Top Ten Things
1) Food: As a bit of a food fanatic, I loved trying out all the different cafes and restaurants Melbourne had to offer and I was not disappointed! Some of my favourite places include: Toast, Errol Street, which does an amazing brunch and gave me a free cupcake on my birthday, Little Richards, next to RMIT village, where you can find great food at great prices with great staff, and Dumplings where $15 will get you all you can eat! The best meal to have in Melbourne is their speciality: the Parma. Breaded chicken topped with ham, tomato sauce and cheese, this dish is a must-have. I would recommend a visit to the Albion Hotel at Melbourne Docks, which offers different parma recipes so you can try a classic or mix it up with something a little different.
2) Festivals: The music scene in Australia is very underrated – not only does the country have its own talented musicians gigging around, including Chet Faker, Vance Joy and Flume, but there is also a long selection of festivals for all music tastes which have the reputation to pull major global artists. I attended: Listen Out, where I saw Disclosure and Duke Dumont; Field Day, where I saw Flume and A$AP Rocky, and Soundwave, where I saw Green Day and Bowling for Soup. Stereosonic was my personal favourite, where I saw Above and Beyond, Afrojack, Calvin Harris and Armin Van Buuren. Be prepared for lots of sunglasses and snap caps and men who got #shreddedforstereo. There is also Future Music Festival which last year boasts Macklemore and Pharrell as headliners, as well as Strawberry Fields, Big Day Out and Falls Festival.
3) Melbourne Cup: Melbourne Cup is an event held over four days every year and is similar to the Derby in England. You get all dressed up, drink in the summer sun and place bets on the races. Remember your fascinators.
4) Travelling: I took advantage of the three and a half month summer holiday to go travelling around Australia and South East Asia. In total, I spent 4 days in Tasmania, 10 days in Bali, 2 weeks in Sydney and 6 weeks travelling up the east coast to Cairns. As a popular gap year destination, there are plenty of activities to do and travel companies to help you do it. I used Peter Pans Adventure Travel and was able to book all my excursions, travel and accommodation in one go, so I had no need to worry about where I was staying or what I was doing: my trip was all planned out exactly how I wanted it to. A highlight for me was Fraser Island: I went on the 3day/2night camping safaris, where we drove in 4x4s around the island to beautiful locations such as the Champagne pools, Lake MacKenzie and Indian Head during the day, and played games around the campfire under the stars at night.
5) Goon: Unfortunately, alcohol in Australia is very expensive, so be prepared to be introduced to the beauty that is goon – fortified wine at $14 for 5litres.
6) University BBQs: Whilst studying at the University of Melbourne, there was no need to ever bring a lunch to campus. Societies love putting on BBQs for students every day, so grab yourself a free hot dog and beverage! One thing I found funny though was that Australians do not seem to have hot dog buns, instead you’ll be provided with a slice of bread… Intriguing…
7) Sport: Melbourne has rich supply of sporting events. The MCG is a brilliant place to catch a Footy game, but there is also the Boxing Day cricket. The Australian tennis open also occurs in Melbourne, as does the Formula 1.
8) Wildlife: Australia has vibrant and diverse wildlife and have great conservations and zoos. I would definitely recommend a couple of places:
Australia zoo – founded by Steve Urwin, this zoo has great crocodiles with an impressive show. Furthermore, as it is in Queensland, there are opportunities to hold the wildlife: koalas, baby crocodiles and snakes.
Taronga zoo – situated in Sydney, you need to take a ferry and a cable car to the zoo, which gives beautiful views of the city before you even arrive. The zoo has great land space and they live off the land – collecting food supplies on the grounds.
Philip Island – this island can be found a couple of hours outside of Melbourne so would require a car or excursion booking, but it is well worth the trip as it is home to Little Penguins. Waiting on steps by the beach, it’s brilliant to watch the penguins come in from the sea at dusk to their homes in the marshes.
9) Nightlife: In Melbourne, there is a great selection of bars, pubs and clubs to choose from whatever you fancy, and with plenty of student nights hosted throughout the week, there is never a dull night!
10) Friends: This amazing experience wouldn’t have been half as fun if I hadn’t have met the amazing people that I did. Australians in general are very welcoming and friendly but I was so fortunate to meet a group of people that were funny, inclusive, generous, thoughtful, kind. It was a pleasure to meet them all and I know we will all remain life long friends.
The University of Melbourne offers residential colleges as accommodation for its students. However, as these places required an application essay and had fees starting from $22,000 for 36 weeks, I went for a different option. I stayed for 6 months at RMIT village: an intercollegiate hall of residence for around 400 students, walking distance from Melbourne University, which was very convenient. I applied independently and was confirmed a place before I arrived in Melbourne which I think was the smart thing to do: I had no need to worry about accommodation and the airport pick up service provided by Melbourne University was able to take me straight to the door. There are few single rooms available, so I was provided a shared room and I was pleasantly surprised about how spacious it was. Between my roommate and I, we had a shared kitchen to cook our own meals, and a bathroom with a bath and shower; then our own clothing space, single bed, desk and TV. To aid with privacy, we had a dividing ‘wall’ which could slide open and lock close as we wished, as well as doors with locks. As the residence is a converted hotel, there are many unusual facilities, which were real perks. There is a heated pool, a gym, washing facilities, 2 lounge spaces with TVs and the glasshouse with a TV, pool table and communal kitchen.
There is also a great study room with a printer and an attached restaurant with great tasting, cheap food and a good-looking owner called Carl. On the downside, Internet was not provided free of charge so I had to pay an addition $30 a month for a limited amount of data. I also had to purchase a welcome pack for kitchen utensils, crockery, towels and bedding which cost $400. Although the fees were still not cheap, this option worked extremely well for me and I would definitely recommend it. There is a wonderful atmosphere and there are so many people to meet and make friends with. There is also a security desk, similar to King’s halls, with guards 24/7 which is very reassuring for parents. The accommodation appoints Residence Assistants (RAs) who organise activities and provide support for students. One great activity is O-week (or re-O-week, depending on when you arrive), which is a week of trips, parties, BBQs and events held to welcome new arrivals. For my second semester, I decided to move out of RMIT village with a friend, into a nearby apartment which was cheaper yet had more space. Due to close proximity to the university, there are plenty of options and landlords welcome student applications. I ended up on the same road as 15 friends in 5 different houses, which was brilliant as people were always around so we were constantly having fun – O’Shan Crew Forever.
The academic year
The University of Melbourne splits its academic year into two semesters. In order to meet King’s credit requirements, 4 modules are taken each semester, known to Unimelb students as ‘subjects’. Typically, 3 course-related subjects are taken with one breadth module, which may not necessarily be related to your course. This was a great feature as it gives students the opportunity to explore a different area of study and try something completely new. Some examples include ‘Australia in the Wine World’ and ‘Going places – travelling smarter’. All subject information can be found in the handbook: handbook.unimelb.edu.au. Subject selection should have been made before arrival at the university, however during enrolment, which is carried out with a university representative, there are opportunities to edit them.
I found that there were some differences between the level of difficulty at each year: some aspects of my second year modules were the same as my first year modules at King’s. Therefore I took a selection of both second and third year modules. As a Biochemistry student, teaching for my science subjects was very similar to King’s, which was beneficial as there was no need to adjust to changes in teaching style. My subjects were taught with a combination of lectures and tutorials. Most subjects assigned worksheets to test our knowledge the answers for which were then walked through in the tutorial, however the tutorial felt more like a lecture – there were no small group discussions. Some subjects only had lectures and there were no workshops, however the lecturers were all very approachable and so if I had any queries or problems, I felt comfortable emailing them for some guidance. The library was very supportive: not only is there a Bachelor of Arts library with 5 floors of study space and resources, but there was also a Biomedical library for science students with a more appropriate book access. Within each library, there were support-staff for academic help, which was a great relief whenever I had problems with enrolment or was stressed from exams.
Assessment differs for each subject: there may be coursework, practical assessment, presentations or written exams. For my subjects, the majority of my assessment (70-80% of my mark) was by written exams. Luckily though, exams are held at the end of each semester, so there was no end of year exams and so no fear of having to revise lectures from 10 months ago. I really liked this exam structure as it lessened the pressure. No one likes exams but on the plus point, they are held in the most beautiful architectural building: the Exhibition Building in Carlton, so at least you have a nice view!
My favourite subject was ‘Drugs that Shape Society’. This was a breadth subject and although it was related to my degree, it was part of the Arts school. This meant I had to write essays, which I hadn’t done in years! It was definitely a shock as I had little to no experience, however I really enjoyed the tutorials as we were able to debate and discuss and use persuasive language – something I never did in my Pharmacology classes at King’s. I felt like the subject broadened my knowledge, enabling me to look at my degree subjects from a different aspect and develop different skills.
The Resident Assistants (RAs) at my accommodation were always putting on events to keep us entertained. As if O-week wasn’t enough, with 7 days of activities, tours and parties, the village hosts various events throughout each month, including movie marathons, FIFA tournaments and gatherings for Melbourne’s major events such as the AFL grand footy final and Melbourne Cup. Every year, the RA team also organise a ‘Village Ball’, which is a great opportunity to get dressed up and have unlimited food and alcohol with your ticket purchase.
At the university itself, every semester both a sports fair and a society fair are hosted where new students can sign up to join. Societies include: book club, course-specific clubs and religious clubs. With impressive sports facilities there is a great range of sports available including cycling, football, hockey and surfing. I took this chance to sign up for the Lacrosse team. I had never played the sport before but the team were very welcoming and taught me the rules and how to play. A highlight of this experience was joining the team on a road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide (which took an entire day) in order to play a game against Adelaide University. Both teams thought it would be a great idea to go out partying the night before, resulting in us playing our games hungover and drinking Bloody Marys in the 35°C weather.
Attractions in Melbourne
Back in Melbourne, there are plenty of attractions which are worth visiting. An obvious choice is Melbourne Zoo and Aquarium which are great fun for when you first arrive, especially with student discounts. Melbourne Central can be found in the middle of the CBD and has it all: shopping, restaurants and cinema though watch out for high prices. A favourite place of mine is Federation Square; there you can find the beautiful Central station and St. Paul’s Cathedral. There is also the Australian Centre for the Moving Image where I attended an exhibition on famous Hollywood Costumes. Bourke Street is Australia’s version of Oxford High Street: with a great selection of shops and busking entertainment with recent appearances including Vance Joy, Passenger and local Melbourne bands.
For a more relaxed, sunny day, a trip to the beach might be in the cards. Two great beaches on offer in Melbourne include St Kilda and Brighton (pictured below) which have easy tram access. St Kilda also has the Luna Park which is a mini-fairground.
Melbourne has a brilliant nightlife with most places having a student night at some point during the week. These are some of my favourite places to go:
- Turf, Flemington Road; Monday nights are extremely popular with students with the RMIT village residents attending almost every week. Must get there early to secure entry and take advantage of the $12 jug of beer offer.
- New Guernica, Little Collins Street; Thursday’s offer free entry and $2 pots!
- Asian beer café, Melbourne Central; $1 champagne on a Thursday
- Rats, Brown Alley; Some weeks, this nightclub runs a $5 night – $5 entry and $5 spirits.
- Brunswick Street; There are so many options at Brunswick street, known for its indie pubs and quirky bar. A favourite of ours was Naked for Satan which boasts a selection of different flavoured vodka and a viewing deck with great scope of the city.
- For those into Sport (or hunky men running around), catch a game at the impressive MCG stadium. A student ticket ~$25.
Reflections from home
Now that I am back home, I have realised that my time abroad was the best year of my life and that Australia is definitely a place I wish to return to. I have become an independent person, exploring by myself and managing my finances. If I were to do this process again, I would have liked to be more informed about the cost of moving abroad: the visa, the health insurance, the high price of accommodation. These unexpected costs would not have stopped me from applying, but I could have prepared myself (and my savings account) better.
I remained a studious person, achieving high module grades, which is slightly frustrating as they do not transfer so do not count to my degree. This must be greatly considered when thinking about studying abroad – my final year is now worth 82% of my degree. I think in the future this should be amended. Despite this, there is not one thing I would change about my year abroad. This was the best experience of my life and I hope to live in Melbourne permanently in the future. For those thinking about studying abroad, my recommendation would be to do your research – unless you fully invest in the place you are applying for, it is easy to become homesick and get into a rut. Thorough research can begin excitement and ensure that this is something you want to do, so you can make the most of your time abroad.