Immigrating into first year: a field guide for international students

Moving away for uni is a common experience. You look for an apartment, maybe bunk in with a friend, start cooking and cleaning for yourself and learn much too late that not turning on the vents above your stove WILL set off the fire alarm in small apartments. New school, new city, no more parental supervision, fresh start.

Starting uni as an international student is kind of like getting the Apple Student Experience Plus version – it’s a bigger deal, some friends are impressed by it, others think it’s a waste of money and it stretches your pockets more than they can really comfortably take.

As an international student who’s been here for over two years, I’ve compiled a list of things that pretty much sum up my experience here in Melbourne.

1. Your parents aren’t physically here, meaning you have the freedom to screw up however you want

If your parents are anything like mine (I wouldn’t say controlling, but Stockholm could learn a thing or two from my mum…), you’ll know that there’s a certain level of conditioning in you to obey them. Thing is, you’ll be separated by thousands of kilometres. I expect all of us to have a little “Smeagol is FREE!” moment once we realize this. If you can’t imagine, here’s some things to help you realise:

  • ‘Balanced nutrition’ is a very subjective idea. I mean, if you’re alive and semi-functional, who cares if you’re living off caffeine, alcohol, microwave meals and hopelessness?
  • No curfews. Our parents will still try as hard as they can to satisfy their need to know our location and ensure our physical safety at every waking moment – this is a sign of love. However, love is blind, and you can smokescreen your whereabouts with a few pre-prepared photos of yourself in the library and a quiet room to talk.
  • If you screw up an assessment, you don’t have to tell your parents till the end of semester. By then, they’ll be so happy you’re back in their arms that it’ll soften the blow. Hopefully.

2. Food from home is a LIE

I’m Singaporean, and like our cousins in Malaysia, food is a big part of life for us. We live to eat, not the other way round. So it’s particularly devastating for us here when we sit down to a bowl of noodles advertised as ‘Singaporean/Asian Cuisine’ and take a bite of What-The-Flying-F**k-Was-That?!

This is true for most places advertising food from a particular region. Maybe because of Australia’s biosecurity laws, or just because most white people haven’t tasted what real food is supposed to taste like, things rarely taste as they should. There are a few legit places, but they’re rare and often quite a ways away.

Look out for these places. Note them down. Don’t go to them too often otherwise they’ll lose their effect (besides, eating out in expensive). It’s a great way to quell that crushing sense of homesickness when it reels its ugly head, like when it’s SWOTVAC and you wonder where your mum is and why she’s not making you dinner. The food still won’t be quite the same, but it’ll do for now…

My personal favourite haunts include: Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen on Russel Street or Sarawak Kitchen on Elizabeth Street. Highly recommend, totally not a plug (although bribes would be nice).

Alternatively, you can cook dishes from home for yourself (depending how good a cook you are). I often call my mum to ask about recipes and cooking techniques. Sometimes, I’ll bring back key ingredients, like soy sauce from home (it tastes different, I swear). Hey, I need all the help I can get.

3. You’ll hear your local friends complain…a lot

“Oh, I’m so broke”, is a favourite of mine. I just wanna say, “Man, you get government handouts every two weeks”. You’ll be paying four times what they do for the privilege of attending boring lectures and the honour of sleepless nights before assignments while they’re working a few extra hours a week for booze money.

Heck, they’re not even gonna pay back their school fees until they can earn enough to do so. No wonder we get the stereotype of the ‘smart immigrant’. If I’m paying thousands for this degree, I’m absolutely gonna make it worth my time.

4. Learning to ‘adult’


The practice of acting in a manner that allows oneself to ensure one’s own survival after separation from parental units. Traditionally includes skills like budgeting, cooking, household chores, and not being a dick.



As international students, most of us can’t rely on our parents too much, at least not to be here physically. It makes us appreciate what they’ve done for us till now. It doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t know how to live on our own, but that we can’t rely on someone to do those shit chores for us when we can’t or don’t have the time to. Things like managing your time around laundry, finding an apartment to rent, buying groceries for the week, or paying bills.

I reckon we’ve got to grow up a lot faster. Not to say that local kids don’t have to go through these things as well, but they typically don’t have as many expectations or hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in them.

Heck, I’m doing Fine Arts, the go-to butt of all employment jokes (yet somehow still better than a normal B-Arts degree. Suck it Arts students). Still, my mum trusted me not to waste that money, to take care of myself, and not goof around for three years. This means taking care of myself.

Which is an awesome segue into:

5. Call home

At the end of the day, you’re alone here. Friends can fill some of the void, but there’s nothing like your real fam. Be like me and make a call back at least once a week. It doesn’t need to be for long – just long enough to hear mum’s voice and keep up to date with what’s the haps at home.  Chances are, mum and dad are getting along in years, so we should cherish them a bit before they kick the bucket…

They sent us here (or let us go) because they trust us not to be (too) stupid. Always end your call with an “I lub you too…”

Then go for the pre-drink party with your friends and get trashed. I mean, c’mon, just because you’re becoming an adult doesn’t mean you have to be one TODAY.


About the author

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Nick Lam is a final year student at the VCA. When not constantly reading or writing, he wonders why he’s not either reading or writing. Nick enjoys long walks on the beach and other b*llshit people do to fill the void in their lives. He made us use this horrifying picture as his author photo.


Applying for Exchange


Audilia is a third-year Biomedicine student majoring in Immunology, and is undecided on whether she wants to pursue health or education (or both?). When she’s not holed up in a library, you’ll find her stuck in a book or blogging at audsventures.

So, you want to be adventurous? Study abroad? Live away from home? Travel the world (or at least, part of it)? Make new friends? Improve your language skills? If any of the above apply, read on as I take you through the application process for exchange.


Before we begin, familiarise yourself with the Global Mobility website, you’ll be referring to it constantly throughout the entire process!

Step 1: Eligibility requirements

It’s important to determine whether you are eligible to go on exchange before you begin researching further. You can study abroad from your second year provided you have completed at leat 75 credit points. For a full list of eligibility requirements, click here

NOTE: Applications are due exactly one year before you study abroad. Example: submit application in Semester 2 2017 to study abroad in Semester 2 2018.

Step 2: Attending a myWorld First Step Session

This is compulsory to attend and will provide vital information including how to create a study plan and apply for available financial support. You can find the registration link here. Check this registration page regularly as faculty-specific information sessions will also be made available.

Step 3: Create a list of potential universities

Create a list of universities of interest (3 will suffice) in order from most to least preferred.

Factors you may consider:

  • Travelling destinations within/near that country
  • Finances – non-capital cities and Asian/South American countries are usually cheaper
  • Culture and countries of personal interest
  • Safety
  • Language – some universities have specific language level requirements

Step 4: Create a study plan and obtain subject approvals

This is the trickiest part of the application course because it involves course planning and obtaining approvals. However, you will only create a study plan for your top-preference university.

The first step is to look at your Melbourne University course plan to determine whether there are any pre-requisite subjects for your major or degree that you will need to complete while you are abroad. If possible, restructure your degree so that you complete all your pre-requisite subjects in Melbourne and breadths/electives abroad. This will make subject approvals much easier to obtain.

The second step is to peruse the course handbook of your chosen host university and select subjects that you are interested in. Always list more than what is required in the event one of those subjects becomes unavailable later.

The third step is to email the relevant subject or course coordinators to obtain approvals for those subjects. You can find exactly whom you should be emailing for the type of subject approval here.

An example of an email you might write is:

“Dear Professor/Ms/Mr _________,

My name is _____ and I am an undergraduate student who is applying for exchange to [insert host institution here]. I’d like to request approval for the following subject(s) to be accredited as _____ (e.g. level 2 Biomedicine selectives, level 3 Commerce breadths, a subject equivalent for MIIM30001). I have attached links for the subject descriptions and learning outcomes below.

[Follow on with bulleted list of subject(s)]

Thank you very much. ”

NOTE: The study abroad team will contact you personally to create another study plan for your second or third preference if your application to your first preference university is unsuccessful.

Step 5: Finish the online application

Other sections of the application include:

  • Financial plan – create approximate estimates on each cost and demonstrate that your savings will exceed that. While the study abroad team don’t scrutinise the financial plan heavily, this allows you to consider the costs of your semester abroad and how much you will need to save. Scholarships are also available and can be found here.
  • Exchange essay – explain why you want to go on exchange. It doesn’t need to be a 1500 word thesis; it can be short and sweet.
  • Upload relevant documents

Step 6: Submit application and wait

Once you’ve submitted the application, you won’t hear from the study abroad team for several months.


Don’t panic! They haven’t forgotten about you, they simply have a lot of different applications and deadlines to accommodate as they’re working with 100+ institutes from around the globe. Times will vary according to the university and region you have selected.

Step 7: Receive acceptance from host institution

Congratulations! You’ve just been officially accepted into your host university!


Now it’s time to plan your trip. Your host university will send you important information on term dates and applications for accommodation, visas and subjects.

Step 8: Enjoy your experience!

Exchange was one of the best experiences in my life thus far. Regardless of when and where you go, I can assure you that you’re bound to have one of the most transformative experiences of a lifetime!

My personal timeline

Please bear in mind your timeline will vary according to the university and region.

My Personal Timeline.jpg

Good luck!

– Audilia

5 Steps to Applying for Exchange

One of the wonderful perks that comes with being a University of Melbourne student is the life-changing opportunity to spend a semester (or two!) on exchange as a part of your degree.
“What’s so great about exchange?” You may be asking. Well, besides the fact that a majority of students who have gone on exchange describe it as the best experience of their lives thus far, you will be paying University of Melbourne tuition fees (rather than those of the university you are attending) and obtain credit towards your University of Melbourne degree.

However, many students are turned off by the tedious exchange application process. Well, this article will make it more digestible for you by breaking it down into several steps. You’ll soon be on your way to a school of your choice!

If you are planning to go on exchange in Semester 1 2017, do note that the exchange application deadline is 29 May 2016, so read on and get started now!


Step 1 – Check Your Eligibility

The first thing you need to do is ensure that you are actually eligible to go on exchange on the Eligibility Requirements page. Some key requirements for undergraduate students are as follows:

You must have…

Attended a compulsory myWorld First Step Session (see below) and have completed, or are about to complete, one year of study and 75 points at Unimelb by the application due date

Grades: You need a weighted average of at least 65% (H3) in your degree. If you are wanting to obtain credit for a concurrent diploma overseas, note that you have to have this average in your diploma subjects too.

You need to be able to… study the equivalent of a full-time load.

Eligibility requirements for graduate students and other types of students are available on the page as well.


Step 2 – Attend a myWorld First Step Session

This, as you’ve just read, is a compulsory component of the exchange application process. Simply put, it is a general information session for any students considering going on exchange or studying abroad. Please note that your application will not be accepted if you have not attended a myWorld First Step session.

Click here to see when the next session will be held, and make sure you book it ASAP because slots run out very quickly!


Step 3 – Choosing a Destination (Be Careful!)

You’ve attended the talk, now you can walk the walk – here comes the best part! Be prepared to spend hours looking through University of Melbourne’s partner institutions whilst daydreaming about all the potential adventures you’ll have. With approximately 180 exchange partners in 39 countries around the world, you’re bound to be spoilt for choice!

However, there are certain essential things to take note of when choosing institutions. For example, each institution has special conditions that specify the restrictions they have for exchange students. Shown below is University College of London’s (UCL) Special Conditions:

exchange 1These conditions may affect your ability to go to the institution. For example, I originally wanted to go to UCL on exchange. However, upon reading this section, I realised that I wouldn’t be allowed to take any Politics and International Studies subjects there, which is problematic considering that is one of my majors…

Besides the institution’s special considerations, do read through all the other program description tabs very carefully to obtain information on the academic year, subject handbook, living options and so on! It’s a holistic approach: make sure you’re considering your life in and out of uni!


Step 4 – Start the Application Process

Okay – here’s where things start to get serious. The exchange application form contains various sections, and will ask you for:

  • when you attended a myWorld First Step Session;
  • your second and third preference destinations if your first preference is not possible for some reason;
  • the languages you speak and how well;
  • any disabilities or chronic illnesses you may have;
  • an exchange essay
  • your study plan
  • your financial plan
  • details page of passports for all the citizenships you hold
  • permission to pass on your name and email address to other students interested in the exchange program
  • confirmation that the information you have entered is true and correct.

You can view more details on the application form here. However, I will focus on what I find to be the most time-consuming process of the application: The study plan.


Step 4a – Complete Your Study Plan

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The first step to completing this study plan is choosing your subjects. The fact that Global Mobility Melbourne has dedicated an entire page on choosing subjects goes to show that this process requires a fair bit diligence on your part. I will leave you to read the nitty-gritty details on that page, but the process can be summarised into 3 steps:

  • Read the ‘Credit Load’ tab in the brochure page for your desired partner institution very carefully to figure out how many subjects you must successfully complete overseas in order to get an equivalent load credited to your degree in Melbourne.
    • Important: It is compulsory that you are enrolled for full-time credit load whilst on exchange!
  • Scour the partner’s institution handbook / course schedule / subject list to find subjects that interest you and fit into your University study plan. Do note that the subject description, prerequisites, assessment information and other administration details are required as well.
  • Get these subjects approved by your faculty advisor

Also, this will probably be highlighted during your myWorld First Step Session but I shall mention it again: Get started on choosing subjects early, as it will probably take longer than you expect! For example, some partner institutions’ websites do not provide all the information you need on their subjects. This requires you to e-mail the institution personally to request for it, which may delay your process.


Step 5 – Submit Your Application Form on Time

So you’ve finally got your study plan approved by your faculty advisor, written your exchange essay, completed your financial plan and so on, all you need to do now is hit the submit button.

As you would have noticed, applying for exchange is a mostly independent process. However, support is available – Global Mobility Melbourne’s comprehensive website will guide you through it all. For any further questions, you can contact the lovely folks at Stop 1.

5 Things That Make You Appreciate UniMelb When on Exchange

Makenzie is a current UniMelb student on exchange at Jean Moulin University Lyon III in France for a semester.

When it comes to university admin and facilities, we have all done our share of complaining. We know too well of the moments when University admin gives us a run around or when the Wi-Fi drops out when we need it most. It is often that we take these simple glitches in our system for granted and melodramatically complain about their inconvenience when, truth be told, they are rare occurrences and are almost always quickly amended.

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For the past six months I have spent my university semester on exchange in France. Attending a new university has somehow left me with a yearning for those UoM portal crashes, strict word count limits and the occasionally overbearing tutor who takes attendance like its border control.

Whilst at my French host-university there is the added bonus of an abundance of delicious pastries and cheap student cafeterias. Sadly the array of decent snacks aren’t all a university student needs for sustenance. It turns out we actually are very well off at The University of Melbourne and here are just a few things that I miss about that beautiful campus I am able to call my university.


I will begin with something obvious; any university that attempts to function with poor Wi-Fi instantly presents a dilemma. For some reason accessing the Internet at my French university is hugely difficult, unless you are that one lucky person in the classroom sitting in the magic zone, which has a radius of about 30cm. There has even been the odd occasion where my teachers haven’t had Wi-Fi access which blows my mind.

Toilet Seats

It seems weird to say it out loud but for some odd reason all the bathrooms at my host-university, and in greater France, lack the toilet seat. As an Australian standard in public bathrooms it is certainly been an experience adapting to French bathrooms and it still baffles me each time I enter a bathroom that is sans toilet seat…

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Teaching Methods

This has probably been the most interesting obstacle to face. It appears that the French teaching method approaches classes with an even more self-motivated teaching style then at the University of Melbourne. Oral presentations were frequent throughout each of my classes and assignment structure was continually modified throughout the course, with optional extra credit assignments being offered for those motivated enough.

The laissez-faire approach to assignments has also been very different to our assignment standards at UoM. For me personally, I like having a word count. A strict set of guidelines for an assignment is ever so helpful and plagiarism checks are without question at UoM. The French system has instead dealt me the ‘5-10 pages’ version, a direct submission to the tutor via email and no cover sheets or strict referencing procedures. As someone who enjoys structure with assignments I find this system different and it always left me wondering about the academic quality of my work.

French Administration

This is a big one. Around the world France upholds a reputation for having terrible long-winded, time-consuming bureaucratic systems that make any kind of administration difficult. So believe me when I say the rumors are true.

Even at the halfway point of our semester I still had friends caught in the university administration current or dealing with visa administration. It is frustrating, but unfortunately you really can’t avoid this one. So if you are travelling to France, just be prepared.

The University ‘Portal’

At the beginning of semester we were taught how to access our university Intranet, which is basically the same as UoM’s Portal. I assumed that we would use this for each class for all the usual things. Well since that day I can say I have not used it once, and even some of my teachers don’t know how to use it.

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A lot of the things I have listed could be attributed to the fact that we were in an international student program. It could be just French university systems. Nevertheless, they say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone and the French system has certainly left me with a desire for all things Unimelb. Exchange however is exactly that. It is all about trying something different, getting out of your comfort zone, and experiencing another lifestyle.

Whilst I may miss the numerous student study areas, the word limits, sufficient wireless, and decent lattes, that fulfill all my coffee dreams at Unimelb, I wouldn’t change my exchange University. Undertaking an exchange semester or year is something I couldn’t recommend more. Prepare yourself for a different learning environment and experience, and you may just be surprised with what you find.

My French university showed me just how good we have it at the University of Melbourne. However, the University of Melbourne just doesn’t have the same accessibility to fresh croissants and good, cheap wine like in France.

For anyone who is considering a student exchange as part of their degree, Unimelb has some amazing partner universities, check them out here: (

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– Makenzie

5 Lessons My First Month of Exchange Has Taught Me

Hello lovely readers! I am a third year creative writing/law student who is currently on exchange at the University of East Anglia, which is not in London (It’s in Norwich).

There are rabbits on campus. Rabbits! It’s adorable, but more on that later.


Despite being on exchange for less than two months, I’ve been taught some pretty valuable life lessons, and not always in an easy way. Apologies if they’re Stilton level cheesy, but here goes.

Continue reading 5 Lessons My First Month of Exchange Has Taught Me

5 things I learned while studying abroad

Studying overseas has always been on my wish list since starting my degree, but it’s also something I’ve continually put off because:

a) I thought I couldn’t afford it.

b) I had no idea where to start looking for studying abroad things. It seemed like a logistical nightmare (which it very much was).

c) I thought I was too late in my degree to study overseas.

By some miracle things worked out in the end and I was off to Cuzco, taking a Biodiversity in Peru course!

Continue reading 5 things I learned while studying abroad

Week 4 studying abroad: Saying goodbye

So, this blog post is about 2 weeks overdue because I didn’t get around to finishing this post at the time. Better late than never!

My time studying abroad has come to an end, and I arrived back in Melbourne yesterday morning.

As excited as I am to be back home, I’m missing Peru!

Week 4 marked the final week of my study abroad shindig in Peru, and boy – it was a busy week full of studying. We were up to our necks in assignments!

Our classroom in Peru

What were the assessments like, you ask?

For starters – all the assessments were group-based. Our class was divided into groups of 2-3 people, and all of the papers, presentations and debates we do were in those groups.

Group assignments usually give me a huge headache, but I was lucky to have been paired up with someone great!

There were assigned readings for every class, and each group has to lead the discussion and makes a presentation for 2-3 readings. Some groups had to do 3 readings in a row – so that was unlucky for them.

We had a big class debate during that week – so we were busy doing our research and preparing our arguments.

On top of that, we had to write our final paper and prepare our big class presentation…and study for the final exam.

Yep – it was an intense week!

The brief for the final paper and presentation was extremely vague and ambiguous, with the only clear guideline being that it had to do something with Peru.

My group partner and I decided to base our paper and presentation on the difference between the South American Camelids (think alpacas, llamas, vicunas, and guanacos.). And we also decided to have a bit of fun with our presentation.

We ran a ‘live demonstration’ in our presentation and brought not one, but two alpacas to uni!

Who said class presentations had to be boring :P

Here’s proof:




Saying goodbye to everyone and Peru was harder than I thought it’d be.

There were many times during the program when I was so homesick and raring to head home. But when the time actually came to bid farewell to Peru, I didn’t want it to end.

I’ve come out of my study abroad with new perspectives and a new found appreciation for many things. I’ve learned so much from my times abroad – and I shall elaborate more on this in a later blog post.

Returning to Melbourne was a bittersweet journey – but it’s nice to be back!

Since my return, I’ve been busy working on the blog with lots of new posts in mind. Soon I will be recruiting new bloggers – I just need to figure out the best way to do this.

I’ve also finally switched over to a new and cleaner look for the the blog. Hope you enjoy the new theme! I’m also in the process of shuffling blog categories to make posts easier to locate – so, apologies if things keep moving on the blog. Thanks for your patience!

– Daphane


Week 3 studying abroad: Venturing to the Amazon

So I didn’t have the greatest time in Week 2, but things have looked up this week!

First of all – baby Rosie has been found! Thank you all for your messages. I really appreciate it. She was found hiding in the corner of my backyard neighbour’s front yard after 2 days since she was missing.

Continue reading Week 3 studying abroad: Venturing to the Amazon

Week 1 Studying Abroad: Still Alive

It’s been a week since I ventured off to Peru to study abroad, and thought I’d put together a short summary of how things are going on my end.

First of all, yes – there have been plenty of llamas and alpacas spotted here. In the photo above, that’s one chilling out at Machu Picchu, and here are some others I’ve spotted.

Continue reading Week 1 Studying Abroad: Still Alive

Applying for exchange


Bored with life at Melbourne Uni? I can’t imagine you would be, but if you have an itch to explore the world during your time here, then Global Mobility is your answer!

The Global Mobility website offers all the information you need about getting the most out of your UniMelb experience with an international focus. While the site does offer information about single overseas subjects, today I will be focusing on the application process for exchange.

Trust me when I say it is a long, complicated process! However, it looks as if Global Mobility has changed and the process is now mostly online! You young whipper snappers don’t have to kill a million trees like I did back in my day.

Continue reading Applying for exchange