Welcome back one and all to your favourite Unimelb student of 2022! Another post and another semester has passed. I’ve officially survived and thrived in my semester exchange to the University of Melbourne.
Unfortunately, this blog won’t feature one of my mother’s no-doubt life-changing quotes, it will include a motto that I’ve lived by my whole life: ‘Work Hard, Play Harder.’ Let’s begin from where we left off, the start of the end.
After returning from Auckland to Melbourne to resume the semester from week 9, an uneasy tension settled in between the student body and Unimelb: final exams. Because I chose to take two 2nd year and two 3rd year courses that are compulsory to my degree/major even though I’m still in my second year, I put myself under a lot of pressure to not only learn but to succeed in these classes.
During SWOTVAC (Studying WithOut Teaching VACation), I implemented a strict regiment of arriving at the library at 9 a.m. in the morning and studying until 12 a.m. at night. I’m sure it sounds like a nightmare, and to be honest, it really was. However, my efforts were not in vain as I managed to get alright grades in the end! Although it seems somewhat natural to assume that with hard work comes great achievements, I am still surprised each time that it is actually true.
During this exchange I’ve definitely witnessed myself become more and more independent and confident. There is a noticeable shift in how I carry myself and the way I approach things in my life and I can honestly say that it was completely thanks to this exchange. It has undoubtedly made me more appreciative of my own capabilities and what I can achieve if I really put my mind to it. I’ve even embarked on a short vacation to Sydney after my exams as a way to celebrate my hard work!
To end my last blog post for this semester on a high note, I’ve actually decided to extend my stay at Unimelb into semester 1 of 2023! So this definitely won’t be the last time you’re hearing from me. I’ll still be your go-to Unimelb student until next year.
Finally, I just want to remind everyone that you are more than you know, and you can all achieve great things if you put your mind to it. Work hard so that you can play even harder later!
A temporary goodbye from your friendly Unimelb guide 🙂
Welcome back to your favourite Unimelb student for semester 2 of 2022! I know that you’ve all missed me since my last post, cuz I sure have missed writing to you guys.
In the blink of an eye, I’ve been thrown into the thick of the semester. It’s already the end of week 7 at The University of Melbourne and I’ve finished most of my mid-sem exams, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to do. In fact, I still have 4 assignments lined up until the end of week 9.
Anyways, enough of my ranting, it’s time to talk about what you’re really here for: Esther’s mum’s famous analogies! As per tradition, I’ll base my blog off something that my mum has taught me growing up. The topic of today is the importance of self-care. After travelling abroad, she definitely saw the toll that assignments and exams had on me. She would constantly remind me to “do everything in moderation”. Easier said than done when you’re not the one on exchange, I know, but let me show you just how important it really is.
By the end of my fourth week at Unimelb, I had fallen into a strict routine of: wake up, clean myself, study, gym, cook food with my roommate, study some more, and then finally sleep. Because all my lectures were recorded and posted online, I would go on campus for tutorials, which weren’t even held in the central hub of the campus and were held in their respective faculty buildings located at the border of Parkville. Kind of similar to the Law School at UoA. Needless to say, this was quite different to my routine in New Zealand where I would attend classes in person and always in the centre of campus in OGGB.
Due to this rigid routine, I slowly trapped myself in my dorm building for most of the week since all my tutorials are all concentrated on one day, working through one class per day. In retrospect, it was not very exchange-student of me to not even go out and enjoy the city. As such, a phone call with my mum reminded me that I was abroad, and should be making the most of my time in Melbourne. With that in mind, I began a nice habit of pushing myself to go out and study in the libraries at Unimelb. It was only then that I realised just how big the campus really is. My goal is to study in all of them by the end of the semester. I’ve achieved 4/7th of my goal and I’m planning to go to my 6th tomorrow!
Going more onto the main campus, I’ve also found quite a few nice places for a little bite. The Standing Room makes an absolutely delectable chocolate peanut cookie that I’d buy everytime I pass by. Momo Sushi offers the perfect quick lunch with their $3 sushi rolls in all sorts of different flavours. I always order their raw salmon, spicy shrimp, and teriyaki chicken rolls. As for restaurants, my favourite one so far has to be the eggs benedict from a quaint little cafe called Pavlov’s Duck. It was somewhere my roommate and I went to in the weekends and had featured an amazing kumara hash brown! Definitley the best eggs benny I’ve ever had before!
Speaking of my Italian exchange friend, we’ve also gotten into a routine of going to study at the Baillieu library on Sunday and then always going out for dinner afterwards. Just today, we went on our Melbourne dessert trip and it was just amazing! One of the places we went to was Hareruya Pantry, which had some of the best Japanese ice creams and it was located only 30 seconds away from Little Hall. Being able to go out for dinner with her is honestly the highlight of my week.
Slowly, the time that I spent inside my dorm decreased and I became more familiar with the city that I’ve been calling home for the past few months. It’s also not an exaggeration to say that my mental health has significantly improved with my daily walks to and from campus as well as the weekly socialising opportunities I partook in. I guess long story short, I just want to advise all of you that it may be easy to get caught up in grades and studying when you’re abroad, especially if you’re taking all compulsory subjects like me, but remember to find that right balance between studying and relaxing.
In the wise words of my mother: “everything in moderation.”
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!
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.