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Things you wish you knew earlier as an international student in Melbourne

Meld Magazine

Mon Jan 19 2015


FROM the serious to the whimsical things in life, Gabriella Ariffin shares some of the things she wish she knew from day one as an international student. And for those new to Melbourne, maybe this could help you. 


I have been studying, working and living in Melbourne for more than three years. It has been a really fun and inspiring adventure, and a decision I know I will never regret. However, looking back at my first couple of months in Melbourne, I wonder if I could have made my experience even more fulfilling?

I wish I knew…

  • The importance of having friends besides people from my own country. Not only would one have more opportunities to converse in English, but also a more interesting and diverse social circle.


  • The importance of using the word “please” when placing an order. Failing to do so would make one come across as being extremely rude, especially to the locals.
  • To explore Melbourne’s lanes and alleyways. Some of the best restaurants and cafes are hidden within!
  • Less is sometimes more. There are so many thrift shops and markets in Melbourne, and cheap eats too!


  • To choose substance over form when buying an umbrella. Melbourne’s strong winds will flip and break a pretty but cheap brollie in a matter of seconds – only the sturdiest of umbrellas will do.
  • Stores close way earlier in Melbourne and pondering what to do after hours can be both rewarding and challenging!

I wish I had …

  • More courage to talk to my classmates and lecturers at university.
  • Equipped myself with better cooking and housekeeping skills to survive living by myself overseas…
  • And with that, wish I had learnt to cook my favourite dishes from home so I didn’t have to wait months to fulfil my silly cravings.


  • Respected and appreciated my parents and family more, because it’s only when you’re overseas and alone that you truly learn to value their presence in your life.


  • Ventured further out of the city to explore the other parts of Victoria.

I wish there were, during my time…

Photo: Lupita Djody

Photo: Lupita Djody

  • The option to experience more of Melbourne and extend my stay here through the temporary graduate visa.
  • Shops and familiar brands such as Uniqlo, H&M, Top Shop and MUJI so easily accessible in the heart of the city.
  • The mushrooming of Asian eateries across the city, and Hot Star Large Fried Chicken in particular, to quickly satiate my Taiwanese snacks cravings

What are some things you wish you could tell yourself when you first came to Melbourne?