Experiencing Student Life in Melbourne, Australia: An International Student's Guide

Student Life in Australia

“Why did you choose to study overseas?” “What makes studying abroad so different from a Singapore university experience?” These are common questions I get asked by friends and extended family. For someone who hasn’t studied abroad, I can understand the hesitations. After all, studying overseas means being away from friends and family, finding student accommodation and facing the pressures of adapting to a new environment. 

However, what people forget to consider are the many opportunities for new experiences. For me, I chose to study at the University of Melbourne not just due to its global standing, but also because of Melbourne’s reputation as one of the most livable cities in the world. While I was a Melbourne uni student I lived at University College and although my time at college was cut short due to COVID, I formed priceless memories that will last a lifetime. 

Here are my recommendations of things for students to do in Melbourne (though of course, the list is not exhaustive!): 

1. Visit one or more of Melbourne’s lovely gardens

Want to go on an outing but don’t want to break the bank? Going to a park or garden in Melbourne is the perfect idea – and a way to take a quick break from studying! My favourite gardens would have to be the Royal Botanic Gardens, which are so vast and filled with greenery, lakes, ducks and flowers. Make sure you also visit the Fitzroy Gardens and have a look at the conservatory which has a seasonal flower display that changes a few times a year. Also, right on the doorstep of UC is beautiful Princes Park with a great walking track right around it. The trees are an incredible sight during autumn when the leaves turn yellow. Not far from UC you’ll also find the Carlton gardens which house the magnificent Royal Exhibition Building and Melbourne Museum.

Keep in mind that Melbourne’s weather can change quickly, so make sure you pack an umbrella! Also, as gardens in tropical Singapore tend to be much smaller than Melbourne’s, I made the mistake of wearing sandals during my first visit: so remember to wear good, comfortable walking shoes!

2. Go to one of Melbourne’s markets

I’ll be honest, I initially didn’t see the point of heading to a market unless there was anything particular that I needed to buy. My perception of markets changed completely after two of my friends took me to visit the Rose Street Artist’s Market in Fitzroy. I never expected to see so many interesting artisan products, which I had never seen in Singapore markets. I managed to get some pretty souvenirs for my Singapore friends there. 

Camberwell Sunday Market is another really unique market to visit. It is one of Melbourne’s longest running flea markets with stalls selling used and vintage clothing, homewares & more. Also, right near UC you’ll find the Queen Victoria Market which is a bustling market full of fresh produce, yummy food, quirky stalls and souvenirs. Make sure to check the opening hours before planning your visit because the markets all have different opening days and hours.

3. Watch a play

Melbourne’s arts scene is indeed vibrant, and I’m glad I got to experience that for myself by watching Hamilton in person. Watching how the actors brought the story to life was truly a fascinating experience. Beyond the play itself, I really appreciated the memories of rushing back from my afternoon tutorial and getting ready, squeezing with the crowd to find our seats, and having late night desserts with my friends in Chinatown nearby. 

While plays can definitely be enriching, a downside for students is that tickets can be pricey. To combat this, I would suggest checking various seat categories and how they are priced at various days/timeslots of the week. Many theatres also do discounts for students or under 30s – which can get you as much as 50% off the ticket price.

4. Attend a festival

One great way to experience Melbourne is to attend the many festivals that are held all year round – there’s never a dull moment! My favourite festival would have to be the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show that was held at the Royal Exhibition Building. It was so interesting to see how creatively the flowers were displayed, and my friend even bought a plant for herself. If you like flowers you can also visit the amazing Tesselaar Tulip Festival held over two weeks every September with rainbow fields of tulips as well as food and entertainment.

In June Melbourne hosts the Melbourne Food and Wine festival which has lots of different pop-up events throughout the city and there is also the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in April each year where you can have a laugh at one of the many shows around the city. 

Though Singapore also has similar festivals from time to time, I feel that every country is unique in terms of how such festivals are executed.  Unsure of what festivals are available? TikTok and Instagram are fantastic sources of information, especially with many popular food and lifestyle creators on the rise. 

If you want lifelong friends to form these memories with, join a college.

While all these places I have listed are definitely fun, what gave me such fond memories was the company. Joining University College allowed me to meet people from all walks of life, and the welcoming and homely atmosphere really made it very easy for me to find friends. It really provided me with an accurate glimpse into the multicultural society of Melbourne. 

Another added advantage of living in a college? Your amenities are being taken care of everyday: leaving you with more time to make friends and form memories in Melbourne. So take the leap of faith and add value to your student life in Australia!