"Exchange Report Monash University Melbourne, Australia"
Lindsay Hogarth Exchange Report Monash University: Melbourne, Australia Introduction My name is Lindsay Hogarth, and I’m a business major who studied abroad at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia during the spring semester of my third year. The opportunity to participate in exchange excited me, because I believe that international experience and an understanding of how to adapt and interact with different cultures is essential in today’s global village. I wanted to make amazing new friends from around the world and try new things I otherwise might not have had a chance to. Academically, I was excited about the opportunity to learn and dialogue with students from a different part of the world. As a business student, I think international experience is particularly relevant. I’m passionate about travelling, so was excited for the chance to travel while completing my degree. I selected Australia as my exchange destination, because it was somewhere I had always wanted to travel to, but hadn’t had the opportunity. My experience there was wonderful. Australia is a beautiful country with very friendly people and plenty of outdoor activities and adventures to offer. I made new friends, was immersed in a new culture, saw amazing things, and developed new hobbies and interests. It was a time of huge personal growth and will probably be a season I look back on as very significant in my life. So here is some information about my experience. I hope it’s helpful! Travel & Visas Australia is a pretty convenient country for Canadians to travel to. I had no problem getting a student visa, but it was a fairly lengthy process, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get your visa approved before you leave Canada. Unfortunately, adding a work permit wasn’t as easy. Under a student visa, you can’t apply for permission to work until your courses have started, which was a little frustrating as it meant I couldn’t actually start working until nearly a month after my arrival in Australia. Make sure you have budgeted with this in mind. Financial Details The cost of living in Melbourne is fairly comparable to that of Vancouver. I found groceries, especially produce, to be slightly more expensive, as well as eating out. However, it is important to remember that in Australia tax is included in the listed price and once this and the exchange rate are factored in, the difference isn’t huge. Arrival and Orientation Monash has a great orientation program for exchange students. They provide tons of great information, as well as fun activities to get to know other exchange students and experience some of the fun things Melbourne has to offer. They even offer complimentary airport pickup. I would recommend arriving a week or two before orientation to allow time to find accommodation and get settled before orientation starts. Accommodation & Living While I was in Melbourne, I lived off campus. I was really fortunate because I had an Australian friend who is from Melbourne who had an extra room, so I moved right in with her and her housemate upon arrival and didn’t have to look for a place. Our house was about a 30 minute bus ride from campus, in a suburb called Blackburn South. It was a 3 bedroom house with a big yard and we each paid $500 per month for rent. I’m really glad I chose to live off campus. For one, I have lived on my own for a few years and am not really into partying so being in Halls with mostly first year students would have been difficult. Also, because I lived with Australians, I got connected with their friends and community who really enhanced my experience of the Australian culture. For me this was important, but the trade off was that I didn’t get as close with the other exchange students. My situation was unique, so I would recommend leaving plenty of time to find a place. Many of my exchange friends lived in hostels for the first few weeks after arrival, which was expensive and inconvenient. Academic Details Monash was very similar to SFU academically. Most courses had 3 hours of in class time and recommended 9 hours of private study. I found the workload lighter than at SFU, and the marking easier for most classes. Most lecturers prefer to be called by their first names, and the dress and classroom environment is informal. I would definitely recommend the unit EDF3615- “Exploring the Australian Landscape”. It is an outdoor education unit, but the majority of the class is made up of exchange students. In the class we went on two different camping trips and got to experience some pretty unique places in Victoria. Country Information (culture, weather, places to visit, etc.) I experienced very little culture shock while in Australia. As members of the Commonwealth we share a common history and values, so I found that other than the accent and some quirky food choices the culture differences were becoming, not overwhelming. Australians are friendly, easy-going people and the culture revolves around sport, friends and leisure time at the beach. The weather in Melbourne can be pretty unpredictable and much colder than might be expected for Australia. I arrived in February which is the end of their summer, so it was hot for the first month and a bit and then it started to get quite chilly. Their houses aren’t as well insulated as our Canadians so I often found it quite cool indoors during the winter. Further north the weather is nice all year round. I was in Queensland at the end of May and the weather was still hot and sunny. Australia is a huge country and there is so much to see and do. I made the mistake of assuming I could get my travelling done on weekends and school breaks, but I would suggest leaving a couple of months on either side of your semester abroad for travelling. My must-see places to visit would include; the Great Ocean Road (I did a great 2-day driving tour which I would recommend), Wilson’s Promontory National Park, Sydney, Byron Bay (make sure you’re around for their monthly market), the Gold Coast, and a sailing trip in the Whitsunday’s. Social and Extra-Curricular Activities Monash has plenty of clubs and extra-curricular activities to offer. I was a member of the Monash Bushwalking and Outdoors Club (MBOC) and I would definitely recommend it to any other exchange students. They organize all sorts of trips which are a great way to meet new people, discover new activities and explore Australia, as well as get some amazing discounts on climbing and gear rentals. Make sure to check out clubs week and sign up for a couple different ones. I found I really made the effort while on exchange because I wasn’t as concerned about academics and it really paid off. What I Learned/Challenges I Faced Exchange was a huge time of personal growth for me. I believe travelling and experiencing life in another country is a great way to learn more about yourself. You are taken out of your comfort zone and forced to try new things, meet new people in an environment that is unfamiliar and potentially uncomfortable. Because of this, I learned a lot about myself. I had to have courage when travelling alone and make the effort to meet new people and try new things. I learned about establishing myself in a new environment without sacrificing my integrity, so I definitely learned about being real and consistent with people. I learned about other cultures and ways of doing things. I experienced real community while I was away on exchange. I also learned a lot about trust. A huge challenge for me was to overcome my desire to travel and remain focused on school. I found it was really hard to focus and work hard when I knew my grades didn’t matter. Also, the community I was a part of was made up of people who lived in Australia, so they weren’t always keen to travel or do touristy things on the weekend and sometimes I struggled with just hanging out and doing life day to day because it’s not that different from home. It was a challenge to have a good attitude about mundane daily stuff like homework. What I wish I knew before I left. Australia is a huge country with some incredible things to see. Make sure you leave yourself enough time and money to see them. Plan some travel time on either side of your semester so you can focus on school and life in Melbourne during classes. Have enough money so that you aren’t obligated to work right away (your work permit could take awhile). Words of Wisdom for Other Students As I share about my experiences please remember that they are just that; my experiences. I would encourage you to thoroughly research for yourself. I am by no means an expert so all I can offer is what I saw, go beyond this guide. Also, I would encourage you to shed as many of your preconceived ideas and expectations as possible before you head away on exchange. Your experience will be much richer if you go in with an open mind.