MOVING to a new country can be both exciting and challenging. Andrea Saputra shares his experience of his first days in Melbourne – disasters and all.
So I’m really in Melbourne!
Those were my first thoughts as I stepped out of Flinders St Station. Light-headed and disoriented, I looked around for signs of the only street name I knew – Swanston St.
At the busy intersection, I stopped for a moment, admiring St Paul’s Cathedral across the street before being swept up in the steady stream of busy pedestrians. My journey had begun.
The night before, my final minutes in my hometown were hectic to say the least. Little did I know, the roller coaster ride was about to continue in Melbourne.
The drama began with my luggage. Unknowingly, I had packed way too much into my bag, forcing me to unload a good number of items twice – once at home and once at the airport. Frantically, I randomly pulled stuff out, handing them to my parents before sprinting through the check-in and immigration desk minutes before departure time. It was a rough start and I couldn’t sleep on the flight. Tired and groggy, what happened next was a blur up until I arrived at my new home in Glen Iris.
After a warm welcome from my house parents and a short tour around the accommodation, I was settling into my bedroom. I wanted to send a text to my family when I realised the signal bars on my phone were completely gone. And just like that, I scrapped my plans of taking a short nap . Instead, I took a shower, brushed my teeth and made my way to Melbourne CBD for three important tasks:
1. Open a bank account
2. Buy a local SIM card
3. Register at uni
Minutes after finding my way back into the city, I discovered a bank and a convenience store within walking distance. Bank account?… check! SIM card?… check! I only had one thing left to do and I was home free.
After a short stop at KFC (my first meal in Melbourne), I stood in a long line with fellow new students waiting to register for uni. When it was finally my turn, I handed my documents, including my passport, to the guy at the registration desk. We exchanged thank yous and I left the desk, chit-chatting with some students before heading home for a well-deserved and long-awaited nap.
I woke up before 7 that evening, just in time for dinner. I met my housemates and watched Masterchef with them before returning to my room – my very small room. It was so cramped, I could barely walk around without bumping into my suitcases so I decided to unpack them so I could put the luggage into a corner and more importantly, put my documents in a safe place.
But when I emptied my bag, to my horror, my passport wasn’t in there!
I couldn’t remember when I had seen it last. I might have dropped it at uni. But what if I had dropped it at the train station or somewhere else? In my panic, I told my house mum about my missing passport and asked her if I should call the university.
She jokingly responded that there’d be no point as everyone would be at home watching Masterchef.
It wasn’t the response I wanted to hear. But now, having had more time to reflect, maybe humour was her way of dealing with a tense situation. But back then, all I felt was paranoia. What if someone bad found my passport? What would they do with my personal information?
I called my parents and they were surprisingly calm.”So what? It’s not the end of the world,” they said. I would just have to report it to the consulate general and apply for a new one. Thanks to their rational response, I got some sleep that night. But the next morning, I was on a city-bound train by 8am, eager to reclaim what I’d lost.
My first stop was the university. The registration desk only opened at 9am and I was lucky because there were only a few students in the line before me. But the guy who had helped me with my registration the day before wasn’t there.
A lady offered to assist me though and I told her about my missing passport. She asked her colleagues but no one knew anything about it.Finally, she asked me to leave my number so she could contact me if something came up .
After that failed attempt, I immediately called the only friend I knew in Melbourne and asked him for directions to the consulate general, my next destination. But when I hung up, I saw I had a message – someone had just left me a voicemail.
“We found your passport,” the lady in the recording said. It was the woman from the university.
I couldn’t be more relieved. I ran back to the registration desk, happy to have found my documents at last. Apparently, I had forgotten to reclaim my passport from the man who had helped register me the day before – and he hadn’t remembered to return it to me either. After thanking the women who had helped me find the passport multiple times, I wasted no time in passing on the happy news to my parents and friend by texts.
And then it occurred to me, why didn’t the guy inform me immediately that he had my passport?
I lingered around the registration desk for almost 20 minutes before heading home. I couldn’t get over the fact that I had handed this guy a whole bunch of documents with my number and email on it and he’d done nothing to contact me. He could have even shouted after me from his desk that I had left my passport behind. He could have called or emailed me the moment he realised I’d left it. Was that too much to ask?
I’m not playing the “customer is king” card here but I was indeed a customer – a brand new one – one that had just flown across the ocean the night before to be here. He could have saved me 24 hours of panic and paranoia.
Luckily, the incident didn’t spoil my new university experience. It was not the way I would have liked to start my new life in a new country, but I still loved my uni.
That being said, if looks could kill, that guy would be lying on the floor every time I walk pass that registration desk.
Do you remember your first days in Melbourne? Did anything disastrous happen? Share your stories with us!