Shriya Rao, a 3rd year UG student at Ashoka University shares her semester abroad experience at University of Melbourne.
By Shriya Rao
Melbourne weather is known to be extreme, going from rain to shine, all in a span of a few hours. You learn to carry an umbrella and a jacket in your bag at all times, and to never wear your good shoes if you’re walking. Despite the warnings, I only ever had my jacket (“but it’s got a hood!”) and wore my good shoes all the time (may they rest in pieces). I arrived in Melbourne on 25th July at night. It was raining, and my cab driver was from Pakistan. Not an hour into my semester abroad and I had already met someone I would never meet in India! He was friendly and kind, and told me which were the authentic Indian restaurants in town in case I ever missed home food. I checked into my residence after an interesting cab ride, and was ready to sleep. My Taiwanese roommate, however, was not. As I would soon learn, having a divider in the middle of the room served little to no purpose. This semester had a steep learning curve, but I am proud to say I made it!
I did not expect the kind of rigour that a semester at UniMelb requires. Attendance isn’t compulsory for lectures as they are recorded and students have access to the material online. Don’t let that fool you. If you want good grades, the bar is set high. The University of Melbourne is Australia’s #1 University, and also one of the largest. It is an old institute and prestige oozes from the people as much as the buildings. The faculty is highly acclaimed with passionate teachers, and despite the large class sizes, they always make time to meet with students. I truly enjoyed the emphasis placed on individual work and effort as it gave me the space to concentrate my efforts towards particular assignments and portions of the syllabus. The range of classes one can take at this institute is amazing. Many do not have compulsory pre-requisites, thus allowing for interesting conversations in the tutorials between individuals from different backgrounds.
As a Psychology major at Ashoka, I took three Psychology courses this semester and one sociolinguistics course. The psychology department at UniMelb is incredible, and I learned so much from my lecturers here – many of whom have been doing research for at least a decade! I had the opportunity to really engage with current research in the field of Developmental Psychology, providing invaluable access and insight into the life of a researcher. I also sat through a street art course because it was something I was interested in, but didn’t have space in my timetable to officially enroll in. This semester has broadened my view of the world and life. It has made me reconsider my career path, open myself up to new fields and experiences and truly understand what it means to be a liberal arts student. The idea of living an interdisciplinary life doesn’t seem so far-fetched when one can see people living happily and successfully.
Melbourne is a city alive! There is always something on – be it a gallery opening, a sale, live music in every genre, or Diwali Fireworks in the city centre. Between CBD and the quirky suburbs like Fitzroy and Carlton, it is hard to imagine any dearth of things to do! Melbourne is also close to the beach and the mountains. Outdoor activities are an important part of Australian culture, and there are great hikes and treks as day trips, weekend trips or even for spring break! Reflecting the vibrant culture of the city, the UniMelb campus is always alive with activities, talks, markets, and music. There are also many clubs and societies that exchange students are welcome to join and participate in. They even have one that is dedicated to the Study Abroad/Exchange experience.
This semester has been one filled with learning, adventure, and personal growth. Coming to a new university, a new city, a new country has been one of the best decisions I ever made. The large size of the university initially scared me, but I found my people, I found my place. Now I walk through the campus and the city with a confidence I didn’t know I had. Coming to UniMelb was like coming home, and I am so sad to leave. However, I am so grateful to Ashoka University for giving me the opportunity to broaden my horizons and have the experiences I did at UniMelb, while keeping my degree on track.