I COULD barely contain my excitement that I felt like screaming my lungs out.
I decided against it, however, lest I awaken my fellow passengers, most of whom were already fast asleep by then.
It was after all way past bedtime for most people when our Scoot flight TZ26 took off for Melbourne at 1.20am on Sunday, April 3.
But, I couldn’t bear to sleep just yet. I wanted to relish every single moment of that plane ride on my first overseas trip.
Morning in Melbourne
Our group – 24 students and two lecturers from the Diploma in Mass Communication programme of the School of Management and Communication – landed in Melbourne at almost 11am local time. (Australia was then two hours ahead of Singapore’s time).
We were there for our Student Overseas Trip (SOT) Programme, which included visits to RMIT University and several industry partners to learn more about Australian media practices. At the same time, there were some spots in the programme that allowed us to explore the rich culture that Melbourne has to offer.
Despite the lack of sleep, I felt a boost of energy overcoming me when we landed. This is perhaps because I was stepping into Australia’s second largest city that has been dubbed by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the world’s most liveable city in 2015.
The moment we exited the airport terminal, we were greeted by gusts of cool wind from the streets – a refreshing change from the warm and humid weather of Singapore. We were lucky to arrive in Melbourne in April as the weather had just gotten cooler with the coming of autumn.
As our SITA bus, which was going to be our main mode of transportation over the next six days, took us from the airport and into the city, my eyes were fixed on the impressive architecture of Melbourne.
While modern architecture was aplenty, I spotted Victorian-era buildings situated alongside contemporary commercial blocks and houses. I felt that this juxtaposition of old and new architecture gives Melbourne a distinctive character.
Melbourne’s media industry
The first place we headed to on the start of our official SOT programme was RMIT University, where we learnt more about what the school has to offer and what their students do.
We also interacted with the staff and students of RMIT, wrote articles for its student magazine Catalyst and shared our experiences in a final presentation which we gave on the last day of our visit.
We also had a chance to visit media companies like Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Bauer Trader Media and Dentsu Aegis Network.
At the media companies, I learnt from the staff there on how the companies operate as well as the tools and strategies used by them to reach out to their target audience. In ABC, we got to see first-hand a live cross-feed between the station in Melbourne and one in Sydney. It was literally an eye-opener as it was something we couldn’t quite experience in a classroom setting.
Vignettes of Melbourne
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as they say. So, I was glad that the SOT programme also allowed us to get a sense of the vibrant cultural offering of Melbourne via its art galleries, theatres and museums. During a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria, I was impressed by exhibits displaying abstract, ancient and contemporary art as well as works portraying religious motifs and the life of ancient Asian civilisations.
Food-wise, Melbourne offered a remarkable variety of cuisines. During my stay, I tasted Australian, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Malay and Thai food. The food in Melbourne was extremely flavourful, but what I disliked was the lack of fresh vegetables and fruits in my meals (especially when it comes to Western food). The excessive amount of fried and grilled dishes made my stomach uncomfortable and I had to down several glasses of water to alleviate the discomfort – regardless of whether it was eating out or in the hotel restaurant.
But, one of the most memorable part of my trip had to be the people whom I met in Melbourne and those whom I shared a room with for the five nights I was there. The hotel where I stayed has a funny name – Batman’s Hill on Collins. The contemporary hotel is housed within three classic buildings and integrated with an internal glass atrium and a reception area on the Mezzanine level.
The staff in the hotel were very friendly, greeting me every morning whenever we met. Many a times I had to bother them to fill up my water bottle. They did so willingly. I felt that they took great pride in their jobs, regardless of what jobs they held. Hence, they seemed to enjoy what they were doing. And this was something that I observed even on the streets. For instance, while waiting outside RMIT University one day, I recalled seeing two Caucasian construction workers smiling and chatting away as they walked to their work posts. A third construction worker was whistling as he was shovelling the ground.
I would also like to mention my roommates. This trip had many “firsts” for me including sharing a hotel room with three other students. Although they were no strangers, as DMC is quite a close-knitted bunch, it was nonetheless an interesting experience to be living in such close quarters. Fortunately, my roommates were kind and helpful and I soon adapted to the environment quite easily.
There were only two issues that frustrated me at times. The first was the shower room. The taps were atrociously difficult to turn on, I found. The second was – through no fault of anyone – being locked out of the room a few times. This is because I kept forgetting to bring the room access card with me when I left the room. Thankfully, the hotel’s stellar service staff was always around to issue me a new card from the reception.
As needling as these could be, they are some of the memories that I had a tough time saying farewell to as we checked our bags in Melbourne Airport’s international departure terminal. Without being overly sentimental, I have to admit feeling less excited this time round when we boarded the plane. Instead, I felt a tinge of sadness at having to leave this culturally rich city with friendly and warm people. I am glad that I had spent my first overseas trip in Melbourne. I will look back with fond memories of this trip and look forward to visiting Melbourne again.
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