Exams are intense at University of Melbourne. At least, that's what I thought earlier this semester when I had my two mid semester exams. A few days before the exams, I was sent emails by my professors indicating my seat assignment. The exam hall on campus probably held about 500 numbered desks all in rows. No bags were allowed to be brought in and proctors constantly walked up and down the aisles. It was intimidating. But after having two final exams, I've decided the final exam process is on a whole different level of intensity.
At NYU, I've never once had assigned seating for an exam. I'd just show up, usually at the room where classes were held, and take the exam. No big exam hall, no scary proctors and no seat assignment. Simple. Exactly the opposite of how University of Melbourne does exams.
Before SWOT Vac, I checked my student portal to find out when and where my exams were. I was pleased with the spacing of my exams. But on closer observation, I noticed that my exams were located at the Royal Exhibition Building. This building is not on campus. In fact, it's not a University of Melbourne building at all. It's actually one of the world's oldest exhibition pavilions and is World Heritage listed. Luckily, when my friends and I go to British Crown every Sunday for $3 pizzas, we walk by the building, so I knew exactly how to get there.
I also noticed the seat numbers. Seat number 2772. That meant I would be with at least 2771 other students sitting in a room, taking an exam. Mind blown.
I had essentially the same experience Monday as I did today. I arrived to Carlton Gardens around 8:05am. There was already a huge herd of anxious students waiting outside the doors guarded by exam proctors. I didn't bother to bring a bag this time. It took me about 15 minutes on Monday to finally get in the trailer where the bags were kept, get my bag and get out. So all I had on me this morning was my phone, wallet and a few pens. I was listening to music, relaxing as I stood waiting to be let inside the building. All of the sudden a guy elbowed me really hard. I glared at him, but obviously it did no good because he was oblivious to everything else in the world besides getting as close as he could to the exam doors. Chill out man, it's just an exam. There were 3000 other students who were just as eager to get in, there was no prize for getting in first.
When the doors finally opened, it was madness. People were pushing to get in. PUSHING TO GET INTO AN EXAM HALL. Again, mind blown. If anyone were to have fallen, they would've gotten trampled and one would've noticed. It was crazy. Think getting into Walmart on Black Friday first thing when they open. That kind of crazy.
After getting inside, all I could hear above the murmur of students was "NO BAGS, LEAVE YOUR BAGS OUTSIDE." And all I could see were desks. Desks upon desks upon desks. About 3000 of them. All in perfect lines. This morning, I was conveniently in the front row and didn't have to look hard for my seat. After sitting, I looked up and noticed pretty murals on the walls and ceiling. The Royal Exhibition Hall is beautiful, but now, it will always be tainted in my memory from the stressful hours I've spent slaving over exams.
No need to write your name on the front of your exam booklet, you're known as your student number. Another interesting difference. I don't think there's ever been a time where I haven't written my name on an exam. Ever. At 8:15, reading time was announced. Reading time is optional and allows you to flip through the questions and start figuring out how to answer them. During the 15 minutes of reading time, students continued to flock in.
At 8:30, the exam officially started. It was unbelievable how quiet a big hall with 3000 students could be. All you could hear were pens and pencils writing and the rustle of paper. It was actually kind of cool.
This exam was much easier than the exam I had on Monday and I was done within an hour. Conveniently, since the proctors walked by constantly, I was able to grab the attention of one and get checked out of the exam. She placed a little green card over the number on the desk, indicating my exam was finished and I left.
Thoughts on the Process.
The exam system at Melbourne Uni is completely different from what I've experienced at NYU. It's definitely time efficient - about 10 exams are administered at one sitting I believe. And from my two experiences so far, it seems virtually impossible to cheat on an exam. After already going through three years of uni, it was a shock experiencing such a different exam process. However, if I experienced only this process from the start, I think it would've been easy to get used to and better in the long run. I think cheating on exams is a problem in America, and I've seen it happen during my time at NYU. It's really not fair and that's what this system is ultimately meant to do - give everyone a fair assessment where no one has an advantage whatsoever.
Last month I went home with Zac for a weekend to Ballarat. It was about an hour and a half by train from Melbourne and was a nice getaway from the city for the weekend. His family was lovely and it was nice to have a home-cooked meal for a change, too. I think it's definitely worth visiting the smaller, lesser known cities in the country you're studying in because there is still a lot to take away from those cities, too, in addition to the well-known cities.
The Ballarat Gold Rush!
Ballarat played a big part in the Victorian Gold Rush back in the 1850's and Ballarat has a well-known outside museum called Sovereign Hill which recreates the Gold Rush era. It's a big tourist attraction for the city.
While I didn't have the chance to go there, the highlight of the weekend was definitely going to the Ballarat Wildlife Park. I was able to pet multiple kangaroos, an emu, a koala and a snake. I was able to essentially see all of the Australian wildlife (finally) in one place!
At first, the kangaroos seemed really scary - some were pretty big!! I didn't have food to give them, so once I went near them and they figured out I had no food, they lost interest and laid back down. Some made some really cute faces. There were a few joeys and we came across one kangaroo with a joey in its pouch. It was actually pretty scary looking, because just the tail and one foot was hanging out of the pouch.
When we were looking at the koalas, there was one that had a little baby koala attached to its front. It's the same way monkeys carry their babies - it was so cute!
And of course the emu. I was afraid to touch it at first because their beaks look extremely sharp and I didn't feel like getting pecked! But once Zac pet one, I pet it and it was fine. Apparently emus make a deep sound, almost like drums, when they're walking around. It was pretty cool, but pretty weird, too! It wasn't a sound I expected them to make.
Casually Playing UNO... At the Bar
Of course, I had to experience the Ballarat nightlife. So we went to one of the karaoke bars to meet up with some of Zac's friends on Saturday night. By the end of the night, hard core games of UNO were being played... at the bar. I'm pretty sure I can say that is both the first and last time I will ever see or take part in a game of UNO at a bar.
All in all, it was an interesting weekend and I'm happy I made the trip out to Ballarat! Below are a few more pictures from the park!
I've been a bit preoccupied with life lately and thoroughly enjoying my time in Australia. As a result, this post has been a long time coming. A few of the highlights of the past couple of weeks include another night spent at the Luna1878 night market, an australian gig and a trip with friends to Phillip Island.
The next weekend, I went on a trip to Phillip Island with 7 others. We rented a private beach house. It was a nice break from Melbourne and the city, although I do wish we could've stayed longer. We spent a lot of time down on the beach. We went for walks, played catch, played soccer and a couple of guys brought a guitar and mandolin. The weather was PERFECT for being the first couple days of spring! I even went into the ocean. It was a bit chilly though. On Saturday night we went down to see the Fairy Penguins, also known as little penguins. They we TINY but so cute!!! It was so awesome seeing them wash up on the shore then waddle through the rocks to get to their burrows. We also saw a kangaroo up on the hill while we we watching the penguins - my first kangaroo sighting! Overall, It was just an amazing weekend spent with amazing people. Definitely one of the highlights of my time here so far.
While going for a run in the park a few weekends ago, I noticed there are TONS of wild parrots in Melbourne. They're noisy, but beautiful. I knew there were parrots here, but I didn't actually see them until then. They drove the dogs in the park nuts - they stopped at the bottom of the tree and kept barking at them. I've seen quite a few more since then - they seem to be out closer to dusk, it's interesting!
I'm falling more and more in love with Australia every day and this has been one of the best decisions of my life deciding to come here. I can't complain about a single thing, this place is awesome.
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.
Royal Melbourne Hospital Tunnels & Towers.
We were able to go underneath the hospital and learned that the underground tunnels connect the Royal Melbourne Hospital to both the Children's Hospital and the University of Melbourne. Even engineers get lost in the tunnels sometime and need maps to help orient themselves. When it comes to power, it is EXTREMELY unlikely for the facility to actually lose power. They have backup diesel generators in addition to uninterruptible power supply. We saw one of the diesel generators - it was HUGE! Afterward, I went to check out the helipad and got a great view of the city.
Melbourne City Baths.
I wanted to check this place out, but I got there before they had their "open house" and I didn't want to wait. Looks pretty cool from the outside though!
No. 1 Spring Street.
This building was pretty cool in that all of its support is on granite pillars 15 meters apart surrounding the building. Each office space is able to have windows due to the way the building stands. We were able to go up to the 15th floor to get a spectacular view of the Treasury Gardens, the Treasury Reserve and St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Old Treasury Building.
This building had tons of history, from Victoria's initial gold rush to infamous criminal cases involving Squizzy Taylor and Colin Ross. They currently have an exhibition on display called "Built on Gold" showcasing the gold vaults built. However, since the Old Treasury Building was built after the initial gold rush, it's believed that it didn't hold half as much gold as was intended.
There was also a really nice guy who lived in Santa Barbara for 20 years dressed as a tram conductor, handing out old tickets and pennies. He wants to bring back tram conductors and get rid of the Myki!
On this tour we got to take a look at the Federal buildings along Treasury Place. We were able to walk inside 2 Treasury Place and view the staircase which was once taken out, just to be put back in years later. There was also pretty stained glass windows in that building, too. Then we checked out 3 Treasury Place which has a heritage staircase. When they reconstructed the building, they could not take out the stairs, so instead they sit in a corner, roped off as they cannot be used. How strange! Then we saw another building which stored surveys and on the outside, they had these steel plates which they would pull over all of the windows at night to make sure fires wouldn't start and destroy all of the information. We also saw where the printing press used to be - it printed tickets from the 1956 Olympic Games!
An interesting looking building, this building used to hold boarders coming to visit Melbourne. The different rooms were very elegant and the city worked hard to keep Tasma Terrace intact when there were plans of demolition for an office building. This was also the site of the "Parliament Place Tragedy." Edith Jane Forrester Jubb allegedly murdered herself with two bullet shots to the head. There was controversy on whether it was actually suicide though since the gun was found in her left hand and she was right handed. Lots of interesting stuff.
St. Patrick's Cathedral.
I'm not really a big fan of churches, but every big church I've ever gone in has amazed me. This church was no different. Beautiful from both the outside and inside. The ceilings were cavernous and the stained glass windows were beautiful, everything you would expect a church to have! I'm not sure if it's just me or what, but do all churches smell the same? I'm pretty sure St. Patrick's Cathedral smells exactly like Notre Dame in Paris.
Intercontinental Hotel The Rialto.
This was really cool because both the Rialto and the Winfield were built between 1890 and 1891. They were listed as heritage sites and could not be demolished. Therefore, when remodeled, the buildings were connected into a hotel with an atrium and the outer bricks of each building still visible. The hydraulic lifts can still be seen in Winfield, which was used for wool storage. The urinals on site have been preserved, too, in order to keep it's social history!
A day well spent!
All in all, it was a great day of exploring Melbourne and its culture and architecture. I think it's great that they have something like this and it was amazing to see all of the people taking advantage of it. I'm happy the city works so hard to preserve all of its older buildings and the history behind them. Below are some more pictures from my day - enjoy!
Class registration and enrolment.
I still can't get over how beautiful this campus is.
After checking out the Student Services Fair yesterday and getting tons of free stuff, including candy, a planner, brochures and this lovely freebie from STA, I decided to take a walk downtown and explore a little more.
My favorite part of my walk - Hosier Lane!
If you don't wear a helmet, you get fined!
If you don't wear a helmet while riding a bicycle in Melbourne, you get a hefty fine over a hundred dollars. I honestly just thought this helmet vending machine was the coolest thing ever though!
My thoughts, opinions and observations so far.
That's it for now, hope you enjoy the pictures!!
Twenty-one hours in a plane.
After a long, long, long time in a plane, I finally made it to Melbourne on a sunny Sunday morning! And for once, I didn't hear a single crying baby on the flight! Before boarding my flight, I wasn't sure how I would get from the airport to RMIT Village, my home away from home for the next four months. I was unaware there was a free shuttle for exchange students run by the University of Melbourne, but thanks to a fellow NYU student, I was able to get on the shuttle instead of dealing with the hassle of hiring a taxi. Crisis averted!
Brrrr, this is not how I pictured weather to be in July!
When I left NYC there was an excessive heat warning and the temperature was about 100 degrees with high humidity. Walking out of the airport was a bit chilly - only 55 degrees. In the sun, it's actually really comfortable. I mean, at least I can walk around without dripping sweat.
Although the space is small, I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into my room at RMIT Village. Lots of shelf and closet space, so it's perfect. Although, after being here a day, I've discovered there is no heat, so it's pretty much like living in Antarctica. Luckily, it will get warm soon and it won't be a problem. First thing I did? Shower. And it was AMAZING! The first shower after long flights is honestly THE BEST!
Although I was tired, after showering and unpacking I decided to walk around a bit with a couple of people on the shuttle I was on. First stop: Queen Victoria Market. There was SO MUCH STUFF! From clothes to shoes to wine to fuits and meats, there was EVERYTHING! One stop shopping pretty much! Unfortunately, I didn't take out any Australian money before I went, so I'll have to go back tomorrow and buy some fresh fruit! We walked further into the city and I was surprised at how many 7-elevens there are here! And we only saw one Starbucks! And I was shocked last fall when I saw a Max Brenner's in Boston, so imagine how shocked I was when I saw one here in Melbourne!
You think New York City is expensive?? Come to Melbourne then!
And I thought things were expensive in NYC. I paid A$28 for soap, shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste at the Big W (can't figure out if it is most like K-Mart or Walmart). It is going to be a LONG 4 months on a college student budget. Even this morning when I had a slice of banana bread and orange juice from a cafe, I paid A$9! I definitely need to stock up on groceries and inexpensive fruits and veggies from the QVM and limit eating out.
Orientation at UniMelb!
After sleeping 12 hours, I felt rested and ready for the first day of orientation. The orientation sessions today covered the basics of school and life at Melbourne and how to enrol in classes tomorrow. Oh yeah, and minimum wage here is A$18. I'm definitely considering getting a part-time job, but I definitely have a lot of things to consider first. I definitely want to focus on my studies and getting to experience Australia to the fullest.
The University of Melbourne is great - it actually has a campus!! Coming from NYU, it's just perfect. It's something that I feel I really need to experience for at least a semester. It's great going to NYU and having the city as our campus, but actually having a set square containing the campus is something that will be nice. Some of the buildings are really old and pretty, too! More pictures to come!
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