it stops you getting in a rut and time goes by slower because it’s all new and you’re taking it in. If you get the chance to go on exchange, even if it’s not the best time for it, I still really recommend it, especially if it’s your last semester you can take on exchange like it was for me. You’ll make the best of it, you may only get this opportunity once and unless you believe in reincarnation, you won’t get a second life.
Stay updated to see whether we get to go back to university in person soon (fingers crossed)
I am currently writing this post as we enter lockdown VI in Melbourne, Australia. It has been one week since we last exited the previous lockdown, which means I have only had one week of ‘freedom’ since arriving in Melbourne (as I also had to self-isolate for two weeks coming from NSW).
Straight out of isolation, my roommate ‘Alan’ and I ventured to Melbourne’s most famous street art destination, ‘Hosier Lane’. I have been involved in art my entire life and was super excited at the prospect of visiting the infamous lane and visiting it without the usual loads of tourists. Alan brought his camera, and we took many photos of each other immersed in the art and the art itself that was on display.
Luckily Queen Victoria Market, the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere, was open during Victoria’s lockdown. Strolling through the busy markets took my mind off things and gave me the feeling that life was actually ‘normal’. Store owners were shouting, customers hustling, the atmosphere overall was lively. We stumbled across a small doughnut van that had a very long queue during our scout for cheap produce. After some small chit chat with one of the locals, we found out that ‘American Doughnut Kitchen’ had been trading since the 50s and was Melbourne’s most iconic Hot Jam Doughnut. The doughnuts were super hot and delicious. The seagulls also seemed to enjoy them!
As soon as the lockdown had ended, I was lucky enough to make it to the ‘King & Wood Mallesons Contemporary First Nations Art Award 2021’ exhibition a day before it ended. Melbourne is a city known for its rich artistic culture, and getting to see in person the art and stories of the indigenous artists was an absolute honour and privilege. As an artist myself, I understand the power of art to connect, learn and grow from different communities.
Classes have started, but only on zoom. This was extremely unfortunate as I was eager to meet new people on campus and immerse myself in campus life. Melbourne Law School is ranked highest in Australia and consistently ranks in the top ten law schools globally, so I was also keen on exploring the law building and attending the high calibre lectures that it has to offer. I was looking forward to the in-person lectures as I had heard that they were particularly engaging, given the small class sizes. The classes so far have felt more like ‘discussions’ rather than the standard lecture, which makes it a little hard to stay focused on track. I am also still adjusting to Australia’s federal v state system, which I was not very exposed to back in Auckland. The JD load of work has meant spending a lot of time in the library. The State Library of Victoria is a great place to study and has an amazing aura to it!
Alan didn’t bring many clothes over from Auckland as he wanted to freshen up his wardrobe. As such, we went shopping one afternoon, and because of the large sales going on due to the lockdowns, I even bought a shirt.
Finally, on our way back home one night, we passed through ‘Federation Square’. There was an enormous pink structure called ‘The Knot’, which is the work of French artist Cyril Lancelin.
As you may have heard already, Melbourne was in lockdown from the 15th of July (which was the very next day after I arrived!) to the 27th of July.
One of the things that I learned through this sudden lockdown is that things never go the way you planned! I never had in mind that Melbourne would go into lockdown and when it did, my plans were ruined and all the university events along with the Welcome Day for Exchange Students were cancelled. But looking back, I believe the lockdown actually helped me to settle well in Melbourne and gave me the time to reflect and plan what I want to do and achieve during my exchange in Melbourne.
Below is a video that I created which has footages from when I left Auckland airport to the first day in Melbourne!
Please check out the video for my experience and the start of my exchange journey!
At the time of writing, I have now been in Melbourne for three weeks. However, I have to say, it feels like a lot less than that.
I came over two weeks before the semester started to have a chance to explore the city and meet the people in my dorm before I got stuck into studying-for-hours-and-not-looking-up-from-the-screen. Unfortunately, COVID stayed true to its history of derailing plans, and the whole state of Victoria went into lockdown only a few days after I arrived. By that time, I have only managed to move into my dorm, unpack and visit a few places around the CBD area where my dorm is, assuming I would have plenty of time for exploration before the semester begins.
Lockdown is seldom fun, and it is even less so in a new city, in a tiny studio apartment and no friends… Right? Well, yes. But it turned out the situation had a few positives too. The usually always busy streets of CBD emptied, and I got to enjoy undisturbed views of the city on my daily walk. In my two hours of outdoor exercise a day, I have managed to explore the allowed 5km radius from my dorm in every direction. I spent more time walking along the Yarra river than I would care to count, and visited every park in my vicinity (my favourite being Fitzroy Gardens). By the end of lockdown, I have gotten to know the city well enough to finally be able to confidently navigate the streets without Google Maps. So to my surprise, the lockdown passed quickly and semi-productively (which, unfortunately, I can’t say about my time in lockdowns last year in NZ).
And now that the city is open, I can finally visit the museums and art galleries that I have been longing to see and stop by the countless cafes and coffee shops that Melbourne is famous for. My favourite cafe so far is Flovie – a florist/cafe serving very instagrammable breakfasts and brunches (which happen to be delicious, too). The only thing is, I now have to balance my tourism with university.
Speaking of university, the semester started last week! I quickly realised two of my courses were a little different to what I was expecting. So, I spent most of the week communicating with the exchange office and course coordinators to get myself into the correct courses. Luckily, the exchange advisor, Borbara, is both incredibly helpful and very efficient, so by the time Friday came around, I got enrolled in all my courses and was ready to do a lot of catch up over the weekend.
To my surprise, the courses are a lot more challenging than I expected. One subject, object-oriented programming, started with us getting Java revision exercises. I thought I’d find these a breeze given that I already know Java pretty well, but to my surprise, they were difficult – a lot harder than the stuff I did last semester. I spent the majority of the week working on these, which was surprisingly fun – there’s no better feeling than when your program suddenly starts working after you’ve been debugging it for hours and hours.
Another upside of study here is that Melbourne University uses the same Canvas LMS system as UoA for course content, quizzes and assignments. This means I don’t have to spend time familiarizing myself with a different system, as the interface is familiar and I already know the logistics of taking a quiz or uploading an assignment. Given how much I have quickly needed to learn since coming here, I’m welcoming anything familiar with open arms.
All in all, my first few weeks in Melbourne have been a whirlwind. There were some highs and some lows, and some surprises along the way too. However, I cannot be more excited for the rest of the semester – hopefully, classes will go back off-line, and I’ll get to meet some of my classmates in person. But until then, I am enjoying getting to know people in my dorm, visiting the most touristy cafes in Melbourne, and spending hours looking for a bug in my code.