Kirsty’s Postcard from Melbourne

Kirsty Brown is a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences student majoring in Sport Science from the University of Birmingham. Kirsty was lucky enough to spend two semesters at the University of Melbourne, in Semester 2, 2019 and Semester 1, 2020, remaining in Melbourne during the pandemic and lockdown. Despite some of the restrictions in place, Kirsty made the most of her time in Melbourne and shares her Global Learning experience with us.

Why did you choose this host institution and destination?

I’d always wanted to go to Australia and an exchange program was the perfect opportunity to have a year long experience. I also absolutely love sport and this was one of the main reasons for coming to Australia. I play hockey, golf and road cycling and Australia was the perfect place to go. On my second day in Melbourne, I was a bit jet lagged but went to hockey training with the Melbourne Uni hockey team. This was great for helping integrate into Australian culture. I also joined the Hawthorn Cycling Club. We did some really cool rides together like out to the Mornington Peninsula. I loved being able to get involved in different sports clubs.

Academically, our courses at the University of Birmingham are similar to the Melbourne model, so slotting into the University worked really well for me, I did a combination of nutrition, biology, geography and breadth subjects at Melbourne.

What is your favourite memory from your overseas experience?

Playing for the Melbourne Uni Hockey Club was a highlight, especially because we managed to win a Grand Final. The atmosphere was amazing, it was so much fun and the girls from the team are now my best friends from Melbourne.

Some of my other favourite memories were going to sporting events. I went to the Women’s T20 World Cup Final which was just unbelievable because there were 86,000 people in the crowd being a part of history – that was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever been to. I also went to an Austral Wheelrace, the tennis, and the Boxing Day test cricket match.

What was your biggest culture shock moment?

The culture shock isn’t massive from the UK, but I’ve noticed more reverse culture shock now I’m back in the UK. I think it’s because I’m sporty and the lifestyle in Melbourne really suited me. In Melbourne, I could get up early and the coffee shops would open at 7am. Now I’ve come back to the UK, I haven’t found a coffee shop that opens before 8:30am.

Christmas was also a big difference for me. In the UK, the build up is massive, especially because it gets dark early and there’s lots of Christmas lights. Having a hot Christmas in Australia did not feel Christmassy at all. I found it quite funny that not everyone had turkey, instead some people were having salads or ham.

What is one thing any student visiting your destination must see or do?

Go to a sports event. You don’t have to travel, just staying within Melbourne is such a fantastic city to immerse yourself in.

If you have time, I do recommend going to regional Victoria. My friend and I went to Ballarat, which was so nice! The weather was beautiful and the lake was nice for a walk.

Going to Tasmania is also amazing. The MONA Art Gallery in Hobart is a really cool place to go. So different to anywhere that I’ve ever experienced.

What is the one piece of advice or tip you wish you had known before you went on your overseas program?

Try to be as organised as you can beforehand because it makes your life so much easier. But you also need to be able to go with the flow.

I took a while to understand how the public transport system in Melbourne worked. I used Google Maps and the Public Transport Victoria (PTV) app with a bit of trial and error. I also went into the local pharmacy where they sell Myki cards and asked one of the staff for help, quizzing her with lots of questions. Australians are so hospitable, they just want to help. Have the Uber app, if all else fails, get an Uber Pool.

Organising things to go to in the first couple of weeks is also good, I contacted the hockey team and cycling clubs before I left so it meant I had something to do in my first couple of weeks.

What is the most important lesson that you learnt from your experience? 

Try not to compare what you’re doing to other exchange students. There’s no pressure to do what everyone else is doing. I’m not a massive partier, so trust yourself to do what you want to do, you don’t have to compromise for anyone.

With travelling, don’t be afraid to go on an organised tour without anyone you know. When I went to New Zealand, I just hopped on a coach tour which was a really great way to meet people. It’s quite daunting at the start, but just trust yourself.