My exchange officially ended on December 7, 2013, the day I left Melbourne, VIC.
The weeks before leaving was a whirlwind of events and it was a bit unsettling at times. I was on the fence of either staying in Melbourne to work or coming back home to finish my undergraduate degree. I had already done the gritty work of acquiring a job – got a marketing position at a furniture distributor company – but something in me told me it wasn’t going to be a good idea. I worked two full weeks before leaving the company, which was enough to cover the costs of my month long trip to Asia!
Then off I went on a plane, looking forward to my Asia trip, and not looking back at what I left behind in Melbourne. I told my closest friends I would be leaving Melbourne last minute so some other friends found out while I was traveling around Asia (sorry!).
I didn’t have time to fully thank everyone who supported me on my trip so this post will be dedicated to those who helped me a LOT during my international exchange. It will be called “How I Survived My Exchange” because without these people, I wouldn’t have had such a great experience!
My Australian Aunt – Aunty, Co Hoa, or Mama
* I formally called you “Co Hoa” because that is the Vietnamese way, but I would call you “aunty” when I told stories to my friends since you were basically my aunt (even though we weren’t related at all). “Mama” was the name everyone at your shops knew you as, so I put that in the title as well.
Words cannot describe how grateful I am to have met you. You were the first person I met landing at the Tullamarine Airport and you were also the last person I saw leaving Melbourne. You adopted me as your daughter for 5 months and had to “deal” with me (hopefully I wasn’t that bad!). Thank you for taking me around to eat at the best Vietnamese restaurants around Springvale and Richmond, for picking me up at train stations when I needed a ride to your house, for living in the countryside so I was able to wake up to kangaroos, for letting me do my laundry at your place once a week, for taking me to the hospital when something wasn’t right, for giving me a job at one of your many amazing stores, for teaching me life lessons during our long car rides, and for introducing me to your loved ones like Titi, Chu Quang, and your cutest grandchildren.
You told me to not worry about repaying you back and that all I needed to do was to treat you the same whenever you came to visit Vancouver. I will assure you that I will welcome you with the same love and support (with the help of my parents’ aid, of course) when you plan to visit me! I miss you already, your sense of humour and kind laughter. Thank you for being so incredible and I wish you great joy with your future!
Nhu(dle) Bear and her Family
Thank you Chu Kien and Co Van for adopting me as your daughter for the two weeks I was working at the company near your house. Thank you also for introducing me to Nhu, your crazy high achieving, comical daughter. Nhu, your love for Melbourne cafes has rubbed off on me and during my trip in Melbourne, I tried my best to order as much coffee as I could (Note: Although I usually just stuck to chai lattes, they were still delicious!). It was also funny that we were able to all reunite in Saigon, so I’m sure we will meet again soon!
I don’t want to admit it, but you were actually pretty integral to my exchange life. You were sometimes challenging to talk to but I finally found some similar topics of interest – the blasphemy of traditional education and traveling. Thank you for taking me to places that nobody else would like IKEA, 1000 steps, and The Hanging Rock. Sorry for telling the whole world you munted (Aussie term for “puked”) on top of the mountain because you were unfit. Sorry for telling the whole world again – this is your consequence for smoking. Speaking of which, when I come to visit you in the future, I hope you are healthy, alive, and fit. Oh, and working as well. Actually scrap that all, I just hope you are doing what you love and are happy with your choices. I’ll stop lecturing you now, I know you’re a big boy and can take care of yourself. Just wanted to say thank you for being a part of my life and being able to share your thoughts and aspirations with me!
Exchange Besties – Andrea and Laura
Every exchange participant has to have their international best friends and I consider you both the best of the best. Through you guys, I also had the chance to meet even more awesome international students like Jess, Anouk, Andonny, Sandra, Alex, Gonzalo, and others!
Andrea – Thank you for always making my day brighter with your crazy laugh, silly personality, and warm heart. Whenever I needed a lunch buddy (or a dinner buddy when we stayed at Caulfield “studying” ’til late), I knew I could always count on you. Thank you for being an adventurous eater (like myself) where we tackled new dishes each week or revisited our favourite places (Naked For Satan, for life!!). It was fun learning Spanish phrases, as well as Chinese Mandarin songs, from you. You were hilarious to talk to and I will cherish all of our conversations – the ones about Albert, your love for owls, and your greater love for Australian meat pies.
Laura – You are the ultimate cutest girl from the Basque Country and I will surely visit you in Spain someday! Thank you for always spreading your positive spark everywhere and for housing me when I was scared to sleep at my own place. Thank you for living so close, so whenever we had a late night at your place, all I needed to do was catch a 5-minute tram ride home and walk 30 seconds to my door step. I look forward to spending my holidays eating Spanish tortillas on a porch while sipping on some sangria with you.
Asia Trip Crew – Dan, David, and Kate
Oh my…. goon.
What in the world would I be without you guys!?
You three are the reason I get up everyday. We all know this is true as each of us used to greet each other “good morning” on our beloved Whatsapp group. The amount of time we spent together was sickening but it made my exchange experience a whole lot more enjoyable. I can’t believe it has finally come to an end – all of the random hangouts at Glenny, the sleepovers at Bem’s house (thanks Bem!), and the time we decided to spontaneously hire a campervan to drive to the Great Ocean Road. It was awesome that I was able to spend a little more time with you guys after I left Melbourne since we agreed to travel to Asia together. I’m going to miss every crazy day spent with you folks, but I know I will definitely see you in the future!
Dan – Thank you for fighting to get me on the “External Relations” (ER) portfolio instead of the “Marketing & Communications” one. (No offense to you, Bev! I absolutely LOVED what you did for MarComm and admire your talent!). But seriously, if I wasn’t placed in ER, I wouldn’t have met all the other amazing kiddos on there and grown so close to them. I can’t wait to see what you will become in the future as I know you have large aspirations to make a difference in the world.
David – Remember that day I met you at the AIESEC booth during Clubs Day? Yeah, I thought you were normal. What I didn’t know was that I would be meeting my identical twin – someone who laughs hysterically at random things, enjoys dancing to techno music with loud bass, and drinks goon like no tomorrow. Actually, the last bit doesn’t apply to me. However, I would like to thank you for being such a nut case and making me laugh non-stop. I was so glad to have someone back me up whenever I accidentally spoke “Canadian” in the land of Oz. Best of luck with AIESEC Monash (pronounced mon-ash, not mo-nash).
Kate – You are a strange, yet awesome piece of human. That sentence probably doesn’t sound great, but you know that I love you so that’s what counts. Thank you for everything you have done for me and for making my days go by faster with your hilarious rants in the car. From saving me from a creepy stalker to dropping me to my (other) house in Lysterfield, you are indeed one of the most thoughtful and generous people I have met. Your excitement for life, travel, and trying new things is contagious. The world better be ready for you!
The Boyfriend – Kevin
Dear boyfriend, don’t worry. I didn’t forget about you!
Thank you for being so patient during these past six months. Being 17 hours apart made me learn a lot about you and myself. Then there was daylight savings here so it was 18 hours, then came your daylight savings so 19 hours. We managed to do the “impossible” (as many people think) and survive a long distance relationship! Thank you for sending me pictures of you enjoying Vancouver’s sun while I struggled through Melbourne’s cold winter (yes, it gets cold in Australia!). Your selfies brightened my day and I had fun showing you my life through Whatsapp. The best part was when you came to visit me in Oz and then again in Asia! Such a bold thing to do, but I’m glad Richard let you take some time off of co-op to do so.
Alister – for taking me to Hillsongs Church for the first time and introducing me to cool cafes
Angela – for making retail life tolerable and being such an awesome kiwi
Bem – for giving us a place to host sleepovers, showing me crazy dance moves, and introducing us to the best African restaurant in all of Melbourne
Brian – for lending me his Windows phone during my trip
Carolina – for showing me life is full of wonderful things and traveling can take you far; also for sharing your contagious laughter
Gary – for showing me it is okay to eat dozens of dumplings and not care about what people think
Jay – for letting me panic whenever I locked myself in (although you never actually helped me open the door)
Joy – for hanging out with me for the first two weeks, pathetically attempting a ukulele cover with me (sorry I can’t sing!), and introducing me to the cafe that makes the best lamingtons
Kim – for lending me her backpacking backpack for my trip to Asia
Rayen – for speaking design lingo to me and inspiring me to follow my passions
Titi – for helping me when I was in need and showing me that moms can still have fun too
I met such amazing people on my trip to Melbourne and can’t wait to see them again in the future. If I didn’t mention you above, please know that you still have a special place in my heart. I won’t forget all of the laughs, silly jokes, and great experiences during my exchange. It has been a wild ride but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thanks for making this journey memorable – I wish you all the best for the future and I look forward to seeing you again soon!