THE International Students Day at the Footy was a chance for foreign students to connect with Australia through one of the nation’s most beloved sports. Olivia Merlen checked it out.
A fistful of tickets in one hand and Melbourne Demons flags in the other, Gavin Chang came prepared to welcome a group of international students to the Melbourne Cricket Grounds – a first for many of them.
It was August 5, the International Students Day at the Footy, a joint initiative between La Trobe University and the Melbourne Football Club to expose foreign students to one of Australia’s most-loved sports – for free.
Australian rules football, invented here in Melbourne and played almost exclusively in Australia, isn’t something most international students would be familiar with. It’s played on an oval shaped field and involves dribbling, marking, and kicking.
Monash University student Gavin was volunteering at the event, and wanted the international students to enjoy it. It wasn’t going to be just a sports game, but also a chance for them to be immersed in an aspect of Australian life.
“Sunday was a great opportunity for international students who never attended a game to have a shot at it,” says Mauritian-born Gavin.
“This kind of event…encourages students to get out of their books, breathe some fresh air, and in this particular case get a feel of this popular local game.”
It was Chinese international student Ran Zhang’s first footy experience as the Melbourne Demons destroyed the Gold Coast Suns 108-66.
Even though she wasn’t familiar with the rules, all it took was the crowd’s enthusiasm to get her into the game.
“I could feel the passion from the viewers and I could hear them yelling and shouting and whistling. And I started to yell and shout as well when someone scored.”
It was quite a sight to behold, and Ran says she’d love to attend more games in future.
“Coming to Australia is like an adventure, and attending this kind of event is like being invited into the Australian culture,” she enthuses.