Easter break in Australia.

It’s been a while since I posted something here, I keep forgetting about the blog. Anyway, my easter break is just finished and tomorrow it’s time to face reality – back to uni! I have four essays due in the next couple of weeks as well as several minor assignments. Then I have three final exams in june and this exchange semester is over. I already feel that the time has gone by super quickly here.

However, back to my easter break! My american friend Paige and I booked flights to Alice Springs in Northern Territory about a month ago. On tuesday we left Melbourne on our five hour delayed flight with Tiger air, which is a budget airline. I guess you get what you pay for… We got to Alice Springs safe and sound anyway and Miles from Toddy’s hostel picked us up. We had booked a three day tour with The Rock Tour, which included one night at a hostel before leaving at 5.30 am on wednesday for our first tour day. I keep forgetting how huge Australia is – we sat several hours each tour day in the van going to different places. This was part of the experience, meeting people from different parts of the world (we were around 20 people in the van taking the tour) and seeing almost no other people or cars on the road. The desert was the only surroundings and it was truly beautiful even if it became a bit hard to figure out where we were sometimes!

On tour day one we went to beautiful Kings Canyon for a three hour hike. It might not sound that hard but keep in mind that it was 30 degrees and no shadow anywhere… It was a good hike anyway and during the tour we got information about aboriginals and their history. It was very interesting and I would like to more about it since it is such a big part of Australia’s history and I feel a bit ashamed coming to Australia without having any deeper understanding of how of an impact this has had on the Australian society. I guess it is a good thing that I at least feel encouraged to read more about this now.

After our hike we had lunch in the sun and then went for a drive to Curtain Springs where we set up our bush camp. We made dinner over the camp fire and then we slept in sleeping bags underneath the stars, it was really beautiful and a great experience!

On day two we had to get up at 5.15 am – we were driving to Kata Tjuta to go on another hike. Our tour guide lied when he said that day one was the hardest part of the tour… However, it felt really good being outdoors for three whole days and sleeping underneath the stars. On the last day we saw the sunrise over Uluru and then we went for our last hike.

I had such a great time and I really recommend future exchange students in Australia to do this tour. However, a major critic of this trips is that it is based on the history of aboriginal culture but almost no money goes back to the aboriginal community, which I think is a great problem.

 

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Melbourne on bike!

Hi!
A few weeks ago I got a bike from my friend’s mother, to use during my exchange. Besides saving tram money it’s a nice way of seeing the city through a different perspective. The first time I biked to school I discovered many things along the streets which I hadn’t seen before. Also, having a bike means that you’re able to go anywhere, not having to rely on the tram (even if the tram actually is pretty comfortable and fast).

It’s about 9 kilometers one way to my uni – I get some good exercise every day, no doubt about that. The first days of biking back and forth between my house and uni my legs were pretty sore… Also, you are required by law to wear a helmet. It makes you look pretty geeky, which you can tell from the picture below. There’s also a picture from the bike path to uni – it’s just straight ahead for 9 km and you can see all the way down to the CBD and the tall buildings, since the bike path begins from a small hill.

 

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A weekend in Melbourne.

Hi!
Today is a public holiday, Labour day, which means no uni. This also means a four day long weekend, since I don’t have any classes on tuesdays! I went all in on this weekend and started with going to the French Film Festival on friday. I saw “2 automnes 3 hivers”, which has been described as a “quirky, funny, indie romantic comedy” (or something like that…) which I can agree on. Anyway, the movie was perfect for a friday afternoon after eight hours of studying each day for that week.

On saturday one of my old housemates and I went to see some bands play at 291 in Brunswick and then we went to an after party (is that even a word/concept in english? I’m referring to a traditional “efterfest” anyway) in a warehouse. I’ve met a lot of people here who are currently living in, or have been living in, warehouse, which I find a bit odd. It really looks like what you imagine it to look like when you hear it – a gigantic open space just as a traditional warehouse except for all of the furniture and “rooms” (basically just curtains posing as walls). It must be some kind of law that enables this, I’m not sure but I don’t think it would be possible or even legal to live in a warehouse in Sweden.

On sunday I woke up to a 30 degree heat, so me and my four old housemates decided to go for a swim. We squeezed into a car and drove about an hour, finally arriving at Half Moon Bay. The beach was really beautiful, as you can tell from the pictures below! After that we went to dinner at Moroccan Soup Bar, which I highly recommend. The restaurant doesn’t have a menu, so you have to say what you’re in the mood for or just ask for a little bit of everything, which we did. They only serve vegetarian food and their focus is, which you already might have figured out, middle eastern food. For starters you get one plate with all kinds of different stuff and bread, to share with your dinner company. Before dinner we also got a glass of mint tea served and unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the amazing food, but some of the things we got were potatoes, rice, hummus, pickled vegetables, olives, couscous, eggplant, yoghurt, bread, an amazing chickpea thing (hard to describe it, but it was a bit crunchy,salty and nutty at the same time, it’s worth going there just for this!). The good thing is that everything comes in different bowls and you can take a bit of everything you like, so there isn’t any “portions” and you won’t feel bad if you don’t finish everything on the plate, since it’s you who chose what’s going to end up on your plate. I really can’t make the food justice by trying to describe it, so you just have to try it out yourself if you ever go to Melbourne, it was delicious! Our last stop on saturday was a bar on High St, which previously had been an old church. The interior was really cosy with colored lights, plants and paintings everywhere.

Today, my monday off uni due to the public holiday, I went for coffee on one of the many cafes on High St, which is a 5 minute bike ride from my house in Preston. The street is one of my favorites so far in Melbourne, since a lot of cafes and second hand stores are located in this area, which is perfect (or really bad…) for me and my ability to find a dress in every store I enter.

For some reason I can’t get the pictures right, so you just have to tilt your head. I guess you get the point anyway…

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First week of uni (and some more) done!

Hi!
My first week of uni has gone by, and three days of the second week, and it feels as if it went by quickly at the same time as the days felt really long last week. In Sweden we usually study one subject full time for about a month and then have an exam – in Australia you study four different subjects at the same and have smaller exams regularly and then usually a bigger exam towards the end (something like our “salstenta”) or a bigger essay.
Another big difference is that you don’t have any time of school to write your exams – they have to be done at the same time as you go to lectures and tutorials, which might be a bit stressful. So far I am looking forward to all of my exams but perhaps I will regret that when the exam days come…

Besides being busy with school I have finally found a new place to stay, since I could only stay at my last place temporarily. During orientation week the ACU staff said that exchange students usually feel a bit down for a week or two, due to the new environment and all of the things you have to organize with school, housing and other things, but that it pass after a while. These two, three weeks have been a bit hard for me since I knew that I had to find a new place to stay but kept on getting “no” for an answer from all of the rooms I looked at. Almost everybody I met wanted the person moving in to stay at least six months, which wasn’t working for me since the semester is about four months. Anyway, I finally found a great house (and great house mates!) about three days before I had to move out of my old one. Now I really can enjoy my semester in Melbourne and do things without feeling guilty since I’m not sitting in front of the computer scrolling through all of the Gumtree ads…

A few of the things I’ve been doing since my room hunting was over; checking out all of the vintage stores (there’s too many dresses perfect for me! And too little baggage space left…), writing letters to Sweden and going to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, which was really interesting (several european artists had made video installations with different concepts).

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// 1ST WEEK IN AUSTRALIA //

It feels like the first week in Australia went whooshing by while sitting in my hotel room, trying to make my body realize what the brain already knew: I’m on the other side of the world – finally! The photos in my phone, however, tell a different story. It seems that along with the crusades made into the beat of the inner city I’ve managed to eat well, sit on the beach and move to a new – and most importantly to a permanent – accommodation. A humanist like myself already sees a bunch of great deeds in this scenario, and as the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

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In the name of honesty, I do feel obligated to break the illusion a little bit. In addition to the oh-so-wonderful beach life these photos mark out, a valid part of it all is the never-ending sand in your shoes, countless number of wrong buses and trams, and the world’s longest jet lag.  I suppose these two realities tied up with each other is what they call an exchange?

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An australian cliché #1

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When doing an exchange in Australia, or just visiting the country for any other reason, it’s impossible to avoid hearing about the spiders in this country as soon as you mention that you are going here. The spiders really are _everywhere_, however I have had the fortune of not running into the hairy, big ones, so far *knock on wood*. The biggest ones I’ve seen are of the type in the picture above – it might look small but it’s pretty big and it’s more of a small animal than an insect. This one is living outside of my room and I make sure to keep my door closed as much as possible when I see that it’s crawled out of it’s “home” above the window.

However, you could say that the exposure techniques Australia uses regarding their spiders are pretty hardcore and full on… I must admit that it’s working, my fear of spiders is almost gone even if I still have a bit to work on when it comes to these big spiders as in the picture above.

My first encounter with ACU.

Yesterday I was invited to have a coffee with Kirk Doyle, who is working with different international issues at ACU, and Mats Johansson from Malmö University, who is an international coordinator at my home university. It was interesting here about universities through an Australian perspective – I learned that some australian universities have agents, which means that they try to get students to apply to their specific university. I guess this is logic if you consider the fact that students have to pay a fee to the university to study in Australia, however I think that making business out of education is a bit disturbing.

We had an interesting chat about the feeling of experience something new and different and visiting new places in general, but we also spoke about Malmö University and the possibilities there is to go abroad (summer courses, internship abroad, MFS, exchange). I hope that my thoughts about being an MU-student abroad and my reasons for going on an exchange will be useful somehow for the work that MUs international coordinator does!

After having coffee we got a little bit of a tour around ACUs campus by Kirk Doyle. I found out that my university has a rooftop terrace with a café and a great view of Melbourne – something Malmö University could be inspired by, perhaps?

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Same same, but different.

Hi!
Last saturday my housemates and I went to The Butterfly Club, which is a theater, to see our other housemate perform in the show “Mr Marmalade and the Catawampus Cabaret”. My housemate is working with circus and juggling but in a more artistic way than what the “regular” circus artist does, at least I think so! The performance was entertaining and the bar at the theater itself was very cosy – red lights everywhere in the room, big book shelfs stuffed with books (of course!), creepy dolls, christmas decoration here and there and old 50’s furniture. Lovely!

After the show I went to take the tram home and an australian guy came up to me and asked me something about the tram. After answering his question we started chatting and he said that he thought that I was swiss since he thought that I sounded a bit german (?). I said that I was from Sweden and he then asked me if I knew about Eurovision song contest. It’s kind of hard to avoid that contest, so I said yes and we started talking a bit about it. Apparently this guy is working as a designer and he had worked with Alexander Rybak in 2009 when he won the whole thing. The guy was telling me this as if I would have some kind of connection to Rybak, which is why I told him that I’m swedish and not norwegian. He then said that “our” flags kind of look the same – he was referring to the flag of Switzerland, which is red with a white cross, and the flag of Norway which is also red but with a blue and white cross. I told him once again that I’m swedish but I’m still not sure if he got it or not… Keeping the european countries separated seems to be a bit hard! I had a similar experience in Italy last semester – one of the kids at the center where I did my internship asked me if I spoke german and I said yes (since I have studied it). She then said that she didn’t know that people spoke german in Slovakia – she thought that I was from Slovakia and not Sweden, and that people spoke german in Slovakia. And I just thought she was curious when she asked if I spoke german… This happened all the time during my internship, people often thought that Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia and Slovakia were all the same, which I find very interesting. Sure, they all begin with an S and they are all european countries, but besides that… Apparently people mixing Sweden and Switzerland up is pretty common since a quick googling got me to this site: http://www.swedennotswitzerland.com/

Finally – Melbourne, Australia!

Hi!
For those of you who might not have read my presentation at the main site (http://blogg.mah.se/studyabroad/who-is-blogging/, you will also find the blogs of other MU-students here), I am a 25 year old student at the bachelor programme of social work at Malmö University. I will start my exchange semester at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne next week and this is my second exchange – last semester I did my internship as a social worker in Genova, Italy, which was a great experience! My current exchange will be a “regular” theoretical semester, beginning in february and ending in june.

I arrived in Melbourne a few days ago and I have already fallen in love with the city! People are friendly and social, the architecture is great (cute looking townhouses everywhere, it’s rare to see tall buildings except for in the Central Business District, CBD), the sushi is cheap and of course, the climate makes it easy not to miss the swedish winter (today it is 38 degrees…). It’s a bit strange to think about the fact that I applied for this exchange semester in march 2013 and now I’m actually here! After I sent my application and found out I was nominated for going on an exchange, several things had to be done. First of all, I had to take the TOEFL, which stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. The test measures your english level through four sections (reading, writing, listening, reading). The university I wanted to do my exchange at was Australian Catholic University and they had a score limit – therefore it is not possible to “fail” the TOEFL because the test itself doesn’t have a score which means that you haven’t failed. The limit is made by the university.

After doing my TOEFL and getting the scores in accordance with ACUs limit I had to put together an application for my host university, Australian Catholic University, as well. After doing this and accepting my place at ACU I had all of the practical issues left – applying for a student VISA including requesting documents from several swedish authorities that needed to be attached to my VISA application, applying for CSN, renting out my apartment in Malmö while I’m being away, booking the flight, finding accommodation in Melbourne and so on… In the end it all worked out well, even if I was really stressed out several times during this process.

Anyway, the 20 hour flight went well (I flew with Qatar airways which I really can recommend for future MU exchange students going to Melbourne, they had great food during the whole flight) and now I am in Melbourne! I live in a sharehouse in Thornbury with three guys, who are all very friendly and social. They have shown me a great market with organically and locally produced vegetables, a bar on a roof top and a cosy breakfast place in Fitzroy. I found my sharehouse through the website Air BNB where people post ads renting out their own apartments/houses, usually for short term. I am staying in this sharehouse for one month and then I need to find something more permanent, which will be my next mission!

 

 

View from the roof top bar.

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A part of my street in Thornbury.

 

 

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CBD.

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Sleeping at Last.

Since July I am wandering through the majestic campus of the University of Melbourne. Surprisingly, my time here at University will soon be over and I have one last challenge to master:

The examination period (a little thunder would fit remarkably after this sentence).

The courses have their final exams in November and the students here are becoming slightly nervous. If not to say: they are panicking! Every morning I witness hysteric students at the university libraries, struggling to maintain a good position in front of the doors so they can get a seating place in the library with access to a plugin. I witness angry comments at the universities Facebook page condemning all students which are ‘blocking’ precious plugin access while just reading or making notes, seating at a plugin-place without using the plugin is not tolerated easily. I witness threats, like spilling holy Latte Macchiato over fellow students to get access to a university computer. I witness how every screen is structurally checked if fellow students are on avoidable pages such as Facebook, Twitter or their email account, and in case they are: loud protests are heard from the help-desk that ‘the twats can check their Facebook at home! I NEED THIS COMPUTER’

Yes, the examinations period is indeed a state of emergency; where the students mutate to zombies with dangerous coffee-cups. I have to say the sign ‘no drinks allowed’ gets a totally different meaning during this period. Also, when I talk about students becoming zombies I don’t mean the harmless zombies struggling to keep their eyes open; slurping from computer to printer. NO. I talk about the horrible dangerous once, being smart and aggressive like you can see in Marc Fosters World War Z or Francis Lawrences I am Legend. As they are reacting extremely aggressive to noises and are avoiding the sunlight; also they like to gather in groups and breathe simultaneously whilst studying with maniac eyes.

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Unnecessary to say that as a Swedish student I am not really used to this collective amount of stress at one place; having my exams evenly distributed at the end of each month. However, even though I am slightly irritated by the change of behaviour of my fellow students, I found it even more surprising that after an approximately 3h working session they take a nap (!) In Uni. Wherever they occupied their belongings, students fall asleep. It seems like the effort they put into snatching a seat in the earliest hours is so vast that they simply cannot leave their place, not yet to say that the effort in itself is rather tiring. Of course this totally contradictory behaviour of falling randomly asleep triggers the other students’ anger, who are still searching for places to work at. Hence, the hands holding coffee-cups are scarily starting to tremble when passing one of the sleepyheads. It seems to be a vicious cycle. Nevertheless, after the nap I found it even more astonishing to see how the person just forgets it and continues to work in a total serious manner, as if the dribble spot does not exists on his or her shirt. I would say: this is commitment, and since studying is always so extremely prized for its ‘best time of your life’ and it’s ‘you will never ever have so much fun’, I feel there is also a need to congratulate all students for their unbelievable strength in stress-coping.