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New life in a new city

In 2022, as I went about my usual activities on campus in Singapore, a friend approached and asked me "Wanna go to an exchange program seminar today?" I replied without much thought, "Yeah for sure, Why not?" 

Photo by Kevin Austin

I had always wanted to go to Australia, and when I heard about the exchange program, I saw it as a golden opportunity to be able to finally make those dreams a reality. Long story short, I am now writing this to you from  Melbourne.

Living in this city has been an extraordinary experience, unlike anything I had ever encountered before. Prior to this, I had never set foot in Australia, let alone Melbourne, even as a tourist. The country itself is unique. Life here just feels different than any other country that I have ever visited –  the city exudes a laid-back and relaxed vibe. Having lived in both Singapore and Jakarta, I can safely say that Melbourne takes the crown for being a ‘chill’ city.

It has been almost two months since I arrived in Melbourne, and every day  here brings something new that I learn and experience. The people I have encountered are diverse, the vibrant culture permeates the city, the bustling streets and the serene parks provide varying atmospheres. Melbourne is both vibrant and welcoming.

As someone new here in the city, I’ve been wondering, what do other new faces to Melbourne think of this city? I know everyone would have a different perspective, and that’s where my curiosity kicks in. I’d love to hear about what other people think about Melbourne, especially international students like me. How does it feel to be here? What makes it different from their home countries ?  Do they feel  homesick?

“Melbourne is a pretty nice city, I would say. Weather is annoying but other than that everything is pretty good.” Said Jason Reagen, a final-year Game Design student at RMIT.

“As someone used to very tropical seasons, I absolutely love the weather. The people are also generally super lovely and welcoming which is great. Said Shin Yee, a final-year student at RMIT, taking Professional Communication.

I agree with these testimonies one-hundred percent. As someone who also lived in a tropical climate, it might be a bit unnatural at first in this city, but Melbourne proves with the vibrant energy and countless opportunities  that it is the choice of many international students. 

Living as an international student is far from easy. Adapting with the places, environment, society and culture become essential attributes for international students to survive.

“It is quite difficult to adapt at first. It is new place, new environment, new culture, y’know, everything is weird at first. Back at my home country, most of the things were done by my family, but I guess here in Melbourne, you have to be responsible and self-discipline and do everything by yourself. Gotta commute yourself, work yourself, cook for yourself, etc. But then slowly and steadily, it becomes normal. As eventually we meet new people, and you just start to feel like old.” Jason said.

With the digital gadgets that we have today, it seems homesickness is just a myth, but I found that it did  sometimes strike  unexpectedly. Though we have video calls, chat platforms and social media on our phone, the unfamiliarity and the sentimental yearning to be in a place we called home and with family remains.

“Of course I felt homesick, during the first few week in Melbourne, I always felt homesick, I missed my family and friends, but later on I met new people and they became my new friends and family,” Jason said.

The plus side of living in Melbourne is the incredible diversity and multiculturalism. I love being exposed to different cultures, society, and of course, cuisines. It builds new perspectives, new knowledge and self-discipline.

“I love that Melbourne is so diverse, it really opens you up to brand new experiences. The only downside is that I’ve left all my loved ones back in Singapore,”Shin said.

I learned from the people that I have encountered here are open-minded, accepting, and always ready to lend a helping hand. I have noticed a strong sense of community and a genuine interest in getting to know people from different backgrounds. The emphasis on work-life balance is also refreshing, as Australians prioritise leisure time and value personal well-being.

“Australian culture tends to be more freer than in my home country. In my home culture is mostly strict, but I do not complain about it. The strictness is in terms of what you wear outside, or anything ethical-wise. The difference in culture that I find different here in Melbourne is the ‘nine to five jobs’. Where I am from, there is no such thing as that, we just work, and work, and work with quite low wage. Meanwhile here, people always care about what you feel. So if you feel burnout, drain or stress with work, they will reimburse you for your time. People here prioritise your time, so once your shift is done, you can just leave, which is for me personally a good thing. Working here is way better, but after all from where I am from also cheaper so it is a pro and cons,” Jason said.

“I can only describe it as open. People are generally accepting of anything and everything, and differences in opinions are often respected,” Shin said.

As I embark on this new chapter of my life in Melbourne, I am filled with a sense of wonder and excitement. From the interviews that I have conducted, I realised that Melbourne is painted differently with each person’s unique perspective. But one thing that is clear: Melbourne, with its vibrant energy and endless possibilities, is a place of growth and self-discipline for international students.

I would like to encourage readers having a hard time living in Melbourne to see the good side of this city. Melbourne might not be perfect for everyone and it might not be the same as your home country, but I believe it might be a life changer in this chapter of your life. Whether it is the people, the weather, or just the vibe around the city, these kinds of differences might set a change that helps you to be a better you.


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