It was time for “real” orientation. The goal(s): Make as many friends as possible and explore Melbourne while trying not to look too much like a tourist on vacation…
The first few days during the Melbourne Welcome program were devoted to casual campus tours and showing us where to buy all of the necessary dorm items at prices that wouldn’t completely bankrupt us. (Warning: if you are planning to come to Melbourne, buy [in advance]/ bring all of your toiletries with you! Why? Because even toothpaste here can run you eight dollars!) The program was designed to help transition international students into life in Melbourne by “showing us the ropes”, and taking us on various adventures around the city. It was very exciting to be an international student and to meet people from all around the world. Not only did this give me a chance to brush up on my Spanish, but I found myself learning about other cultures, languages, and people.
The program ran for a total of four days, and within those days, my group and I took Melbourne by storm! The adventures began with a visit to down town Melbourne, a special food tasting, and the Eureka Skydeck. Down town Melbourne was beautiful, and the architecture of the buildings was so diverse and fascinating. While down town my group and I passed the state Library of Victoria, the Melbourne Museum, and the ACMI (Australian Center for Moving Art). The tour of the art museum was followed by a special food tasting which included emu, duck, crocodile, quail eggs, prawns, and even kangaroo! After perusing the art galleries and tasting some of Australia’s native animals, we headed straight for the Eureka Skydeck to view all of Melbourne from the 88th floor. (Fun Fact: The Skydeck stands 300 meters (984 ft) tall and is the highest point in the Southern Hemisphere.)
The next day it was off to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and the Melbourne Zoo. We took a tour of the MCG, which serves as an Australian Rules Football (Footy) stadium during the winter, and an arena for Cricket during the warmer months. The stadium can hold an impressive 100,000 people, and was the place where the Olympic Games were held in 1956. After being introduced to Footy and touring the stadium, it was time for the zoo! You could easily spot an international student at the Melbourne Zoo because we were usually the one’s eagerly searching for the kangaroos. “ Where do they keep the kangaroos?!” asked several students as they interrogated a zoo staff member. I tried to act nonchalant but I wasn’t fooling anyone. The enthusiastic look on my face paired with my camera, readied in hand, screamed “ Tourist” and “Yes, I flew 10, 000 miles to see a kangaroo.” (We did find them eventually, laying on the ground, refusing to be active.)
At the end of the four days, all us involved in the Melbourne Welcome program were exhausted having ventured all over Melbourne. What’s even more remarkable is that we had barely grazed the surface. There is more to see, more to learn, and so much more to explore in this cultural Mecca.
As for my goals? I formed many new friendships and had seen so much of this truly amazing city. Oh yeah, and as for not looking like a tourist…well, I am working on it.