The Best Place To Study Abroad From UW-Madison
Orientation Week, also known as O-Week started at Monash University on February 16th and went all the way to March 4th, our first day of class (so, I guess it’s actually longer than a week). Since I was doing some traveling before I moved in to our residency hall, I missed the first day. However, that was mostly just free meals and tours of our hall, so I didn’t miss out on too much.
Roast Dinner & Movie Night
On the 17th, we had a roast dinner down in the Long Room, which is basically a room with a kitchen and some seating where students can hang out on the first floor. We all brought down our own plates and silverware to eat and socialize with our new neighbors for the semester while the Room Advisors for each floor introduced themselves and went through an information session for new residents.
I happen to be on the 9th floor, so I have an incredible view of the sunset over the city each night. After dinner, there was a movie night in the theatre downstairs starring the one and only Shrek 2, voted on by popular demand.
Chadstone Shopping Centre
On the 18th, we were awaken by an announcement that brekky was ready down in the Long Room. Breakfast is ready for us each morning of orientation week, which is really great for us poor college kids. I had some toast with vegemite, which isn’t as terrible as some people make it seem, but I also will definitely not be making that a staple in my Aussie diet. After brekky, we grabbed our Myki’s (transportation cards) and set off for Chadstone Shopping Centre, the largest mall in the Southern Hemisphere.
Though I didn’t have anything specific to buy, I went to check it out. The shopping centre reminded me a lot of Mall of America and had many of the same shops, like Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works and Sephora. That night, we attended a mandatory session called “Alcocups and Sexpectations” and then enjoyed a greek dinner.
Study Abroad Orientation & Night Out At the Hawthorn Hotel
On the 19th, my residency hall had breakfast and then a campus scavenger hunt on the schedule. However, I had to attend study abroad orientation and sign up for my classes, so sadly I was not able to participate in those. We began orientation with a pancake breakfast equipped with lattes and time to socialize with the other world travelers.
I met people from the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Norway, Malaysia and Canada. It was so fun to see the diversity of people coming together under one label: Monash Abroad Students. After orientation, I headed back to Howitt Hall for Mexican Dinner, Karaoke, and then a Night Out At the Hawthorn Hotel. Hawkas was pretty far away from us, so we all hopped into Ubers to get to the uni night.
City Adventuring Ft. Victoria Night Market
On the 20th, we had quidditch/ games day, however I wasn’t too keen on that and decided to take a trip to the city of Melbourne instead, as our campus is a little more on the outskirts. I love this city because it is so full of culture and you really need to get lost to be found. Literally, I had yet to receive my Australian SIM card, so I was not able to use my phone to find anything unless I connected to a dodgy WiFi.
In Melbourne, if you cannot find your way, you may end up at a small cafe hidden in the alleyway or a speakeasy hidden inside of another shop. That night, I headed over to the Victoria Night Market, which goes on through the summer and I absolutely loved it. There were small shops where you could buy clothing or jewelry, tons of food that was cooking over the fire in front of you, chocolate fountains, sangria–this place was a slice of heaven.
Beach Day & Night At the Nott
On the 21st, we had a day at Mordialloc Beach planned. I signed up for it, but then felt it was too cold (70 degrees fahrenheit) to go to the beach, so I spent the day getting organized and signing up for some of my classes.
Once everyone came back, we had a big pasta dinner and then headed out for a night at The Nott. This place is notorious for uni nights on Thursdays, where they have the same band play live music each week. It was a lot better than Hawthorn Hotel because it was walkable distance and was mostly in an outside area, so it didn’t get as incredibly hot when it filled up.
Food Fights & Moana Under the Stars
On the 22nd, we had Howitt’lympics which was quite frankly disgusting. We were told to wear old clothes and thank god we did, as we went through each station. Some of the horrific tasks were to build a tower of wet, sticky oatmeal on a teammate’s head, sit on a pile of spaghetti, or stick your hand in a bowl of greek yoghurt and corn to find the coins-all while a room advisor went around and threw flour at you. After that catastrophe, we all got cleaned up and headed down to the Moonlit Cinema for a romantic evening of Moana under the stars.
Brandon Park Shopping Centre & Crafternoon
On the 23rd, we upgraded from brekky in the Long Room to brunch in the Courtyard. One thing that’s a little disappointing about Australia is the bacon. No, I’m serious, the bacon is different. It is practically just slices of ham, which is definitely not as heavenly, but it’s fine-I’m fine.
After brunch, we boarded the bus and headed to Brandon Park Shopping Centre. Though this shopping centre does have some shops, I would describe it more as a collection of grocery stores and department stores. You’ll find places like Aldi, Kmart, or Coles here. Once we finished shopping, we made our way back to Howitt for a relaxing ‘crafternoon’ painting pet rocks. For dinner, we were given tokens to try out Halls Cafe, a dining hall right next to our residency and finished the night up with some boardgames (it’s been a minute).
Capture the Flag & BBQ in the Courtyard
On the 24th, we did the impossible-no, seriously. We played Capture the Flag, except the flag was a watermelon and the course went around an entire lake on a 90-degree fahrenheit day. Have you ever tried to run a watermelon that was protected by about 20 athletes around half of a lake in extreme heat? We did. It did not work.
After suffering some minor injuries and a cell phone that surrendered to a rock, then changing the rules three times to try and make it more in the realm of possibilities, we decided to give up and head back to the Long Room and eat the watermelon instead.
I also had a little extra time on this hot day, so I decided to head to Brighton Beach, known for their colorful beach boxes. That night we had a BBQ in the courtyard, which was a little different than I thought. Instead of using hotdog buns for the sausages, we used slices of bread, which is the norm here. It was a bit surprising to me and the other American because slices of bread are usually only used when you forget to buy more groceries.
On the 25th, the MSA Orientation Festival kicked off on the Clayton Campus. This was basically a more confusing [and fun] version of a student organization fair. Hundreds of tents popped up outside and tempted me. I signed up for 5 clubs: Photography Club, Exchange Club, Business Society, Marketing Society and Fashion Club.
In Photography Club, I’ll be able to put my camera to use without looking like too much of a tourist. We have hikes, scavenger hunts and competitions planned for picture-taking. In the exchange club, I’ll be able to meet more students from other countries that are also studying abroad, while getting the chance to travel as much as I can!
Business Society and Marketing Society are great for my major and also provide opportunities for social events where I can meet others in my major as well as network. Lastly, Fashion Club was one of my many interests and fits my major (Retailing & Consumer Behavior) very well. Though this is a newer club on campus, I cannot wait to see what events we do!
UV Glow Party
The MSA Orientation Festival also had a BBQ going on with free drinks and food all week, as well as live music. Most of the booths also had freebies, so I may have done a little something and dyed my hair pink, but-hey- I’m abroad and therefore have to take advantage of all opportunities. Since it only lasts for a week, I can feel like 2007 Avril Lavigne without crying about what I’ve done. After the festival, we headed to the Colonial Hotel in the city to kick off one of the biggest events yet: UV Glow Party.
We arrived fashionably late by about 3 hours and so most of the dye was gone. However, Howitt wasn’t about to leave without getting our white tees a little dirty, so we scooped up cups of the dye from the floor (don’t judge) and threw it at each other under the UV lights. The party was three levels, with the hottest dance floor of my life on the first floor, a balcony overlooking that dance floor on the second and a rooftop bar on the third. We stayed ’til maybe one and then set out into the city to find Macca’s (McDonalds) and an Uber home.
Wominjeka Festival & Unlimited Swipes at the Arcade
On the 26th, the MSA Festival was still going on along with Wominjeka Monash. Wominjeka Monash is the official Welcome to Monash event and there was plenty of food, music and activities as well as Indigenous Australian artists and local Monash student talent. That night, we made my childhood dreams come true at the arcade. Howitt Hall had rented out AMF Bowling and Laser Tag for a private event and gave us all cards, where we could play any game in the entire place for free. Laser Tag and Dodgem (Bumper Cars) were probably my favorite.
Exploring Melbourne’s Brunch
On the 27th, the main event was still the MSA Orientation Festival, so I decided to go on another adventure in the city. I didn’t have any plans as to where I wanted to go, so I just sort of explored until I found something cool to look at. My first stop was in Arcade Lane at Caffe E Torta, where I had some avocado toast and a latte for lunch.
This place was very cute, but very busy. It’s also a bit odd because in Australia tips aren’t a thing, so service is almost less motivated I would say, because your wage does not depend on how happy the customer is. After lunch, I walked back through arcade lane where I found this spiritual shop that drew me in. There were tons of spell books, recipes, and healing rocks as well as a palm reader upstairs that you could book an appointment with (maybe someday).
Athletes and Mathletes
The city was full of street art and unique shops, like this juice bar where I got the special (still not sure what it was, but it was tasty). After walking around for a few hours and exploring, I decided to stop back at the Victoria Night Market for dinner, since it’s only open on Wednesday nights. I tried a greek wrap from one of the stands and it was incredible! I hope to make the trek to this market each week, so I can keep trying something new and delish.
It was getting late, so I figure I’d better head back to residency and get ready for our Athletes & Mathletes party. Everyone in the hall dressed up in their best athlete or mathelete apparel and headed down to the long room for food, drinks and a walk down the runway (couches pushed together) to vote for their favorite costume. Spoiler alert-it wasn’t me. At about 9:30, we all got together and started walking to Dooleys for a fun night near the uni.
Pop-up Carnival & Train Entertainment
On the 28th, the O-Fest was still going, but we also had a carnival at 6:00pm. Literally, they set up rides in the parking lot of our residence hall– I love this place. Dodgem, rock climbing, bungee jumping and more, equipped with popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones made for the perfect pop-up carnival. I ditched out a bit early so I could make it to the first event of our Exchange Club.
We met at Mills Bar in the city and let me tell you, this club does not mess around. We were started off with free shots upon entry and an open bar tab. Here, I met tons of people from all over the world. My favorite conversation was with a guy from Mexico. When asked what his favorite English word was, he said, “Peanuts. I like it because it’s really hard for me to say.” My favorite Spanish word was mantequilla, which literally just means butter, but, hey, it’s fun to say.
An Interesting Subway Ride
I decided to run and catch the last train back, so I wouldn’t need to throw more money out on an Uber and boy, was that an adventure. A man came on and sat right next to me, then pulled a stuffed animal out of his pocket and began to play with it, and then chew on it.
After that, he pulled a water bottle out of his backpack and began to crinkle it as loudly at possible while screaming, “Nooooooo,” every five seconds. For the finale, he pulled an unwrapped, moldy sandwich out of his backpack, set it on the seat, and then zipped it back into a different pocket.
At this point, I couldn’t help but laugh because that sandwich was the last thing I expected him to pull out of that sack. This guy got off a few stops later, but it’s hard to think that he actually knew where he was going. After watching the doors close, I made eye contact with some guy across the isle and he let out a sigh of relief and started laughing. I’m honestly still confused.
Kangaroo For Lunch
On the 29th, it was still extremely hot outside (100 degrees Fahrenheit) and so not much was going on. I had to do a grocery run because all I had left in my fridge was a single carrot. While I was there, I picked up some kangaroo meat because I felt as though I needed to at least try it while I’m down under.
The people who think it’s crazy to eat kangaroos because they’re too cute obviously have never seen the YouTube videos of these monsters squaring up. Kangaroos in Australia are much like deer in Wisconsin: Pests. So, I cooked the game meat up with some steak seasoning and though it was pretty chewy, I actually thought it tasted quite good.
The International Student Festival
That night, I attended the International Student Festival in downtown Melbourne. It’s a huge event that has been touring around the world and I was excited to meet more international students. Upon arrival, we found out that Lil Yachty was there as well–not bad for a $20 ticket. He mostly mixed beats at the front, but did perform some songs at the end of the night.
When he left, I happened to be in a good spot because Lil Yachty shook my hand and no, I am still not over it.
The rest of the days of orientation were pretty chill, as we’ve all been busy running from event to event the past week and some professors had already assigned readings. We were also supposed to have a scavenger hunt in downtown Melbourne, but due to the extreme heat and many of the trains not running, it was cancelled. I have been having such a blast at Monash University so far, and I am excited to see what my classes will be like on Monday. Until then, cheers!
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