World class

A semester in Melbourne

Sang-Hee Min meets some marsupials beyond the dinner table. Sang-Hee Min meets some marsupials beyond the dinner table.
By Chris Murphy
Globe Staff / November 29, 2009

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For Sang-Hee Min, a junior at Wellesley College majoring in neuroscience with a minor in music, spending a semester at the University of Melbourne was a natural choice. Melbourne is the “cultural center of Australia’’ and the school is “one of the most prestigious’’ research universities in the country. When she’s not studying psychology, chemistry, and Australian studies, she’s visiting (and occasionally eating) kangaroos and exploring the rest of the country, including scuba diving and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.

CITY LIVING: “Most students don’t live on campus. There are several residential colleges, but the majority of Melbourne Uni students are from the area, so they commute (up to several hours) to school every day. I was housed in an apartment called UniLodge [campus housing] downtown, so it was great to experience living in the heart of a big city - and a huge contrast from the quiet town of Wellesley.’’

ALL TASTES: “Because Melbourne is so multicultural, all types of food are available - particularly Asian foods. Cheap sushi is abundant, and the seafood is fantastic; Australia is, after all, an island. Kangaroo, crocodile, and emu meat is available in steak, burger, pizza, and jerky forms. The kangaroo steak is delicious. It doesn’t taste particularly different than beef, actually.’’

AUSSIE SLANG: “Aussies often greet each other with ‘How you going, mate?’ which means ‘How are you?’ The first time I heard this, I replied, ‘How am I going . . . where?’ to much laughter on their part. ‘Ta’ means thank you, and I kept saying, ‘Sorry?’ because I didn’t understand.’’

WEIGHTY MATTERS: “Australians in general seem to be much more relaxed about academics. This is not to say that they don’t take it seriously, but lots of students go out regularly on weeknights as well as weekends. There is much less work than at Wellesley. Each piece of assessment is therefore worth much more. My chemistry exam is worth 75 percent of my grade.’’

GETTING AROUND: “During our two-week spring break, my friends and I traveled up the east coast of Australia, from Melbourne to Sydney to Gold Coast to Whitsundays to Cairns. Our trip consisted of lots of tourist activities in Sydney, tanning at Surfer’s Paradise beach in Gold Coast (where we got caught in a huge dust storm), scuba diving and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef as well as seeing Whitehaven Beach, the most pristine beach I have ever seen, at Whitsundays, and more tanning and shopping at the night markets in Cairns. We had an 18-hour train ride from Gold Coast to Whitsundays, and another 12-hour ride from Whitsundays to Cairns.’’

CLUB SCENE: “There is something for everyone to do in Melbourne. Going out in groups to pubs and to university events is a great way to meet new people. There is a lounge-club called Bass that recently opened; it has two rooms that play different types of music (house-electronic in one, and hip-hop in the other), as well as two bars. The clubs here play a lot of house and techno music, following the European trend. I was never a big fan of house music, but it’s growing on me.’’