Julianna’s Postcard from Melbourne

Julianna Gallo is a 2021 graduate from the University of Connecticut who spent a semester on exchange at the University of Melbourne. Australia was the perfect destination for an Animal Science major like Julianna,who is now planning to study veterinary science at University College Dublin.

Why did you choose the institution and location of your overseas program? 

It was the perfect opportunity for me to live somewhere so far away, where I can be immersed in Australia’s culture. I wanted to have a program that was strong in the sciences. I knew that the University of Melbourne had state-of-the-art facilities, which would help prepare me for further study at my home institution.  Also, I chose the University of Melbourne because I had heard that Melbourne was the cosmopolitan city of Australia and had lots to offer culturally, including lots of music, sports, and arts to explore. To be fully immersed in Australian culture, Melbourne was a clear choice for me.  

What was your experience when you first arrived at your overseas study program? Was this different to what you expected? 

I was surprised how much of a melting pot of cultures Melbourne really is with so many people from all over the world. Coming from a small town, I was excited by the big city, but the longer I was there the more I felt comfortable and familiar with areas and it did not seem as big anymore. Little things such as taking a tram to university, going on runs, or going out for meals with new friends in the city, help me to learn about and feel more comfortable in the city.

I really liked how the campus was within the city, but its campus wasn’t just spread throughout the city, it still felt like a separate community. Whenever I walked onto campus, I felt a sense of community where I could run into friends sitting around on the lawns or just walking around campus.

What actions did you take or how did you change your approach to make sure you maximised the opportunities your overseas program offered you?  

A good way for me to explore Melbourne was through its many parks and running throughout the city. It was nice to take some time to really take in the city and reflect. I joined the outdoors club, where I got to go on some really cool trips, but I liked that it wasn’t a huge commitment or cost in which I felt obliged to attend everything. I also volunteered on campus, which really helped me meet Australian and international students. It was cool to get more insight into what it is like to actually live and grow up in Australia.  

I would also walk around the city and explore. I would see flyers with cool events going on in Melbourne and research them to see find other events that followed my interests, including the International Film FestivalWhite Night and some football games. 

What was your biggest culture shock moment? 

Yes, a few things were quite different. The class structure was an adjustment. In the US, class would been multiple times throughout the week, with many assignments. At the University of Melbourne, my lectures were recorded, not mandatory, and held once a week for a few hours. It allowed you to study on your own schedule. The length of the exam period consisted of a month, rather than a week. In addition to academics, the time difference was quite large, taking more effort in order to contact friends and family in the US, including scheduling times to talk. Also, I appreciated how during the orientation week, they shared about the differences in language and the ‘lingo’ which were fun to learn.  

What was the highlight of your overseas program? 

This is a hard question because I definitely had a lot of highlights! 

Academically, I really enjoyed being a part of the research, academic and social community. Very quickly it felt like a home to me. In Melbourne, I really enjoyed the campus, the night markets, and St Kilda which provides a nice beach within the city.   

This experience also allowed me to travel in Australia. Every place I travelled to was so different and unique from each other. I loved visiting Sydneywhich is a beautiful city, but it made me appreciate Melbourne and its distinct culture even more. The outback was so different from anything I had ever experienced and taught me more about Aboriginal history and culture. Exploring the rainforests in the Daintree satisfied my interest in wildlife and ecology. Travelling allowed me to really appreciate how diverse Australia is from the desert, to the rainforests, to the cities.


Do you have anything else you would like to share about your experience? 

As much as you will be busy exploring this wonderful city, it is still okay to feel some homesickness and think that you are missing out from life back home. A lot of other people may be feeling this as well and in reality, you are not really missing out on much. I’m sure many people at home eagerly desire to be in your position. It is important to remind yourself that I am in an amazing place, meeting amazing people, doing amazing things. Your life back home will still be there when you return.  

What is next for you? 

I am graduating this year and have been accepted to the veterinary program at University College Dublin. I am very grateful for going to Australia because studying there helped prove to myself that I can make a home abroad and encouraged me to apply for veterinary programs overseas.