Welcome back to my blog! I ended my last update, which if you missed, you can read here (it’s a good one) saying that I was excited to update you all on what I’ve been up to, and there’s quite a bit for me to get through again. It’s tough, this travelling stuff. I also ended by saying that I’d had more nose bleeds than friends. I’m pleased, surprised and ever so slightly confused to say that this is no longer the case. So I think I’ll start there.
I’m obviously pleased because it’s great to have people around to talk to and do things with, I’m surprised because I’ve been here just over a week and it feels like I know so many people from different corners of the world and it’s all happened quite fast. I’m confused because, well… I think this is the most German I’ve heard spoken in my entire life, and I’ve been to Germany twice. I’m going to do my best to explain how this has happened but if I’m honest I’m not entirely sure.
After I moved in to my flat last Monday, I met one of my Australian flatmates and ended up playing Fifa with him for a bit and then going to KFC with three Australians later that day, so I got pretty into things straight away in my permanent accommodation (consisting of my own room, two shared toilets between 6 of us, two shared showers, a shared kitchen and lounge area). That was the sort of thing I expected to happen, but after agreeing to meet up with two Germans the next day for a library tour, I didn’t expect things to turn out quite how they have done.
The library tour itself was probably what you would expect from a library tour. Turns out that Australian libraries are used to store and loan out books too, so actually they’re quite similar to British libraries. Following the library tour, the three of us went to a café around the corner on campus (aptly named the Corner Café) to get to know each other a little. We were later joined by one more German and a Malaysian girl, and so our little international group began to grow. This was also to be the beginning of my first spontaneous trip out of the campus. In Melbourne, to get around on public transport you need to purchase a MyKi card – a prepaid card that you ‘touch on’ (press against a box when you get on to a bus/tram/train) and ‘touch off’ (the same action as you get off which takes off the travel fare from your MyKi balance). You can purchase these from various shops around the city, including the bookshop on campus here at Deakin university, but for whatever reason, they don’t sell the concession cards. So you have to pay $9 for a standard MyKi card, top up the card with enough to get to Box Hill (the nearest place that does process concession cards), then spend another $9 on the concession card (once various forms have been filled in and pretty passport type pictures have been taken) as well as topping the concession card up too. With a one hour journey on the 75 tram from Deakin university at $1.88 (or around 90p) into the city centre, the concession card was definitely worth getting on that first day. Whilst obtaining the concession card forms to fill out, I also obtained my Deakin University student ID card, which can be used as a debit card to purchase things on site too. This has probably been the most boring part of my little update here.
Wednesday was looking promising in terms of things going on. There was an exciting looking welcome session for international students, where we received our orientation packs including health insurance cards, club and societies booklets and a few leaflets. The session lasted around 10 minutes and actually, if I’m being brutally honest, wasn’t that useful for myself and the Germans that I’d gone with as it was about things such as the MyKi card and the Deakin ID card, which we’d done the day before because we’re model students. To try to meet people from my faculty I decided to go to an optional arts faculty introduction session in the afternoon where I was promptly told because I’d been to the morning international welcome session I didn’t need to bother, as the information was repeated here. So I returned to another café on campus with the Germans where we had a drink and talked. It was here that I met another two German girls, and we’d all planned to go to the Queen Victoria Market that night, where I took a grand total of one picture and quite honestly, it isn’t very good. Before this though, we visited the ‘hipster’ area of Fitzroy, drinking a coffee at a café getting to know each other further whilst people watching, before heading on to the Queen Victoria Market. At home I tend to stay away from hot food, but this is a year abroad and one of the main ideas behind it is to try new things, so being the adventure crazed animal that I am, I tried some “Devil’s Chicken” which resulted in a red face and some ice cream. It was good, and I would have it again, but the ice cream was well timed. I don’t have any pictures to prove that any of this actually happened, but I’ve improved dramatically since, I promise.
On the Thursday we had a further compulsory information session for international students. This talked us through various information such as emergency numbers, what the Deakin security staff can do for us, familiarising us with our faculty buildings and their locations as well as informing us about a surf day for international students that the university is organising for January. We were also left in the hands of a Deakin University student, who was out on exchange at a university somewhere in Asia. To be more precise, it was either Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan or Malaysia. I didn’t write that bit down. He was telling us about his experiences abroad and suggesting ways we could make the most of our time at Deakin, which was quite useful. Following this, I went food shopping and bought a SIM card for my phone, so I now have a fully functioning Australian phone number!
The observant amongst those reading have probably realised that Friday comes next. On Friday I opened an Australian bank account which was just as exciting as it sounds, so I’m going to fast forward a few hours and suddenly I’m in Melbourne Museum with three Germans after having gained free student entry and we’re walking around a World War exhibit. Looking at things from an Australian point of view as a Brit accompanied by Germans was an odd experience. There was a poppy memorial area, where people were encouraged to write messages on pieces of card and stick them on a board, with the majority saying thank you to those who have fought for their countries and our freedom. I didn’t say anything at the time but it registered in my mind that the Germans didn’t quite understand what the poppy was and what it symbolised. At this point I’d like to fast forward almost a whole week to the 11th day of the 11th month this year. Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day. How it came up I’m not entirely sure, but myself and a German girl got talking about it and I explained Remembrance Day, the poppy, the silence – everything. As a history student it was interesting for me to talk to her about our cultural differences today when it comes to Remembrance Day. On the 11th November, Britain and the Allies remember, but meanwhile in Germany, Carnival (which is called different things – fasching, karneval) begins and Germany celebrates. I should stress that these are entirely unrelated and that Carnival has been celebrated for centuries. Germany doesn’t actually have an event to remember those who fought in the wars which I suppose I understand and I don’t understand all at the same time really. It’s obviously a difficult topic and in order to do it justice I think I would need to start another blog because it was such an interesting conversation, but what talking to my friend about this did achieve personally was really make me miss studying history, and I can’t wait to get back to it next trimester here at Deakin.
Let’s jump into what appears to have become some sort of text time machine and go back to Saturday. Myself and six other Germans met at Federation Square (to enlarge images just click on them, I know they’re a little small sometimes and hey some of these pictures are really cool) to join a $1 walking tour of Melbourne CBD (Central Business District) with all proceeds going to the ‘Save the Tasmanian Devil Program Appeal’.
The tour lasted around 2 and a half hours and was led by an American woman who has lived and worked in Melbourne CBD for the past 5 years. The tour took in two Cathedrals – St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Flinder’s Street Station, Federation Square, Chinatown, views of the world famous MCG (or the Etihad according to my German friend Benni (who would like it placed on record that he is the greatest German of all time. Ever.)
until he was corrected by a random Australian woman who laughed at him on a train), Melbourne’s parliament building, various hidden bars as well as incredible, graffiti plastered streets. This is the part of my blog where I get to explain the title. As wikipedia will tell you, Melbourne was a major boomtown during the Gold Rush, and from the information we’ve received about the city, it seems like everything was built during the Gold Rush in the 1850’s to
the point that we were joking that the Etihad (whilst looking at the MCG) was built during the Gold Rush in the 1850’s. That’s it. I couldn’t think of a better title. I really do recommend the $1 walking tour with Jess to everyone though, there was a lot of information such as the rumoured mix up in plans for Flinder’s Street train station and a train station in Mumbai, resulting in British architects accidentally constructing the Indian train station in Melbourne, and the Australian station in India,
as well as the ghost story of Princess’ Theatre where an opera singer suffered a heart attack mid performance leading to his death before the performance had ended, yet the whole cast claims he was there taking his final bow with them at the end. It’s now a tradition to keep a seat free on the opening night of any performance at the theatre so that he can take his seat and watch. On top of this, the sites themselves were really interesting and by now hopefully you’ll agree that they look pretty good on camera too.
Nothing happened on Sunday.
But then, not much happened on Monday either. Trimester 3 officially started, although none of us actually had lectures. So there we were at 9am, tram 75 Deakin University station once again in order to catch a tram to catch a bus to walk to St Kilda beach. Four Germans. Two Americans. One sun-crazed Brit.
We spent the day lying around, playing Frisbee on the sand, playing Frisbee in the water, and I saw a big purple jellyfish! Which probably wouldn’t have been too friendly to me, but it was amazing to see one floating harmlessly so close.
Since the beach, I have actually reacquainted myself with the world of study, having been to my criminology lecture and seminar this week and I look forward to studying that from a historical perspective and trying to look at how crime has altered over time, as well as looking for any Australian cultural differences to crime that perhaps I previously wasn’t aware of. I have an online unit looking at Capitalism too which I’m looking forward to getting into. Additionally, I’ve started casting half an eye at ideas for my dissertation back home next year. I keep getting small ideas for it but nothing, I feel, anywhere near substantial enough to write and research in enough depth for a dissertation. I’ve decided I’d like to visit some museums here in Melbourne alone in order to try to get some more ideas and maybe take some notes down then come back to the library here at Deakin and make use of their fascinating book system.
I hope this has been even slightly enjoyable to read, it’s already becoming difficult to keep up with how much is going on around here but I’m absolutely not complaining about that, Melbourne life is fantastic, I’ve met so many people from so many different corners of the world, it’s amazing.