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Was moving to Melbourne all that you expected?

Trinity College Foundation Studies

Fri Mar 18 2016

moving to melbourne experiences

HEADING overseas to study or work is a major upheaval, with unspoken expectations and the stress of adapting to a culture very different to your own. Trinity College Foundation Studies students Karen Huang, Sonia Chan and Stephanie Lam presents a collection of stories from those who have taken the leap of faith to study or work in Melbourne.

Sat Naing Aung, Myanmar

Time in Melbourne: 5 months

Sat, a young adult from Myanmar, had always imagined Melbourne was a “very nice city because it [was] ranked the most liveable city in world”.

What he didn’t realise was just how multicultural Melbourne was. He was shocked to find a wide variety of Asian food and restaurants in Melbourne.

Then there were the festivals and celebrations, which surprised him even more.

One of the most memorable was Melbourne Cup Day. He certainly didn’t expect having “a (public) holiday just for a horse race!”

Five months on in Melbourne, Sat is still learning to adapt to all the cultural differences. He finds Melbourne a welcoming place to study, and he likes it a lot.

Pham Minh Hoang, Vietnam

Pham Minh Hoang. Photo: Karen Huang

Pham Minh Hoang. Photo: Karen Huang

Time in Melbourne: 5 months

“A big modern, crowded and busy city like New York” was how Hoang, an 18-year-old from Vietnam, imagined Melbourne would be. But as he later discovered, size aside, Melbourne wasn’t as busy as he thought.

He was especially shocked to learn that trams accounted for a big part of Melbourne’s transportation network. “There is no tram in my country,” he says.

Other things that surprised him were Melbourne’s unpredictable weather and how the sun seems to set at different times from one day to the next.

Nonetheless, it’s a city he loves living in.

Ma Yi Ying, Singapore

Ma Yi Ying. Photo: Karen Huang

Ma Yi Ying. Photo: Karen Huang

Time in Melbourne: 6 months

From Singapore, 18-year-old Yi Ying “was full of anticipation and excitement” as she stepped out of the Melbourne airport six months go.

The biggest change she had to get used to was Melbourne’s four seasons in a day.

While she had mentally prepared herself for Melbourne’s chilly weather, she found the unpredictable weather frustrating and made deciding on the right thing to wear a headache. She also sometimes feared being “blown away” at times by Melbourne’s gusty winds.

The city was also a lot more multicultural and urban than she had imagined, but still less crowded than Singapore.

When it comes to transport, she has enjoyed a new routine of walking – which she says helps her save and keeps her fit.

Dianne Armstrong, Philippines 

Dianne Armstrong. Photo: Karen Huang

Dianne Armstrong. Photo: Karen Huang

Time in Melbourne: 1 year

A literature teacher at Trinity College, Dianne’s first experience of Melbourne was as a visitor.

She was in Melbourne for a holiday over the Christmas of 2009, and having arrived without “concrete expectations in mind”, she was thrilled to experience the picturesque side of Melbourne.

She thoroughly enjoyed the city’s thriving street art and performance scene, which she lists as a “striking feature of Melbourne”.

Having spent 12 months in Melbourne, Dianne says she now feels more at home in Melbourne, though visiting a new place or experiencing something new always makes Melbourne feel like a whole new place for her, again.

Raema Albita Nikijuluw, Indonesia

Time in Melbourne: 5 months

Having lived in the bustling Indonesian capital of Jakarta, Melbourne was a huge change for 18-year-old Raema.

She found the city relatively quiet compared to Jakarta.

Her initial expectations were that the streets of Melbourne would be “crowded and there will be a lot of attractions”, but as it turned out, the crowds were nothing like the throngs she was used to at home.

Probably the most unexpected discovery was to find out just how culturally diverse Melbourne was – and how many people had, like her, travelled overseas to study, live or work.

Something she loves about the city is the environment – and she has come to appreciate Melbourne’s cleanliness and tranquility.

Mary Ferguson, UK

Time in Melbourne: 9 years

Mary’s first experience of Melbourne was also during Christmas. She had made the move from London nine years ago with her family, and her first thoughts at the time were that “the city was relatively empty”.

Unfortunately, it was only traffic free because it was the holiday season. Mary recalls that “the traffic built up towards the school return date and [I] realised Melbourne has the same traffic problems as anywhere. Worse.”

Having spent almost a decade in Melbourne, she thinks it is a easy city to live in. Even though “there are definite downsides – public transport is terrible and walking in the CBD is not enjoyable with very cluttered pavements and cyclists on paths”, there are lovely parks, nice building, and most importantly it is safe.

Mary also adores the fact that there’s plenty of music and art to be found in Melbourne, and it only takes about an hour to get to the beautiful countryside and the coast.

Grace Chang, Macau

Grace Chang. Photo: Stephanie Lam

Grace Chang. Photo: Stephanie Lam

Time in Melbourne: 8 months

Having travelled miles from her hometown in Macau for an education here in Australia, Grace says she is settling well in Melbourne.

Like many others, the 18-year-old was surprised by Melbourne’s diversity, and was even more surprised to find a vibrant Asian culture in the city.

Her biggest gripe about Melbourne is probably the cost of living, and getting used to the food served at her hostel.

That said, she saw Melbourne as an ideal place to pursue an education.

Michael Hee Yeon Lee, Korea

Michael Hee Yeon Lee. Photo: Karen Huang

Michael Hee Yeon Lee. Photo: Karen Huang

Time in Melbourne: 5 months

Stepping off the plane from Korea, Michael thought he would be greeted by “kangaroos and koalas everywhere outside the airport”, though of course the urban reality was very different from what he imagined.

The little things about life in Australia also surprised him – such as drinking water straight from the tap. In Korea, every household used a water purifier for drinking water.

Reflecting on the past five months, Michael thinks he is adjusting quite well, though he admits boredom sometimes creeps in, as the biggest thing he has had to get used to is a city that is much quieter compared to city life in Korea.

What were your first experiences coming to Melbourne? Was it what you expected? Share your stories and surprises with us in the comments section below. 

This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via