Friday, February 13, 2009

Melbourne: First Impressions


is fantastic. Melbourne is a fairly lively city of about 3.7 million, on Port Phillip on the state of Victoria. However, the downtown area (the CBD, central business district) is pretty far back from Port Phillip and instead sits on the Yarra river a bit more inland. Both my hostel and the university of Melbourne are in North Melbourne, which is just outside of the main city. It's far enough to be quiet, but only a fifteen or twenty minute walk away from the CBD. If you're lazy, you can take one of the frequent trams that run through the city. I haven't figured out how to take those yet though, preferring to depend on my own feet. The entire city is pretty walkable, and I managed to cover most of it in my marathon day on Wednesday.

The weather is not bad, actually. I expected it to be the heat of summer, with all this news about heatwaves and bushfires. Apparently Melbourne reached a scorching 47 degrees celsius (116F) the Saturday before I came. However, since I've been here it's been pleasantly sunny, maybe about 70F max. It even gets fairly chilly at night. I'm sure the heat will come back though, so I'm bracing for it.

Interesting and/or notable things:
-Melbourne's reputation for multiculturalism is, if anything, understated. Ethnic restaurants proliferate in every direction, cultural centers abound, and just looking around gives you a window into the city's unabashed diversity.
-Shops here close at 6, so no dice if you're trying to get stuff after work I guess?
-The Queen Victoria Market is currently my favorite place in the city. There is a ton of cheap, good quality fresh produce and I just can't walk through without buying a piece of fruit or a sandwich, especially with the hawkers yelling their prices and trying to drown each other out.
-AUSTRALIAN ACCENTS are awesome and everywhere. I like it when they're mixed with some other accent, a necessary consequence of the diversity mentioned above.


are uniformly friendly, down-to-earth, straightforward, and with a great sense of humor. Even after only two days here, I have a ton of quotes, but I'll just give you the highlights:

Airport pickup guy (Chris) to me, describing another exchange student:
"That girl's got more luggage than the Israelites when Moses led 'em out of Egypt."

Overheard in Queen Victoria Market-- customer to vendor:
"You've got to eat hot chilies every day, it keeps you from getting colon cancer."
(launches into graphic description of colon cancer)
(to me) "I'm sorry love, you're probably a bit young for that sort of detail."

Guy in club (Taylor) to me, whilst discussing America vs. Australia:
"You know the only thing I can't stand about America? The Imperial System. Use metric, for God's sake!"

Guy in club 2 (creepy rando) to me, dialogue:
Guy:"How are you?"
Guy:"Do you have a boyfriend?"
(guy nods and sidles off)


is going to be a great place to spend a semester. I mentioned its beautiful setting in my last post, and that's in addition to the fantastic academic environment I am going to have. The professor I emailed before coming here, Andrew Ooi, met me this morning to discuss a project for me to work on. However, he also took me on a tour of the department; introduced me to all his colleagues, the department grad students, and office staff; showed me the student center, where I'll register for courses in a few weeks; promised to sign release forms if I wanted to take any classes I didn't meet the prerequisites for; and even invited me out for yum chao (what they call dim sum here) with the entire faculty the following Sunday. He mentioned Professor Smits, chair of the Princeton department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, to almost everyone we met, and you could tell that Smits was well-known and very respected here. It was almost as if everyone respected ME more just because of my association with him. From there, Professor Ooi passed me off to Jason (a lab tech? A professor? in any case, he's finished his PhD but looks pretty young), who took me on a tour of the two-and-a-half story fluids lab. If nothing else had convinced me I'd come to the right place, that would have. They have some of the best equipment I'd ever seen, much better than Princeton's, and I am so so so excited to have the chance to to work here. I learned a ton of new things just by listening to Jason describe the equipment and asking him questions about it. Suffice to say that I am thrilled at the prospect of doing research there for the upcoming semester.

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