Eunice Lois Fermin
Monash University, Australia
Hey there, Hilltop Avenue - my turf for the next 5 months! AND LOOKIE, HOUSEMATES! Day 4 in Melbourne and I’m already grateful that my housemates, who all go to Monash University, are an easy-going and fun bunch... who love to bake cookies at midnight (YAY!). I HONESTLY THOUGHT I’D BE LIVING ON A NICE HILL. But who am I to complain when it’s definitely not a cramped Hong Kong apartment. Even though my room is not the most spacious compared to the other rooms, all six housemates (myself included) comfortably live here. Talking about space, I once read that the population density of the whole Australia is miniscule that if someone went missing, no one would find them. IS IT TIME FOR MY DISAPPEARING ACT? Stay tuned.
They say that Hong Kong has one of the most convenient transport systems and I do miss it. Here, we need to take a bus, train THEN tram to get to Melbourne CBD (Central Business District, but we just say “CBD”). I travelled by all three modes of transport all by my clueless self (with the help of the lifesaving app - Public Transport Victoria or “PTV” for short) to the city which took AN HOUR from where I live. Despite the tedious yet eager journey, once I stepped out of Flinders Street Station to meet my friend, I was in awe. When you step out of the station, you will feel a mix of Toronto, New York City and Central, Hong Kong all at once. SUCH A VIBRANT CITY spanned left, right, upstreet and downriver. From its people to the Victorian-styled architecture to the incredible cuisine variety. If I thought I have grasped the slight idea of what “diversity” was, I think NOW I see the big picture. It’s at Melbourne CBD. Also, there are trams and buses whizzing around the city and FUN FACT - trams that roam the city central are free of charge to just hop on or off! Look forward to more CBD stories soon.
It has been a week since I left the +852 and I’m settled in from unpacking my luggage to buying groceries and furniture at HUMONGOUS stores! Target and K-Mart are my biggest temptation to resist from buying unnecessary furniture and decor because I’m only here for a little over 5 months. Coles is where I go grocery shopping and fun fact… MEAT, BREAD, VEGGIES AND MILK are fresher, relatively cheaper and more delicious here than in Hong Kong.
Please don’t tell my parents but I think I want to stay here forever. By now, all my friends are wondering… Why aren’t you studying? You’re always out! Well, school starts at the end of February (ha, ha, lucky me) so I have still a good 2 weeks to enjoy.
It’s Welcoming Week on campus!! So for the next 2 weeks, it’s all about joining events hosted by the Monash Student Association which I believe is the main group that hosts major university events (aka PARTIES!) . They have hosted a picnic and visits to the Queen Victoria Night Market, Eureka Skydeck and also the Healesville Sanctuary (YAY KOALAS), followed by a quick drink (or drinkS…) at some chill rooftop bars to relax and make new friends. Several posts incoming and I’m excited to share every single thought I have of it!
I TRIED KANGAROO MEAT… and it tasted so good. They grill it and slice it up resembling lamb meat. The QV Night Market runs until mid-April from February and I hope I can visit it as much as I can because it is a food lover’s paradise. With several global cuisines, my friends and I chose as many dishes to try and share with each other! Then once you have your hands full of food, you can relax with the crowd to a live performance from talented local artists! At the market, there were several art stalls that displayed authentic Australian artwork from clothing to accessories to paintings.
Though I live an approximate hour from the city, I have been to and fro (coming back latest at 5am) because I am addicted to the CBD! And what would be better than to see a whole view of the city? To do that, I went up the Eureka Skydeck which takes you up to the 88th floor. The view gave me chills and “high” hopes that one day I would maybe live in this city that I am already falling in love with - just a week in.
Did you know that Australia is home to around 90% of the world’s most dangerous animals? I know what you’re thinking, WHY CHOOSE TO GO TO AUSTRALIA? That’s literally what everyone (mind you, only those who hadn’t been to Australia) was saying to me before I left. Naturally, I’m not deliberately trying to get myself killed, so to put them at ease, I promised that I would stick to only seeing the non-vicious and non-venomous animals.
I finally got to see koalas and kangaroos – the most iconic of Aussie animals in my opinion. And Oh. My. God. They were the cutest. Although we had four hours to walk around the sanctuary, I spent so long (almost half the time) staring at the koalas that I eventually became one (see photo)! The sanctuary itself was a lovely place because the animals were not kept in cages, rather they were allowed to roam freely.
Welcome to Monash University, named after prominent WWI General, Sir John Monash. Phew, this fact made me feel smarter already.
WOOHOO! I’ve made it, Mum and Dad! Yes, I know, “study hard, have fun, and don’t die”. Let me just say, I’m happy to escape the deadly Hong Kong cold because – whoop whoop, here comes another fact – the seasons are the opposite here, so I’ll be enjoying the sweltering summer; or rather, experience four seasons a day, as Melbourne weather is described. We have free barbecues, or “barbies” as the Aussies call them, around campus all month, so once I’m done studying, I hit the grass with my hotdog and just chill. What blissful student life, aye?
Hello Kooyong Road and farewell Hilltop Avenue!
The thought of leaving Melbourne is still hard…
As soon as you arrive in a foreign country, where you’ll be for a big chunk of your life, you might feel like running straight back to Hong Kong because you fear you won’t fit in. But thank God I met this girl called Emma, from Sweden, who I swear is my long lost sister.
They say, “everyone wants to be closer to the city”, and that is just what Emma and I did. Even when house hunting was stressful and caused a great deal of anxiety, especially ditching our previous accommodation that we were very comfortable in, it was always for the sake of being closer to the city. However it’s still a good distance to the campus, so we get the best of both worlds. More importantly, we won’t be apart from each other!
We have an en suite bathroom in a huge house, two queen sized beds, and a long desk which gives us more than enough space to study and enjoy meals together.
Lastly, because the nights here are getting chilly (we’re entering autumn) and we both despise the cold, we studied in the bathroom because we have a heater in there.
One of the things I was most keen to do in Australia was go on a road trip, because the roads here are long and wide, and have beautiful natural views spanning left and right. The whole trip took approximately three days and I would just like to thank a good friend for touring around with me. Although we didn’t make it to the famous “Twelve Apostles”, we stopped by the beach at Torquay, the surf capital, and went for a mini forest hike to the Lorne waterfalls. Being on the road was such a great feeling – especially when you’re not the one driving! :-)
Another road trip I had lined up was to the enchanting Redwood Forest near Warburton, which was a two-hour drive from the west of Melbourne. A good friend offered to drive me and Emma there so that we could experience the eerie and mysterious forest of Californian Redwoods that had been planted there back in the 1930s and which grow up to around 180m tall. It was a breathtaking canopy walk through the trees, and they were all lined up in a very artistic grid formation. Giant nests were also laid around the forest, which just added to the mystery.
Birrarung is the actual name of the Yarra river, that we all know stretches beautifully past Melbourne. I took a course called “Contemporary Australia”, which taught me more about Australia’s history and allowed me to go on an eye-opening field trip. Dean Stewart, our tour guide, who is half Aboriginal, walked us along ancient and historic paths and told us the tale of the Aboriginals who have lived in Australia for over 60,000 years. It really helped me to understand more about their lands, spirituality, and culture, as well as what Aboriginals are facing in today’s society.
One thing Aussies don’t joke about is their sports culture. They also don’t joke about their gym culture either. Knowing that day-to-day businesses here stops at the earliest 5pm, their gyms are open 24/7. What?! I know! And it’s not just one, but several gym companies, that do this. Sports are so deeply embedded in Australian culture that people are able try different sports or fitness activities at school from a young age. At Monash University, a gym membership entitles you to not only usage of the gym facilities but also their swimming pools, saunas, spas, and fitness classes, such as spinning, yoga, and boxing! Talk about variety!