Exploring a new country with new friends
Located on the southern coast of Australia, the regional city of Warrnambool is the perfect place for adventure. Situated at the eastern end of the world-famous Great Ocean Road, it has plenty of places to explore, both on land and under water.
Melissa travelled from the United States to study marine science at Deakin University’s Warrnambool Campus as an exchange student. In the American Midwest, students like Melissa don’t have easy access to the ocean and the saltwater biodiversity. The exchange program allows students from partnered universities to study at Deakin for an educational experience they could not get at home.
Studying in Australia for a short time lets the students get a taste of a different culture. ‘Warrnambool is a happening place and the perfect size for me. I love the location and all that it has to offer,’ Melissa said. ’Something that surprised me was how nice everyone was. I didn’t know what to expect, but everyone was so willing to help me out in any way they could, which really helped me settle in.’
‘International students play a vital role not only within university but within the community’ – Hannah
Living in on-campus accommodation at Deakin gives Melissa the opportunity to meet lots of people. ‘I’ve made really good friends with people in Residence. We all gather in the common rooms and watch movies,’ she says. ‘A bunch of us cook together in the communal kitchen and share a meal. On nicer days, we will all pile into a few cars and go to the beach and hang out for the day.’
One of these friends is Hannah, an Australian also studying in Warrnambool. Hannah spoke of the contribution students like Melissa make: ‘International students play a vital role not only within university but within the community, sharing their values, teaching others, and showcasing their cultures. It has been a privilege to be able to engage with students who may have similar interests but be from the other side of the world.’
In just a short time, Hannah and Melissa have become close friends.
Warrnambool is a picturesque city that has everything a student needs.
Situated where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean, Warrnambool provides access to an abundance of sea life. Diving in these waters has been an important part of the bond Hannah and Melissa have formed.
‘Living on the coast has been exhilarating,’ Melissa says. ‘We have gone on numerous dives together. Recently Hannah and I completed our Rescue Diver and First Aid courses together which was awesome.’
Hannah continues the conversation: ‘We would often be buddies under water. Being able to have someone that you rely on below water just makes the friendship above water so much more valuable.’
When asked of a highlight of their friendship so far, Hannah again thinks of an underwater adventure. ‘My favourite memory with Melissa was diving at Flinders Pier where we both had amazing dives. Being able to share the moment of feeling free, weightless and seeing six-foot stingrays will for ever be a highlight.’
Melissa’s Australian experience has been so busy she has a hard time naming just one highlight. ‘We have gone on many spontaneous adventures. A day trip to the Otways (a national park near Warrnambool) and a drive on the Great Ocean Road before I had to work. But I think my favourite is, one day after a morning dive we had no plans for the rest of the day so we decided to drive to South Australia. Neither of us had been so it was the perfect opportunity and the perfect day!’
‘If you’re worried about meeting people, there are plenty of opportunities’ – Melissa
‘We have been along the coast,’ Hannah points out. ‘Most weekends we find ourselves on spontaneous road trips or hikes, where zero planning was involved but they have all lead to incredible memories.’
For Melissa, who travelled around the world to get to Warrnambool and Deakin University, the key to a great international study experience is making the most of every opportunity. ‘Put yourself out there and get involved!’ she offers, as advice to others. ‘If you’re worried about meeting people, there are plenty of opportunities. Be open to trying new things, there is so much to be explored, no matter where you are.’
And it is this sense of adventure that international students bring with them that makes a valuable contribution to Australia. Hannah has ‘seen firsthand how people light up with curiosity and bring an element of joy. Melissa has taught me the importance of always being willing to step out of my comfort zone. Learning about Melissa and her interests has encouraged me to actively pursue my own and share with her. She continually shows me how determination and hard work may have setbacks but ultimately leads to results.’
With the talk of hard work, Melissa added a final comment. ‘We always have a good time.’
Learn more about Deakin’s Bachelor of Marine Science
Discover Deakin’s Warrnambool Campus