International students’ survival guide to Melbourne Part 1: Getting here

CARENE Chong shares some of the tips and tricks she wish she’d known when she arrived in Melbourne as an international student years ago. 

Adapting to life in Melbourne is no rocket science but tips will certainly help. Photo credit: TejasCalifas via Flickr

Adapting to life in Melbourne is not rocket science, but tips  are certainly handy. Photo: TejasCalifas

Moving to a completely unfamiliar place, away from the comfortable shell of home and everything you know can seem pretty daunting, especially if you’re doing it solo.

Luckily, Melbourne’s large population of international students means there’s plenty of resources to draw from and people to help. Nevertheless, experience is a beautiful thing. After more than half a decade, I’ve learnt so much about living in Melbourne.

But there are some things I wish someone had told me before I moved. So after speaking to some fellow international student friends, I’ve put together a guide to some of the more essential things you should know about moving to Melbourne.

In this first part of our three part article series, I’m covering what to do before you get here.

Packing your bags: less is definitely more

The scenario is always the same. Over-concerned mums stuffing their children’s luggage with everything from stationary to bottles of shampoo to pots, pans and packets upon packets of food, cooking pastes and biscuits.

So if you haven’t packed your luggage already, take note, you can buy almost everything you love about home here in Melbourne. After all, Australia is a first world country with a huge multicultural population, so the number of things you can find here is far more comprehensive than you think.

Over the years, I’ve found that most things are also the same price, if not cheaper, here in Melbourne. For example, I picked up a rice cooker from Big W for only $10. Two years down the road it’s still cooking perfect rice for me without any trouble. So my advice is, save yourself some hassle and luggage space by leaving your kitchen sink at home.

Sticking to the essentials will also save you so much time and trouble at the airport. Australia has very strict custom rules quite a lot of foodstuff is now allowed into the country. Often, fresh unprocessed food, food containing certain ingredients like dairy products and eggs or food that might contain soil will go into the bin. You must declare all food to customs before you come into Australia or risk a big fine. So why see perfectly good food go to waste?

My advice is to avoid standing in line at the airport with the other hundreds or thousands of students who have brought a piece of home with them. March right out to start your exciting new journey instead and you’ll be surprised at just how much you can get in Melbourne.

From the airport

starbus airport shuttle

If you live in or near the CBD, take the Starbus, which drops you off right at your doorstep. Photo: Starbus Facebook page

You’re out and taking your first breaths of Melbourne air. Now what? If you haven’t made arrangements with your university or hostel to be picked up from airport, skip the taxi and head for the bus stand instead.

Skybus is one of the most popular modes of transport to and from Melbourne airport. The shuttle departs every 10 minutes from Southern Cross station to Tullamarine airport and vice versa, and costs only $17 one way. You can’t miss it either – it’s big and red with Skybus written on the side in white letters.

Skybus is perfect if you live outside of the city. You can catch a train from Southern Cross station to anywhere in outer Melbourne or Victoria. But if your new home is in or near the city, I’d recommend skipping the Skybus and going for Starbus instead.

Starbus is another airport shuttle that ferries passengers between the airport and the city centre, except for the same price as Skybus, you get dropped right at your doorstep so there’s no need for extra transport between Southern Cross station and your home and you don’t have to lug your baggage around town. All you have to do is call Starbus upon arrival at the airport, inform them of your destination and they’ll tell which bus stop to go to. Then you’re off to start your new life in Melbourne.

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