So, while the lush greeneries and the richness of fauna in Gippsland make it a Mecca for nature enthusiasts, Monashians in Gippsland also have the privilege and comfort of extremely well-developed transportation and communication systems.
High-tech facilities minus the hustle and bustle of the cities contribute to the campus’ growing popularity among international students. Currently, international students represent 15-percent of the student population in the Gippsland campus.
“This gives a good dose of multiculturalism, but also ensures that international students have lots of opportunity to interact with Australians,” said Danielle Hartridge, Manager of the International Student Support Unit.
The great news is, exchange students are entitled to a 50 percent discount on all transportation fares in Victoria (Do I hear some gasps of delight?).
While the V-Line trains operate every day, the LaTrobe Valley bus service does not run on Sundays. But, fret not, even if your dynamic personality requires you to travel several times daily. The costs of second-hand cars are relatively cheap.
“My friend’s second-hand car costs less than AUD$1,200 (RM3,360),” said Eva Cheng Yi Ping, a student from Hong Kong.
What a relief to know that the price of a Perodua Kancil can buy us more than 8 second-hand cars in Gippsland! A greater reason to jubilate is of course, the fact that we can easily get free rides from the local students who have got cars.
Coincidentally, there is also a huge shopping centre by the name of MidValley in Gippsland, located 10 kilometres from the campus. MidValley houses big tenants such as Safeway and Big W (Carrefoure-equivalents), Target (a Tesco-sized clothes store) and DickSmith (twice the size of your regular SenHeng), as well as a discount store, a florist, several gift shops, clothes shops, CD stores… the list continues.
However, if a fast-shrinking budget requires you to scrimp and save on transportation fares and petrol expenses, shopping can always be done at the FoodWorks supermarket adjacent to the campus.
“It’s only about 60 to 300-metres walk from uni,” said Anthony Luke Begbie, who lives on-campus.
“We in ISA always try our best to make the international students’ experiences here a memorable one,” explained Wayne Tan, Vice-President of the ISA.
“Whether you are a pizza-lover, movie addict, shopaholic or a ‘travel-holic’, ISA always have something in store for you,” Wayne said, mimicking the voice of a radio deejay.
ISA also organize tours to local places such as the Fountain Gate, Dandenong Market, Queen Victoria Market, the Great Ocean Road, Mount Baw Baw, and the Phillip Island.
“I’ve had heaps of fun when I joined the Great Ocean Road tour earlier this year,” said Safinat Nisha, a first-year Bachelor of Social Welfare student from Fiji.
Subsidized by MUGSU, the two-day tour cost only AUD$50 (approximately RM140). The same tour would have cost more than AUD$200 (approximately RM560) at travel agencies.
Besides sponsoring ISA-organized activities, MUGSU also provides food vouchers to students who may be having a difficult time financially.
“We believe in taking care of students, not just academically, but socially and physically,” said Justin Kohlman, Monash University Gippsland’s Manager of Marketing.
But, do they also vaccinate us from homesickness? Well… they do, apparently.
“We have staff members who will happily get you involved and take your mind off your homeland with great new experiences in Gippsland,” said Danielle Hartridge.
To keep the homesickness virus at bay, orientation weeks in Monash University Gippsland are always packed with fun-filled, educational and social activities – guest talks by representatives of VicRoads (for students who would like to find out more about driving in Victoria) and the Victorian Police, outdoor barbeques, farm visits, picnics at the Loy Yang Power Station and Cowwar Weir (a popular beachspot in Gippsland), boat cruise at the Lakes Entrance, cultural dinners, quizzes and games, and also the ‘Pyjama Breakfast’.
“Moving to a new country is a big challenge and so, our goal right from the time of orientation week is to get everyone involved, making sure everyone makes friends and feel at home here,” said Justin Kohlman.
So, how effectively is the issue of homesickness dealt with? Let us hear what the students have to say.
“I hardly feel homesick at all because we (the on-campus students) are provided with efficient Wireless LAN connection. I can video chat on MSN with my family and friends anytime, from the comfort of my room, or even while watching television in the common room,” said Law Yuk Li, who shares the same on-campus unit with five other students of different nationalities.
Likewise, I cannot remember being infected by bouts of homesickness.
“I love almost everything about Gippsland,” she continued.
Well, is Gippsland really that perfect? Perhaps not…
“The parrots’ squawkings every morning can be rather annoying,” Catherine said, giggling. “I’ve never once missed my 9am classes, thanks to their morning calls.”
Another down side to being in Gippsland is that you will need to have at least the very minimum culinary skills of being able to handle a microwave, or be prepared to fork out AUD$6 (approximately RM17.50) for every meal.
My first experiment with the microwave nearly turned me into a suicide bomber. Attempting to bake a cake for a tea party, I placed an aluminium tin into a microwave, almost causing an explosion.
Undeterred by the aforementioned near-death experience, I have even coaxed my friends into drying our underwear in a microwave, which of course reduced the garments into unrecognizable bits of gooey, black substance. This happened when we were staying overnight at the Port Campbell lodging, while joining the MUGSU-organized Great Ocean Road tour.
Fortunately, the chances of similar mishaps in the Gippsland campus are almost nil, as all the on-campus housing units are equipped with clothes dryers.
So, are you now ready to embark on an adventure in Gippsland?