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By mariekevanhaaren

While Australia has beautiful beaches and interesting animals, they are not necessarily known for their cuisine. However, there are a few foods I tried while down under that seem to be classic Australian. My personal favorite was Tim Tams, a chocolate-coated biscuit that comes in many flavors: traditional chocolate, caramel, mint, white chocolate, etc. One unique way to eat them is by doing a “Tim Tam Slam”, which is biting off opposite corners of the cookie and sipping tea through the inner cream part.

Another very common food is vegemite! Most people outside of Australia hate it, as it’s a very strong, salty spread that you don’t want to eat very much of. I personally grew to like it; spreading a thin layer on toast with butter tastes really good!

Anzac cookies, also popular in Australia, originated in WWI when rations were scarce and biscuits had to be made from just golden syrup and oats. Now they include more typical cookie ingredients, like flour and sugar and butter, but these cookies still taste delicious!

A final Australian food that is fairly mediocre but definitely widespread: the meat pie! These are usually sold at footy or rugby games, similar to how Americans eat their hotdogs at baseball games. They are basically a small, single serve pie with a beef filling, and Aussies usually eat them with ketchup.

...continue reading "Aussie Food"

By mariekevanhaaren

When it’s raining in Melbourne (which seems to happen more than you’d expect), there are several great museums to visit and escape from the weather! My three favorites are the Melbourne Museum, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, and Old Melbourne Gaol.

The Melbourne Museum is located near the Royal Exhibition Building in the Carlton Gardens, just a few blocks east of University of Melbourne’s campus. It has several different permanent and rotating exhibits. One permanent exhibit that I like is about the state of Victoria’s aboriginal people; it has artwork and other cultural artifacts, and it has a lot of history about these first Bunjilaka peoples. The best part about the Melbourne Museum is that it’s free for students – so you can go as many times as you want without paying!

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, or ACMI, is in Federation Square in the CBD, easily accessible by trams or walking. This museum is free for the permanent exhibits, while the rotating features require a ticket. I really liked the permanent exhibit, as it contains all kinds of digital culture pieces mostly pertaining to Australia. There are pieces on video games from the 70’s to now, Australian movies and Australian actors, and other innovative technology. It’s an interactive museum, so you can play games, watch films and touch items.

...continue reading "Museums in Melbourne"

By mariekevanhaaren

The Great Ocean Road is a long road stretching westward from Melbourne, filled with beautiful views and quaint beach towns. The main attraction is close to the end of the road: Twelve Apostles, a collection of what was once twelve huge rocks jutting out of the ocean. However, it takes around four hours to reach these huge cliffs, and there’s lots of opportunities to stop along the way. The following are my favorite places to stop:

  1. Anglesea Golf Course

This is a must see for some up close and personal time with kangaroos! If you park in the parking lot and make your way to the right of the clubhouse (if you are facing it) you can wonder off into the course and should be able to find some kangaroos!

  1. Lorne

The next stop is a town called Lorne. There are a lot of great places to stop and hike here. I did a short hike through the forest that ended at the Erskine Falls, a beautiful waterfall, and it was definitely worth the stop. In addition, a lot of cockatoos fly around here as well, and it’s a great spot to stop and bird watch.

  1. Kennet River

This is a little stop on the side of the road near a cafe called Kafe Koala. You can usually spot some koalas in the trees, as well as colorful parrots and cockatoos. When we stopped here we were lucky enough to run into a tour guide who was feeding all the birds so we got up close and personal with them. It’s definitely an awesome spot to stop to check out some of Australia’s wildlife.

...continue reading "Great Ocean Road"

By mariekevanhaaren


Laneways are perhaps the most unique thing Melbourne has to offer in terms of tourist attractions. In the city, there are tons of laneways in between buildings that are lined with cafés, shops or graffiti art. They are usually not very wide, and are sometimes quite hidden.

If you want to go to a laneway with hole in the wall type cafés, Degraves Street or Centre Place are the ones to visit. The best time to go is for breakfast or lunch (or brunch!), as most of them close before dinnertime. It’s also typical Melbourne style to just pop in one of the cafés for a coffee and sit in the laneway to people watch! If you want to get the true experience, I’d definitely recommend going through as many laneways as you can.

Below is a picture of Degraves Street – you can see how cramped it is!

...continue reading "Melbourne Laneways"

By mariekevanhaaren

Exam time is upon us in Australia, and finals here are a bit different from the states. Instead of having many assignments throughout the semester that are worth a large part of your grade, most classes at UniMelb have a few that are worth 10-20%, along with a midterm that is worth 10-20%. This, unfortunately, means that the final is worth the largest part of your grade, up to 80%! There is a full reading week to review before exams start, and study space fills up very quickly.

In order to not fail your classes, I would first recommend keeping up with your classes throughout the semester. It is really easy to slack off and focus on other fun things, like travelling to Sydney or meeting new friends. However, this will cause reading week to be much more stressful, so even a little effort through the semester can make a difference.

Another helpful thing at UniMelb is that all of the lectures are recorded and all class slides are online. I would recommend writing down lectures that you want to go back and rewatch, as it’s quite helpful to review what you might have already forgotten.

...continue reading "Study Season in Melbourne"

By mariekevanhaaren

Before arriving in Melbourne, I had a slightly different view of what the culture and people would be like. However, since I have been living here for nearly 4 months, a lot of my previously held conceptions have been debunked.

I think the main view most people have of Australia is a sort of “beach culture”. However, it actually gets quite chilly in the winter, and no one goes swimming in the ocean between the months of June and October. Furthermore, it’s definitely not warm enough to be wearing shorts and a tank top; you have to layer up during the winter! It’s really only starting to warm up now as the southern hemisphere is entering summer, and I can finally put away my jackets and break out the shorts!

Another misconception is that there are deadly creatures everywhere – snakes, spiders, crocodiles, the list goes on. However, if you’re living in a city like Melbourne or Sydney, the chances of running into one of these are low. That being said, there is quite a bit of wildlife running around as you get further away from the city, and it is definitely important to keep an eye out.

Contrary to what Outback Steakhouse puts in their commercials, its not common for people here to throw some “shrimp on the barbie”. While Australia does love a good BBQ (UniMelb has one every week!), it is typical to see only sausages or burgers served at these events, not shrimp. In fact, America’s version of shrimp is called “prawns” in Australia.

...continue reading "Common Australians Misconceptions"

By mariekevanhaaren

In the U.S. and several other countries, there are Starbucks shops everywhere, serving all kinds of fancy coffee beverages – iced vanilla lattes, Frappuccino’s, salted caramel mochas… In Australia, I have seen exactly one Starbucks, and it is usually only filled with tourists. Real coffee shops in Australia (and especially Melbourne) are very different from the U.S.’s versions.

For starters, coffee shops here are almost all independent shops, with no big chains being able to take over the coffee scene. One exception would be McDonald’s McCafe; most coffee drinkers don’t get their daily latte at a McCafe, though.

Another difference is that the sizes of coffees are much smaller, with an Australian large being about the size of an American small or medium. However, from what I have seen, everyone here gets the small size, which is usually only one shot of espresso and four ounces of milk or water (depending on the drink). And, unlike a lot of U.S. coffee chains, the coffee options are limited to lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, long blacks (aka Americanos) and flat whites. There are rarely any sweet syrups added to make something like a pumpkin spice latte or hazelnut mocha. The idea of simply brewed black coffee is not common whatsoever – coffee makers do not exist here!

...continue reading "Coffee Culture in Melbourne"

By mariekevanhaaren

Like most major cities, Melbourne has a great public transportation system that extends all over the city and surrounding suburbs. A “myki” card will give you universal access to the trams, buses, and trains. Different zones around Melbourne incur different fares, ranging from $2.80 to $4.10. Most of the public transportation around Melbourne University is Zone 1, which is $4.10. Once you tap on your myki card in whichever transportation you are riding, you have 2 hours to ride with that initial fare. For each bus, tram, or train transfer, you have to re-tap on. Luckily, as a student, you can qualify for a concession card that cuts that fare in half, so it is only $2.05 for 2 hours of transportation.

I typically ride the trams, as they cover most of the areas I need to go. Melbourne has a Free Tram Zone, which is basically a rectangle that covers the downtown area and allows you to ride trams without a charge. You don’t have to tap on if you ride solely in this area, so I take advantage of this quite often! However, if you ride outside of this area, you definitely need to tap your myki, even if it seems optional. There are officers who go to random tram stops every day and check people’s myki card to ensure they have tapped and are riding with a valid ticket.

The trains go to the further suburbs around Melbourne. A lot of these trains are still in Zone 1 or 2, allowing you to ride inexpensively!

Besides public transportation, bicycling and Ubering are common ways to travel. Melbourne is very bike-friendly, with bike lanes on nearly all of the roads. An important thing to note is that helmets are required in Australia, and you can get a hefty fine if you do not wear one. Ubers in Melbourne are always around, if you can’t be bothered with public transport or biking!

By mariekevanhaaren

While Australia does speak English, they tend to put (a lot of) their own Australian flair into it. Sometimes I’ll be having a conversation and completely miss a key word, having to Google what it means later. Here’s a starter list that you should probably know before visiting Oz!

Arvo - means afternoon. Aussies like to shorten several words and add a –o at the end. Devo means devastated, avo is avocado, etc.

Bogan – Australian’s version of a redneck. I have yet to meet a bogan, but they tend to live out in the bush.

Brekkie – Like with arvo, brekkie is a shortened word for brekkie. This word is especially important in Melbourne, as everyone loves to go to cafés and get a brekkie of avo toast.

Chips – Australia pulls from Britain roots with this term. In Australia, chips are French fries and crisps are America’s version of chips.

...continue reading "An Intro to Australian Slang"

By mariekevanhaaren

Exploring Australia and finding things to do is definitely exciting, but it can also be overwhelming when choosing a destination, finding cheap tickets, and trying to make the most out of a short period of time. Here are the websites I frequent the most to find the best of the best!


This site has sections for all major cities in Australia, and is my go-to for finding events or restaurants. The website posts each week about weekend happenings, new and delicious places to eat, and other Buzzfeed-esque features, all centered on each city. Finding the best café or a fun festival is only a few clicks away!


Bookme is a wonderful tool for traveling, as this site posts amazing ticket deals for all kinds of adventures around the world. The activities can be discounted by up to 80%, saving lots of money to spend elsewhere. All you have to do is select the date that you want to go, and depending on availability and time the tickets will be really cheap!


Skyscanner finds the cheapest possible flights to wherever you want to go. I’ve used it a lot to check the best dates and times to fly to Sydney, Brisbane, New Zealand, and more! My suggestion is to enter a destination and click “Whole Month” on the date option to search prices for the entire month. This finds you the best option, as sometimes flying out on Saturday is way cheaper than a Friday! 

...continue reading "My Top Resources for Exploring Australia"