Finals! I was lucky to only have two “official” finals. My Plant Biology class had its last unit test which functioned as the final during the last week of class. This meant I didn’t have to cram all the cumulative material for a final, for which I was thankful. Wildlife Ecology and Sex, Race, and Australia’s People were not the same story. I was probably embarrassingly behind on lectures and readings for Wildlife Ecology so cramming was needed. This was my first experience with Australian finals and when a test makes up 30%+ of your grade the stress to do well is all the greater. Fortunately for me I just had to pass to get credit at ISU, but I still wanted to try.
The test-taking experience was not a pleasant one, well the test itself was fine, but the environment was awful. After entering the test room I found out I was assigned a table and a number I didn’t know. After figuring that out I discovered someone was already sitting in my seat, us both needing to go to the front to figure out the situation. Finally, I’m seated and with my phone off and under my chair and playing with my pencil in my hand – a habit, and hey, being tactile helps me think. But ooooh no, the proctors (all old men, breathing heavily as they walked past) weren’t having that and my pencil was ripped from my hand and set down next to my paper. A saccharine grin told me not to be touching my pencils in case I was temped to write anything before the time began. O.K., maybe I’m dramatizing this a little bit, but suffice to say I was in a pretty sour mood during the test. At least it motivated me to finish early. But finals are just finals and talking about classes is all fine and dandy, but I’d rather share what I was up to outside of studying.
Wednesday brought the Queen Victoria Winter Night Market and this week we had more luck. The lines were shorter which meant FOOD, and good food at that. I even got to try those churro ice cream bowls the internet has been raving about.
The weekend between finals week 1 and 2 was a packed one. A few of my friends were going on a wineries tour in the Yarra Valley but one got sick and had to drop out. On a whim and a desire to feel fancy a.f. I decided to take her place. We boarded the bus with an odd cast of characters including college students like us, a bunch of loud New Zealanders, two race car drivers, an anesthesiologist, and a hungover tour guide (?). But we had a good day swirling the little sips of wine they gave us, nodding our heads in acknowledgement that we understood everything the wine-makers were saying (even though we didn’t), and exclaiming adjectives like “buttery!” and “fruity!” after sips. Who can tell anyways? I did enjoy the moscato, but almost gagged on the red that tasted like how cigarettes smell (you know which one you are). The cloudy day gave way to beautiful views of the Yarra Valley and I have to say the views at the Chandon winery were the most spectacular. Like a painting. We ended the tour at a stop to a chocolate shop where instead of buying anything I just scooped multiple samples into my pockets (hey I wasn’t the only one doing it).
After the wine tour we sped as quickly as possible (not very quickly thanks to the trams) back to campus. It was Elizabeth’s birthday and we had party preparations to attend to. Even though I felt rather like going to bed myself, I suffered through to spend time with good friends who, in a few short days, I would separate from. We had a good time, although for future reference, vodka-ice cream in a cone doesn’t taste as good as it may suggest.
Many of my flatmates had already gone home and would only come back to campus for finals, but I was able to spend one last unit dinner with Liz and Sarah.
Fast-forward a day or two and I’m done with finals. My friend Ethan’s birthday (you’ll remember him from Sydney) was today and we were meeting in the evening at his place for a night in with the fam. One last day to explore, I took this opportunity to check out a part of Melbourne I had never been. I decided to head to South Yarra/Prahran because I wanted to check out the Prahran market. It was unfortunately closing when I arrived and was pretty empty. But I did walk around a bunch and just took in the sights and sounds. I stumbled upon a heavily graffiti’d alley aptly named Artist Lane. It felt like discovering a unique secret only those in the neighborhood knew about. The murals were more complete and less tagged than those in Hozier Lane. I also stumbled across the Chapel Street Bazaar which was like tumbling into an antique store/knick-knack store on steroids. There was a dizzying amount of stuff in there of all sorts – it was sort of beautiful in an obsessive collector sort of way as a time capsule of history through stuff. Chapel St. came alive in the form of bars with velvet couches, crunchy restaurants, and used clothing stores. Capturing the true hip spirit of Melbourne, this suburb was like Portland’s grungy sister.
It was now down to the wire and I really needed to pack. But for some reason goodbyes are awful in their finality so I kept finding time to spend with my friends. Finally, on our last night together we just sat around talking, sharing, and laughing, until the first of us had to leave and then, on queue, the tears were flowing and everyone got at least 10 hugs.
I’m thankful for my time in Australia. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made, the memories we forged, the challenges we overcame, the laughs and the tears. It may be cliche, but studying abroad has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It has forced me to be more independent – to be thrown out of my comfort zone and in doing so forcing me to grow. Leaving was so bittersweet. Although I was excited to come home, I knew I would miss my other home thousands of miles away. I knew I would miss the screeching cockatoos, the red soil, the smell of eucalyptus after rain, the ocean, the city, and those that made a strange new place a home. But above all, I’m grateful for the experience.
Don’t change, Melbourne, I’ll be back someday.