At this point, I'm about a third of the way through my program here at University of Melbourne and I'd like to take the time to explain in more detail my experience in regard to classes/school and how it compares to NYU. Also, on a side note, University of Melbourne has been ranked the #1 university in Australia this year!
Course Load - Credits
**This is from my personal experience and is not indicative of all other subjects or anything - I'm taking Derivative Securities, Management of Financial Institutions, Managing Conflict in the Global Workplace and Change & Conflict in Australian Society.**
**Again, I can only speak for the classes I'm taking, my friends here have had more work that I have.**
While there are quite a few differences between NYU and University of Melbourne, it really hasn't been all that difficult to adjust to so far. I have no complaints and I believe I definitely made the right choice to come here. I have learned so much about Australia already, just from my classes and being in class with local students! It's exactly what I wanted! I hope this could be a help to those considering possibly studying abroad in Australia or University of Melbourne from America!
In my mind, there are three different speeds of time. There is normal time, college time and study abroad time. I'm not sure if it's because I go to school in a huge city, but before starting school at NYU, life seemed to happen much slower. Even when I find myself home in upstate New York, time still seems to drag. But once I got to NYU, between classes, my internship and my club involvement, time seemed to fly. I blinked and it was already midterms. It was crazy.
Studying abroad, it's a whole level above that. I'm already a quarter of the way through my course at Universitu of Melbourne. I feel like I just got here last week and it's been almost 4 weeks already (I really have no problem with it as long as it starts to warm up soon)! It's just crazy how fast time goes by here. It makes sense though - being in a new place, there are TONS of things to take up your time such as meeting new people, seeing new places and getting used to a new university. I really do love it here, though. It's such a nice place, both the university and the city itself!
Lectures & Tutorials.
I haven't really had a chance to really explain more in depth on my in-class experience here yet. Back in NYC, I've never had a semester where I haven't had at least one homework assignment or quiz/exam per week. Here, I have one assignment, two papers and two midterm exams during the semester, in addition to 3 finals during our three-week long exam period. I'm now starting to understand what was discussed during orientation week - it's easy to give yourself a false sense of security and get behind by thinking you only have a couple of things due at the end of the semester. I'm hoping to get ahead on one of my papers by the end of next week.
I actually really like the concept of the tutorials here, helping to lead discussions on the topics covered in the lectures. They allow a lot more interaction between classmates and help you see different perspectives on ideas. I feel that this will definitely enhance my exchange experience here, too, by having these more intimate settings and getting to see how the local students think.
More Exploring - Melbourne's Lane Ways!
This past Sunday, a friend and I explored Melbourne's lane ways. Some, such as Hosier Lane and Union Lane are just fully covered with graffiti while others, such as Centre Place, are lined with discrete, cozy cafes. In a way, some of the lanes (the ones with small boutique shops) reminded me of SoHo. In the visitor centre at Federation Square, we picked up the lane way maps and weaved through the map of different lanes - some even took us into beautiful arcades with pretty ceilings. I will have to go back when it gets a tad warmer and take more pictures! Below are some more graffiti pictures from Union Lane!
Luna1878 - Winter Night Market at Queen Victoria Market!
On Sunday, my friend told me of this cool night market he was planning on going to Wednesday, so we went last night. As we were walking toward the food, I'm pretty sure I said something along the lines of "Oh, I really wish they had pierogies, I've been craving them for so long!" And then he pointed at one of the stands and I couldn't believe it - polish food!!!! The pierogies were AMAZING and I hope to go back the next two Wednesdays and have them again - I can't find any polish restaurant in this city! At least in NYC I have Veselka just blocks from school to curb my pierogi cravings!! Although, Lomzynianka in Greenpoint is definitely the best - cheap, unbelievably good polish food! It's just such a hike though!
I also found a really pretty necklace at one of the craft stalls and I ended up buying it. For me, it symbolizes flight and travel, so I had to get it!
Besides having tons of great food stalls and craft stalls, there was live music, people on stilts and a silent disco to add to the entertainment. I can't wait until next Wednesday to go back :) That's all for now!
The Second Time Around.
Studying abroad is absolutely wonderful. It's even better when you're blessed with the opportunity to do it all over again. However, while there are many positives that come from studying abroad twice, it's inevitable that you will come to the point where you find yourself comparing the experiences. It's bound to happen.
It really hit me hard today. As I was walking along the Yarra River, enjoying the beautiful, sunny, 65 degree winter afternoon, it hit me. After three weeks here, I definitely enjoy Melbourne a lot more than London. But why?
On a Side Note.
Before I go into my reasoning as to why, in my opinion, Melbourne is far better than London, just a little side note. Today, I went to the Queen Victoria Market again (I've already gone over 5 times!) and I was walking by the stalls and all of the sudden, all I could smell was Indonesia. I absolutely LOVE how certain smells can bring back memories and images, in this case, of another country. It made me so happy; moments like those are the best! When you're in a certain place for an extended amount of time, you just get used to things. Sometimes you don't even consciously notice it (the smell of certain places) - but it's there and will be locked away in the back of your mind until something triggers it. And when something triggers it, it's just awesome. It's the small things in life.
Back on Track.
After spending four months in London, I know I could never live there permanently. I am one of those people who reaaaally gets affected by the weather. I just couldn't deal with it being dark and dreary all the time. There were only a handful of sunny days in the four months I was there (January to May 2012) - the warmest being in March right before I left for springbreak! It wasn't even that warm at the end of the semester. It was such a downer for me. But today, when I was just walking around exploring Melbourne, I found myself thinking I could definitely live in this city and settle down. But hey, I guess that's what everyone else thinks, too, since Melbourne is ranked the most livable city in the world! Even though Melbourne is known to experience all four seasons in one day, with the handful of sunny, warmish days I've already experienced here, I'd be fine with it.
Other Factors Making my Experience Better This Time Around.
How to Choose?
I was very lucky to be able to experience two different study abroad programs and ultimately have the experience I was looking for. But for many, you only get one shot. Before you choose your study abroad site, RESEARCH!
What will the weather be like the majority of your time there? Will it get better? If it doesn't, how will it affect your mood?
What do you want from the experience? Are you just looking to go abroad? Or are you looking for full immersion? Would you be more comfortable having classes with your friends from back home or do you want to go out of your comfort zone and have to meet completely new friends?
Would you rather be in a really touristy city? Or would you rather be in a lesser known gem of a city?
After Getting Accepted.
So you've been accepted into a great program and you're really excited. All you can really do before heading to your study abroad country is figure out your living accommodations. As I mentioned before, this is extremely important. It really can completely change your study abroad experience. While a semester abroad is usually more expensive already without even considering housing, it is really easy to want to save as much money on this big expenditure. That's what I did in London, but I knew better than to do the same in Melbourne. Sure, I'm paying quite a bit more for where I'm staying now, but I'm living with all RMIT/UniMelb students in a great little village EXTREMELY close to everything. With this in mind, before looking at housing options, write down exactly what you want from your experience and how it could be impacted by where you live. It's foolish to ruin such an amazing experience just to save a bit of money, which really is nothing in the grand scheme of things compared to the loans you'll have to pay back anyway when you graduate.
The Dreaded Question.
Where do you get all of this money to travel? It's a question I've been asked quite a lot recently. And it's a question I dread. Because once it is asked, all I can see in my mind are lots of zeros. Zeros I've seen on a screen in front of me the past three years, just adding up. Student Loans. I've also held part-time jobs, at one point two jobs at a time, to maintain a cash inflow - I've even been paying off my loans (slowly, very, very slowly) since sophomore year using the money I make from work!
My Volunteer Trips.
Okay, so traveling to Indonesia and Kenya was still technically travel. However, in addition to my volunteer fee and airfare, all I had to pay for was my visa and souvenirs. For volunteer programs, you can fundraise your volunteer fee. And luckily, NYU Stern was kind enough to award me with a social impact stipend to help fund a portion of my trip to Kenya this past January.
I get that it may be hard for some people to fundraise money for these trips. This is where budgeting comes in. Always plan for the worst; if you think a trip might cost you $1000 (after fundraising), call it $1500 to be safe. This way, you have a savings goal and you know you will be able to afford your trip.
The majority of my college career, I've worked over 20 hours per week even with a full course-load, with the exception of my freshman fall (only 12 hours) and my two semesters abroad (although I'm hoping to work here in Oz). My junior fall, I juggled a paid internship AND a part-time job but luckily I realized how dumb that was and only kept the internship in the spring. It wasn't easy at all. But again, it allowed me to save and made me realize how precious money is. Not to mention I absolutely loved my internship and wouldn't have traded a minute of it for anything else.
Regardless, these volunteer trips were really important to me and there's rarely been a time in NYC where I've spent over $12 for a meal. I never really go out clubbing or drinking, either. That alone has allowed me to save heaps. Finding low-cost alternatives to dorms at NYU has also allowed me to save a lot. So with the extra money, I chose to further my education through traveling and helping people. It's something I really enjoy and something I know will be much more difficult for me to do when I enter the "real-world" next May.
Studying Abroad in London.
During my time in London I was really tight for cash. I had a bit saved up from working and I also was awarded a study abroad scholarship. I REALLY had to keep a tight budget. So using excel, I kept track of every single expenditure I made. You'll be shocked on how much I spent those 4 months, including my springbreak and weekend getaways. Ready for this?? $2701.56 . Yes, two-thousand seven-hundred and one dollars and fifty-six cents. Yes, obviously that doesn't include my housing, but it included everything else. In retrospect, were there things I missed out on? Definitely. Could I have done more culturally engaging things? Absolutely. Did I still get the full study abroad experience? Yes, I think so. I probably could've afforded to spend more, probably even $800 more. But I went about it the wrong way. I was more worried about spending as little as possible, rather than allotting a monthly spending amount and staying within that limit.
How did I do this? Well, in London I did a lot of grocery shopping, rarely ate out, took a Shakespeare theatre course (with free admission to different shows), kept entertainment expenditures low and took advantage of many of the free cultural shows and activities. You can still see plenty even when on a budget.
For my travels, I stayed in THE CHEAPEST hostels possible. And if you're looking to travel to a beautiful country for super low cost, Poland is a great choice. I think I spent about $5-$10 per night on a hostel in each city there. Also look into the possibility of night buses - buses, while they take forever, are super cheap. If you can sleep on a bus, it's worth taking a night bus, saving you time and money for a hostel.
It's a Learning Experience.
If I could go back to my semester in London, that would be one thing I'd change. However, there is a flip side to my story and those horror stories of people spending thousands over their planned budgets. Yeah, don't do that. That's not fun.
This time around, I'm giving myself $200 a week MAX to spend and whatever I don't use will go toward my trips. Luckily, this semester I have a little more leeway and more saved up, so I'm planning on $2500 for Melbourne (Though it will most likely be around $1500-$1750, leaving more for my trips) and $2500 for Uluru, Sydney, New Zealand, Cairns and Great Ocean Road.
When All is Said and Done.
So the short answer to the aforementioned, dreaded question is as follows. Thanks to scholarships, student loans, part-time jobs, and help from my parents when they can afford it, I have been blessed with these amazing opportunities to travel.
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