Where did January go?!

Where did January go?!

January 2016 has come and nearly gone and if I was to be completely honest, although I try not to wish time away generally, but especially not on this wonderful year abroad, it does feel like a bit of a relief. Allow me to immediately answer the questions that I imagine have formed from that sentence; I’m still having a great time out here, everything is absolutely okay and no, January has not been a bad month. February and March however both look so good that it’s hard to ignore them.

This update is not about February and March. I haven’t posted once in January yet and that has been entirely dependant on the time I’ve had available. It’s time to get comfortable though because now I have the time, I’m going to go back to the last day of December 2015 before embarking on the hectic journey that is January 2016.

There was anywhere between one and four plans at any one time for New Years. After a fairly relaxed day of doing nothing but trying to sort out what was going on that night, myself and two of my flat mates accompanied one German friend went to the local liquor store to get some beer in before stopping at Domino’s on the way back to buy a $5 pizza each (that’s £2.50 for a full size pizza… Why wouldn’t we?!) After getting through the pizza in our flat we started up Fifa on the PlayStation with beers where we were later joined by two other Australian friends from the accommodation building and another of my German friends. We later headed out to join the madness around Melbourne’s CBD to watch the fireworks launch from some of Melbourne’s tallest buildings.

If I was to say this update contains particularly good pictures of anything I would be lying. Spectacularly.

After persuading each other and ourselves that maybe the crowds won’t be as bad as we think, as we walked off the train you could instantly sense a buzz of a big event, the feeling that something was happening. As we reached the top of the escalator we were basically greeted with the sights of the left picture above. People. People as far as the eye could see in any direction. We weren’t sure exactly where best to see the fireworks, but headed to Federation Square – a decision we instantly regretted after losing Kenny somewhere in the crowds of people about 2 minutes later. After finding him again we decided that although Federation Square was an exciting place to be with live music being played up on the stage and a general party atmosphere around the place, we should move elsewhere. With the road closed around the immediate area (for obvious reasons, in that left picture where those people are immediately stood is actually a road with two lanes in both directions and a tram lane in the middle) we joined more crowds to head across a bridge over the Yarra river, dragging our feet to keep pace with the crowds where we spotted people stood up on a balcony area of one of Melbourne’s theatres with what looked like a large amount of space up there. After timing walking past the theatre with the ending of a performance and more crowds pouring out onto the roads, we walked around to the quiet side of the theatre taking the stairs up to the large balcony area where there was not only space, but views of some of the larger buildings around the city. There wasn’t really a bad viewpoint for the fireworks. Although my picture may not be the best out there, I’m trying to use pictures only I have taken on this blog because 1) it gives this more of a personal feel about it 2) copyright/usage rights and 3) I’m stubborn. After the fireworks ended and I was thrown into 2016 11 hours before my friends, family and girlfriend back home in the UK (leading to easily the strongest sense of homesickness I have ever felt, both immediately and for a couple of days afterwards) although at the time I was left wondering if it was at all worth it, there’s a theme of the year abroad that when I’m home I’ll be able to look at pictures – whether they’re mine, or someone else’s or even on TV; I was there.

2016 introduced itself to me sort of in the way that an excited puppy is keen to jump all over you. In my last update I mentioned that I was looking forward to beginning a new intensive unit at university all about Australia – a brief overview of Australia’s history and political issues it has faced. That has come and gone in a 2-3 week period and I loved it and disliked it all at the same time. I enjoyed how it was taught, I loved the content and I really liked the lecturer. What I didn’t like about it was not necessarily the people, more how Deakin handled the enrolment for the unit. It turned out that this unit was intensive at the time it was because it was to be a major part of a summer camp hosted by Deakin University. Thirty nine American students from two or three different universities (meaning they had come across in pre-established friend circles and were generally unwilling to stretch beyond those) made up a large portion of the unit with the rest of the students coming from Asian countries with a poor grasp of the English language. Then there was me. Truth be told I didn’t appreciate that so much as the unit often felt quite isolating , and I think it will always surprise me when Americans say they don’t know where Wales is or “whereabouts in England is that?” The unit did however offer free trips and tours at various places such as Federation Square, the Immigration Museum, Melbourne Museum, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and the Shrine of Remembrance.

I won’t talk at length about each of those sites. Some such as Melbourne Museum, the NGV and Federation Square I have already visited so without reading back to check (these things take time and I have other ways to waste it), I’m just going to assume I’ve at least mentioned them in passing before. I like to do this; I’ll start at the end. The Shrine of Remembrance was the last trip, and an incredible place to visit. It was built at the end of what was at the time considered to be the war to end all wars. The one before the second world war, the cold war, war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria… You get the point. We didn’t learn. The whole point of memorials such as The Shrine of Remembrance is firstly obviously to remember, but also to educate. The Shrine of Remembrance is more than a memorial. Beneath the grand and intricately carved stone is a museum. Chronological galleries with information about the Australian armed forces before involvement in the first world war, right through to involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Entry is free and there’s a wealth of objects held by the Shrine in terms of physical objects as well as wartime stories told, making it well worth a visit.

The other trip I’d like to mention is actually the very first trip we went on – a trip to The Immigration Museum. I’m talking about these two in particular because they’re very different to the sort of museum that I would be used to. The Shrine of Remembrance being such an imposing structure with the museum galleries held within the very foundations of the building is interesting in itself. The Immigration Museum is interesting to me because I’ve never visited anything with that sort of display before. Many countries were settled in similar ways to how Australia was settled – the British decided they wanted it and little else really mattered. The people already settled didn’t matter and as far as the settlers were concerned they didn’t have a choice in anything, they weren’t important enough. Few communities in the 21st century are feeling the effects of something which happened 200-300 years ago as much as indigenous communities today. Many had their children stolen from them in the hope that the community would simply die out. This was occurring even in the last century. The Immigration Museum was a very interesting place and I learnt a lot. There were stories from people who moved across from their homes in Britain or other European countries about the journey, of course there were no planes so boat journeys were made. There was one particularly good display (which I really regret not taking a picture of) which was comparing the journey time of transport through the last century or so which has obviously had a decreased journey time through major technological advances. My visit to the immigration museum and studies in this unit generally have inspired me to consider a topic along these lines for my dissertation project back at Bangor University next academic year.

I had to write two essays to be assessed based on these trips and about four others for other units. Now you see why it’s the 29th of January and I’m just writing the first update. I have an essay due today, but I submitted it on Wednesday. Another thing the year abroad has improved dramatically in myself is my time management skills. By that I mean I can manage my time now and I’m not rewarding 30 minutes of work with a four day break (slight exaggeration.) Now that essays are over (I have another 350 words due next Friday but it’s only 350 words, I can take a weekend off I think) it’s going to be time to attempt to shift my concentration towards exams. I have a criminology exam on the 11th February, a media relations exam on the 16th February and then an incredibly exciting couple of months ahead indeed.

But again, we’re still in January and (at this point) I have three more things to talk about, some more briefly than others. There are currently around four outdoor cinemas in Melbourne.

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I think this is fairly self-explanatory

Two located in parks, one by a beach and one on a rooftop in the CBD. I’ve been to one before by the beach, so I suppose it was about time I tried another. We headed into the CBD on a Sunday night (I remember that because we had to get a taxi back as public transport in Melbourne is unlike any other major city in the world in that it stops at about midnight. Everything stops. Completely.) where we walked up seven flights of stairs (imagine going to a rooftop cinema on what is essentially a skyscraper and thinking “I’m sure there won’t be many stairs”), bought a drink each and then settled down to watch The Talented Mr Ripley. I think it was a drama and it was okay but I like films with laughs, explosions or something based on a historical event. Like Jurassic Park or Shrek. Something with a bit of realism, you know? This had a lot of murder and some drowning but fell a little short on explosions and laughs. The ending was quite frustrating too. There isn’t too much more to say about that really, I went to watch a film on a roof with friends and had a good time.

I had a very British good time recently with some British friends of a British friend. A group of four of us met up to watch cricket at the iconic MCG stadium.

Myself and two others in the group all go to Bangor University and it was probably about time we did something together out here really. I can’t explain how good it felt to hear three other different British accents in one place. I had a vague idea of what was going on in the cricket, I got to see Kevin Pietersen have an awful game and there was beer. So all in all a pretty good time was had there too.

Finally, the 26th January is Australia Day every year in Australia. Australia Day is essentially but not explicitly the celebration of white European settlers invading indigenous Australian land. This is why in recent years indigenous people and those who support them have held protests in cities all over Australia marking what they refer to as ‘Invasion day’ with the belief that the invasion of their land is not cause for celebration, let alone a public holiday. Personally I was torn on Australia Day. I found myself agreeing with the indigenous belief that it should not be celebrated and that actually I can understand why that is very offensive to them.

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Fireworks from Docklands, stood in front of the Etihad Stadium

On the other hand I feel that Australia Day is something that needs to be a reflection of personal interpretation, and my interpretation is that I am likely not going to ever be in Australia ever again for Australia Day, I am not Australian, so I might as well enjoy it. When in Australia etc. So along with other friends, I went to a barbecue (free food) at a sort of house party sort of gathering with beer and burgers for a bit before later heading out to Docklands where I knew there were going to be Australia Day fireworks. The trams were packed with people and we were stood on the right side when the fireworks were going to be on the left. We saw some fireworks out our side in reflections from buildings on that side, then somehow people turned at the same time to look at the other side of the tram to see the fireworks shooting up looking something like this:

Australia Day Fireworks from Matty Rowland on Vimeo.

As everyone saw them at the same time there was a collective “woah” in the tram and you could feel a huge surge of excitement through everyone – a tram full of strangers all mutually locked in this event. We got off the tram, walked straight towards the bay and started taking pictures, videos and absorbing the moment. Come the end of the show everyone was in a great mood but with tram services ending early due to the public holiday, it was time to head home.


When you work the academic commitments around all of this I suppose January has been pretty good! As it stands I have a free weekend which I intend to use to relax before looking at revision next week in FEBRUARY?! February already. I’m not sure where the time is going but I’m loving it out here. I’d like to update in a couple of weeks in February but between exams and seeing my family, I’m not sure how much of an opportunity I’ll get but whoever you are reading this; get very excited for the March and April updates. I think they have the potential to be my favourites.

Thank you for reading and I hope to update you soon!