The Couch hub of activity for international and local students

FROM movie nights and dance lessons to free student hair cuts, hospitality training courses and even volunteering opportunities, Tracy Pham discovers the charm of the inner-city hangout for international students that has become increasingly attractive to local students too. 

International student lounge, The Couch.

Photo: Wan Shing Lang

Part of a long-running Salvation Army project, The Couch is a place to socialise, meet new people or just relax with a game of pool or a round of video games.

Located on Bourke St, it was originally intended to be an  inner-city hangout for international students to gather and feel at home, but it’s become popular with local students too.

Inside, it’s all brick wall interiors, polished concrete floors, wooden booths and plenty of tables. In the corner, a television is mounted surrounded by couches.

International student lounge, The Couch

Photo: Wan Shing Lang

There’s a vibrant energy inside this grungy warehouse type space, and perhaps that’s what draw so many people through its doors.

From English classes to hip hop dance lessons and parties to movie nights, all the activities at The Couch are free and open to everyone who stops by. If you’re lucky enough to come on the right day, you can even help someone celebrate their birthday. The Couch hosts regular birthday parties for international students, cake and all.

The Couch manager Peter Hichaaba with Meld reporter Tracy Pham.

The Couch manager Peter Hichaaba with Meld reporter Tracy Pham. Photo: Wan Shing Lang

As well as entertainment, The Couch also offers plenty of free or affordable services. There are computers and free internet access, free student hair cuts, free hospitality training courses and volunteering opportunities like helping the homeless. You can also get free hot drinks and free meals.

Manager Peter Hichaaba says The Couch was opened to meet international students’ needs in as many ways as possible. It’s not just a hangout, but also a place where they can learn new skills and get some experience.

“We realise how difficult it can be for a new international student who come here without any work experience and that is why we offer volunteer opportunities and free classes,” he says.

“It’s also simply a great environment to spend your evenings after class, make connections and get to know lovely friends from all over the world.”

The Couch is next door to the Salvation Army shop on Bourke Street. Photo: Tracy Pham

The Couch is next door to the Salvation Army shop on Bourke Street. Photo: Wan Shing Lang

So next time you’re looking for a place to chill, take a seat at The Couch and meet some of your fellow international and local students.

The Couch is open Monday to Thursday from 5pm to 9pm. You can find it at 69 Bourke St (between Spring and Exhibition streets).