Autumn M., Australia, University of Melbourne (Communication)

I never thought I would cuddle a koala before!

ACADEMICS

1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?

I took two classes in my major (Internet Communication and Intro to Media Writing) and two gen-ed classes (Australia Now and Going Places – Traveling Smarter). The communication courses were definitely easier than at UCSB and had a more hands-on approach which included references to current media topics and had guest journalists in my writing class. The grading system was so that a 50% was a pass, instead of 73%. Instructor/student relationships were about the same formality wise except tutors and instructors are called by their first name at Unimelb.

2. What was your favorite class abroad?

My favorite class abroad was Going Places – Traveling smarter, which was a class devoted to learning about the art of traveling. We got to develop a blog about a focus country, I chose Singapore, and I even got to visit Singapore after finals!

City skyline of Melbourne.

HOST INSTITUTION

3. How would you describe your host institution? How does it compare to UCSB? Student enrollment and approximate campus size.

Unimelb is about a 20 minute walk from the city center and is a large research university with around 50,000 students, around half of them being grad students. Even though the university was large, I still felt it was about as homely as UCSB in some ways as the campus was small and I shared a few classes with fellow exchange students. However, there is less focus on undergraduate research so the student/instructor relationship was near-nonexistent and office hours weren’t a big thing there.

4. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?

Yes! I was involved in Cotillion Dance at UCSB (ballroom) back home, so I joined the dancesport club at Unimelb where I took an intermediate latin class and also went to some of their salsa social dances. I was also part of the Melbourne University Exchange Society (MUSEX) where students can meet other exchange and host students and go on their surf camps and bar crawls.

Behind the waterfall at the National Gallery of Victoria.

HOUSING

5. Describe your housing situation. Please include type of housing (e.g. dorm, apartment, homestay, etc.).

I stayed with Semester in Australia which provided fully furnished housing for exchange students studying in Australia. I lived in a four story townhouse in West Melbourne which was a 20 minute walk from the Unimelb campus and five minutes from the train station, and I lived with four other people from around the world and the US, with one other girl from UCSB. Out of all the housing options, I found that the SiA students were the most fulfilled because our housing program planned trips for us to Sydney and Byron Bay, and also gave us a readymade support system compared to a lot of housing options which were studio apartment-only.

Semester in Australia students in Sydney.

FOOD

6. Where did you eat most of your meals?
Cafeterias, restaurants, street vendors, at home, etc.?

I ate most of my meals at home and shopped at Aldi, the cheaper Trader Joe’s, and Woolworths (Woolies!). I also loved getting cheap food from Chinatown from dumpling restaurants and ate on campus and loved getting curry bowls in the student union.

7. How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?

The average meal was around 10 dollars USD if you ate out and is a bit more expensive than the US, but still comparable to prices in Santa Barbara. I would recommend eating out max three days a week so you can budget for activities outside of food.

8. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?

I’m a vegetarian and there were vegetarian/vegan options at almost every restaurant. There’s even a plethora of vegan-only restaurants in the city and outer suburbs. My favorite vegetarian option in Melbourne was the legendary halal snack pack (hsp) substituted with falafel instead of meat which included fries, chili, garlic, and barbecue sauce.

9. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.

My most memorable dining experience abroad was at a vegetarian restaurant called Lentil As Anything, where you can pay what you want and all proceeds go to charity. All the food is vegetarian and it’s located at an old convent where all the workers are volunteers.

10. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

I definitely miss the coffee in Melbourne and how cheap a good latte was. Cafes were plentiful and I made it a quest to buy the best chai latte in Melbourne (hint: it’s located at Il Tempo on Degraves Street).

HOST CITY

11. Describe your host city. Is it small, medium-sized, large? Rural, suburban, urban, tropical? Is it diverse?

Melbourne is the second-largest city in Australia, yet it’s small enough to see people you know everywhere. Melbourne is about as diverse as California ethnically with different demographics including large immigrant populations of Greeks and Italians, and Southeast Asians. 

12. Was it easy to get around? Describe the public transportation in your host city.

Melbourne was very easy to get around, with trams being the easiest way to get around. I used both trains, trams, and buses, but I lived right next to the free tram zone, which allows you to get anywhere within the zone without touching on your public transport card. 

13. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?

I felt very safe in Melbourne and even though I lived near the city center, there was rarely any reported crime around me. I felt more safe abroad than I did walking around in IV. 

14. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?

I loved going to free/cheap indie music shows in Melbourne as there’s a huge music scene in the city. There’s also a cool board game cafe in the city where for just two dollars you can rent out games for the entire day. 

Street art in Fitzroy, an eclectic inner-city suburb.

HOST CULTURE

15. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

People were definitely more blunt which was attributed to the Aussie humor. I thought people were being rude to me at first as they were joking around but I quickly got used to it and prefer it to American humor. There is also something called “tall poppy syndrome” where talking about your accomplishments is highly frowned upon and promotes an egalitarian society.

16. How did you handle culture shock?

I gave myself little reminders that the shock, albeit little because Australia is pretty similar to the US, was temporary, and to read other people’s stories on how they overcame it. That’s why I think the EAP blog and talking to other people who went abroad before you is so important!

17. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

I loved how people had a very relaxed way of living life. No one judged if you went to college vs. just had a high school diploma and made for very interesting social dynamics as people only judged about how you were as a person and not what you accomplished in life.

The friendly neighborhood cat, Tibby, welcoming me home.

TRAVEL

18. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.

I went to New Zealand during the mid-semester break with a couple people from UCEAP (Australia’s version of spring break) and we traveled all throughout the South Island making our way to some of the most beautiful places on earth. My favorite part was taking a cruise in the fjords of Milford Sound and drinking glacier water straight from the waterfalls.

Drinking glacier water in New Zealand.

REFLECTION

20. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

I thought I was going to be really lonely and bored at times but I ended up meeting a lot of people through UCEAP and through my housing and host university. There were always people around me to hang out with and I never ran out of things to do.

21.What was your biggest challenge abroad?

I actually felt homesickness for the first time ever when I was abroad, and it was for very minor differences that piled up on me as the months went by like decent Mexican food, sorry Melbourne, and coffee creamer instead of milk for coffee. I made it a goal of mine to find the good in what was different, and now I’m a lover of Indian food and unsweetened coffee.

22. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?

I’m definitely know more about I want when it comes to life. Before, I had no idea and had limited prospects in terms of my major and life choices, but now I know about different places I might want to live (possibly moving back to Australia!) and how much I want to work in entertainment now.

23. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

It’s okay to be spontaneous! A lot of advice about studying abroad is planning ahead, which is true when it comes to finances and academics, but when it comes to traveling, give yourself time at the beginning or end to travel, and plan it as it comes so you know what you want. I planned most of my trips maximum three weeks in advance and bought many of my plane tickets one week before. You can get a lot of good deals if you buy close to the flight date. If you’re traveling on high season however, it may be harder to get deals on campervans and tour packages, so your mileage may vary depending on where you want to go.

Surfing in Byron Bay on the windiest Saturday of the year.

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