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10 months in Melbourne

I have to do something, I said to myself a year ago - but what exactly? That was such a good question for someone wanting to do something other than working independently as a tour guide.

10 months in Melbourne

Mom has always pushed me indirectly to study abroad, and I turned her down many times because being a tour guide is an amazing job - however, it was time to do something!

The journey started at the end of 2006. On November 8 I arrived at Melbourne Airport, and to be honest I didn't feel nervous - it just like I was changing where you sleep. But this Australian city can be a cold place to sleep when you're away from your sunny country and busy Bangkok. Anyway, I found myself in a colder country (not so cold that it has snow, but still as cold as Pai or Mae Hong Son in the winter time). I hated it!

I have to share a house with my cousins, who have been staying here for a while longer than me. Melbourne is a beautiful city, with lots of trees and parks. People live in small houses and apartments (don't think about 10-floor condominiums as in Bangkok, as here it's just two or three floors). The apartments mostly have a separate living room, kitchen and bedrooms.

Studying for my master's at Monash University, I find myself in a city where the sun sets at about 9pm and it's like walking in a big oven in the daytime in summer (November-February) - but it's terribly cold in winter (June-August).

Here, the weather forecast is very accurate. But it's quite terrible for me, as there seem to be many seasons in one day. Even if you feel cold in the morning, you don't even think of wearing an overcoat because you're likely to be very hot by noon. Then in the afternoon it's breezy but also sunny - if you walk outdoors, you'll soon get sweaty. At the same time if you are indoors, you might feel cool. The summers are not the same as Thai summers, because our country is hot and sultry. But here it's like the sunlight is really blazing down on you.

Most people living here travel by tram and train because the transport system is very punctual and it's a great way to get around. Sitting on a train I sometimes think why I have to be here, in a place where a person often sits on two seats at a time (some Australians are so big they take up two seats)!

There must be many Thais here, given the number of Thai restaurants - it seems like there's one on almost every corner. Some Thai students come here to study English, while others like me are studying for a master's or are in vocational education. But compared to the number of Chinese people here ... um ... at first I thought my mom had sent me to study in Beijing.

As to a job to earn some money, many Thais start by working in a Thai restaurant. But it's not that easy to get a good job, as most of the restaurants want to hire people with experience. So if you don't have experience, you might get a job but with less pay. But when you have learned the ropes for a while, it's not too hard. Thai food is more expensive than other Asian food, so most of the customers are Aussies.

I have had part-time jobs, but a student visa only allows you to work up to 20 hours a week. Work at Thai restaurants is paid on a nightly basic rate, plus you get some delicious Thai food!

I don't go shopping very often because things are quite expensive, so I really only need to spend money on food. Working in a Thai restaurant means I can save a lot of money.

On weekends Aussies spend time with their families, taking their children for a walk, for instance. Or they might sit in coffee shops. There are many good coffee shops here. I like to drink coffee, so sometimes when I'm serious about a report I have to write, I'll chill out at a coffee shop.

Now I've finished my first semester at Monash, which means I have to study for two more. However, I know I have to be patient, as I have to study and work, too. Sometimes I'm so tired that I have to sing a song to myself, "What have I been doing here?"

But there are many new and good experiences in my life. I think it's all worth the downside, in order to learn about the broader world out there.


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