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Student stories: My love letter to Melbourne

Stevi Lee

Wed Apr 12 2017


For many, studying abroad in Melbourne might be their first experience as an international student but for me, this was my third.

The first time I studied in a different country was when I left my home of Ngabang, Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia to pursue my senior high school education in Malaysia. I lived in Kuching at the time but my first experience studying overseas didn’t feel as liberating or adventurous as I had hoped. My older brother and my cousins were also at that same school which meant I was still with family. The only big change I experienced in that time came down to language; I communicated in English every day, sometimes Mandarin too.

Two and a half years later, I was packing my bags again but not to another country. Instead, I was moving from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital. Here, I got but a taste of the international student experience I was after: I met diverse people (not just in terms of race but in perspective and culture too) and stayed up late for the mamak stalls (hawker food). I had an amazing time in KL but it wasn’t what I was after.

And then the chance to study in Melbourne, Australia came.

Living in another Southeast Asian country as an Indonesian was one thing but moving to a country so radically different from my own was another.

… the biggest thing I gained in coming to Melbourne was seeing the diversity of the world in the city.

I came to Melbourne two years ago with excitement. I knew I had to once again leave my comfort zone, adapt to a whole new society, create new friendships and move my life from one place to the next, but I was even more excited by the possibilities and opportunities that Melbourne presented.

And indeed, being in Melbourne fulfilled all my expectations as an international student and more. To break away from small-townNgabangand come to a beautiful and welcoming city like Melbourne was more than I could ask for. Its friendly people, the city’s artsy lanes, trams, and great, great coffee made it even easier to want to stay here forever (if only!).

I embraced every opportunity that came my way with an positive attitude. During my two years of study in Melbourne, I was not only introduced to the Australian way of living but also learned about other cultures such as the Spanish and Chinese cultures. I discovered more about my own culture through many of my student club’s activities and gained invaluable insight into the history of Australia’s indigenous population.

But perhaps the biggest thing I gained in coming to Melbourne was seeing the diversity of the world in the city. Although Indonesia and Malaysia also have diverse communities and groups, Melbourne’s was much larger and I began to appreciate and see so much more of what the world had to offer.

I was constantly exposed to the different cultures in Melbourne. In events I attended, there would be people from countries that I usually would know just from geography lessons or seen on screens. This exposure broadened my horizons and my own circle of friends and it’s something that I probably wouldn’t have experienced were it not for this city.

So thank you Melbourne. You were, and still are, the best decision I’ve made in life.

I was once terrified by the idea of travelling to a western country but coming to Melbourne changed that. From the short and long trips in and out of Melbourne to the incredible array of people I’ve met, I had what I felt was my ideal experience as an overseas student. A lot of that came down to being open to new things, welcoming challenges along the way and taking advantage of every opportunity that was put in front of me. And leaving your home as an international students will present so many new opportunities: new friends, new life experiences and newfound sense of freedom come part of that package.

Thanks to Melbourne, I’ve forged lifelong friendships, created amazing memories and have also learnt to take any chance I can to slow down and admire life. Whether that takes the form of appreciating good coffee or spending quiet time at the Royal Botanic Gardens, I think it’s good to slow things down every now and then.

So thank you Melbourne. You were, and still are, the best decision I’ve made in life.