Thursday, January 31, 2013

International student's guide to Melbourne Airport

Hey students, here is your guide to the airport in Melbourne .
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

1) Before you arrive at the airport on the plane.
You will be given an Incoming Passenger card in which you must fill it in. Failure to declare everything will equal to fines up to $60000 or jail. You will have present this at customs

2) Customs 
After you collect your bags from the carousel, students will need to procceed to Customs. Around the baggage hall and Customs you will likely see some sniffer dogs. They are a part of Customs, trained to sniff passengers for Illegal goods such as drugs, food etc.
Got nothing to declare- go through the green channels
Got something to declare- go through the red channels. Most likely you would be able to keep it. But you might have to pay for the item to be treated. Some items that are not allowed through are: drugs (never- you will be jailed for this), food (almost never- DO NOT BRING/MAIL ANY as you will be fined for it. I know of one International student who got fined $4000 for bringing salami into Western Australia)

Do not bring too much cash- about $4000 of it is enough. I know you need to have about $50000 to survive in Melbourne but you can always set up a bank account at home and transfer the money at home

3) Immigration
they are the people that decide your fate. Lie to them and you will be sent back home. Here is where you will need to prove that you are a student here and are not here to work illegally.

4) Arrival services
Did you know that RMIT has a free pick up service? Well they do? You can register for this service on RMIT's site. They will pick you up from the airport and take you straight to your door. A no show will incur a $70 fee. If you do change your flight details or if your flight is delayed you have to call them as it is rude to be late without calling.

Also the City of Melbourne is going to have their welcome desk where you can pick up a free bag full of information to assist you in getting used to Melbourne. So do stop by and pick on up on your way out.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Some safety tips to follow whilst in Australia

Lately in the last few months there have been reports of attacks on Internationals students especially Asians. So here are some tips to avoid being attacked.

If you can, do not withdraw cash from there as there are known to be scams in that place
Instead why not consider withdrawing from a supermarket or inside the bank branch? As students you can withdraw from the bank branches for free. There is a Commonwealth bank on campus.
If you have to use an eftpos machine make sure you shield your hand when entering a PIN and don't write your PIN down. Instead memorise it.

Walking in the street
Try not to walk in the street late at night and instead be at home by about 10pm as after 10pm it is really dangerous.
Try not to go to the city on Friday night unless you have to
Avoid dark places at night. Instead keep to openly lit and busy streets. If you can use public tranport to get to somewhere even if it is just a couple of stops.
Avoid quiet laneways if you can.
Avoid King Street and Crown Casino if you can as these are known to be seedy places where drunks are.

Watch them
If you have an open bag try and buy a smaller pouch for valuables or if you can hide them
Don't put valuables in a locker

Be careful with your drinks as some people are known to slip drugs into them and try to rape you
If you have to go somewhere try and finish your drink before you leave
Try not to get drunk as drunken people are easy targets for rape and attacks
Let friends know where you are going and when you'll be back

The police are always there to help you and unlike other countries they are very friendly and approachable. You can always contact the police if you need any assistance or if you see something suspicious. They are there to protcet you if need be.

Hope these tips will help you be safe in Melbourne.

Public transport safety

As students you will need to use public transport to get to places. As students you may not be able to afford cars as cars are about $10000+. And then you have to pay for registration yearly and petrol weekly.

Most public transportation either comes early or five minutes late. They are hardly ever on time. You will need to buy a ticket see.... as there are always random ticket inspections. On the bus you might be able to get away with a concession ticket but on the train no as there are always ticket inspectors on the other side of the barriers at the City loop stations.

Always cross the tracks at the designated crossing places; either at a bridge or a emergency exit ( if the station has no bridge). People have been fined for illegal and dangerous crossing. If the boom gate is down wait until the train has passed.

When waiting for the train always stand behind the yellow line which is clearly marked. This is so that you don't accidently fall onto the tracks and be hit by a train.

It is normal for the train to be a bit overcrowded at times. When you try to get off it is polite to say "excuse me".
You can push someone off if you said "excuse me" and they won't let you through.
It is always polite to let people get off before boarding. The same applies to trams and buses

Late at night there are always drunks and very violent people on board the train so make sure that you don't stay out too late. If you do have to then sit in the very front carriage behind the drivers door.

If a tram stop has multiple tram routes going past always signal to the driver one that you want.

When you want to get off push the stop cord/button. The same applies to buses. This will let the driver know that you want to get off.

If the stop is on a kerbside make sure that all the cars have stopped before boarding or alighting. Some stops are island stops (which means in the middle of road) so you don't have to watch for cars when boarding or alighting.

Occasionally there will be the random inspection by the ticket inspectors so make sure that you have the right ticket or otherwise you will be fined.

Alcohol and pubs

A lot of you may not be used to our drinking culture here in Australia. A lot of the local students love to drink.
We love to go out on Friday and Saturday nights to drink and party.
We usually go to the pub and drink and eat. The one meal that we love at the pub is the porterhouse steak. I haven't had this yet, but Katherine tells me that it is good. The pieces of steak are huge and you get to choose what sort of sauce you want to go with your steak.
It usually comes with a side of chips, vegetables or salad.

A pot is usually a glass of beer. But if you don't drink (and this is fine too, as I or Katherine don't drink) you can opt for soft drink instead.

Usually pub meals are huge so it is a good idea to work up an appetite.

Some of your friends might like to play drinking games, but if you don't like it you can choose to stay out of it or go home early.

Public housing

Public housing is a must in Melbourne. International students often come here to study and then go back home. They often rent places because owning a house is not cheap and there are complications with this.
Mlebourne's rental crisis has hit the roof and has taken a toll on many students who are forced to either rent cheaply and in dangerous suburbs or couch with many friends. The RMIT village is often too full and very expensive for accomodation.

I have had one story of a student who lived in a very dodgy house for about six months and for $500 a month. You can read the story here.

There are also many others in the same boat as this student. some of the housing does not have heating or is in old and unsafe buildings.

There are many campaigns on Facebook about this. Just search Facebook. In 2008 a group of Melbourne Uni students set up housing group called SHAC in which the students squatted in some of the old Melbourne Uni buildings for many months. It was to highlight the need for more affordable housing in Melbourne for students. In the end they got evicted.

As the year progresses we'll keep you up to date with the latest campaigns about housing.

The monthly costs of living in Melbourne

 Here is a list of what you can expect to pay for a month whilst living in Melbourne and studying at RMIT.
The essentials: 
Phone bills- depending on who you are with the bill may vary. From time to time you may have to make a lot of calls. Most of the caps come with free calls, but I usually go with Optus $30 recharge prepaid plan which includes $270 extra credit and 500MB of data.

Rent- there will be a few posts that covers this as different suburbs have different rates. Generally when you move in you will have to pay one months rent in advance (known as a bond)

Food- inside the house- $100-$150 per month depending on what you buy.
Outside of the house- $150 per month

Internet- this usually is included with your mobile phone plan and RMIT does have free wireless for use on campus. But you want to use it at home depending on how much you use its best to allocate about $50 per month

Bills- this includes water (usually landlord pays, but sometimes you may have to), home phone, electricity and gas. You might be really lucky and you don't have to pay a single cent as it may be covered by your rent. But if you do have tom, allocate about $30-$50 per month

Clothes- now this will depend on whats in season and there are several posts to cover this.

Entertainment- The Student Union has cheap entertainment for their members. But you can buy Hoyts movie tickets at Student Union for a cheap $7-$9 per ticket. Depending on the sort of person that you are you might be only spending about $10 (seldom goes out) to about $150 per month.

Printing- Printing at RMIT is $0.11 per page, but at Officeworks it is $0.05 per page

Toiletries (includes sanitary pads for the ladies). Costs will vary depending on what you need each month. Each month there will be some product reviews which also states the cost.

Medicine- this varies depending on what you need, but generally Medibank pays for most of this.

Public transport- this depends on where you live. You need to buy a MYKI for $6 and then put some money on it. A full fare monthly pass can cost anywhere between $112- $180 depending on which zone you live in. You might not have to pay the cost if you live really close to uni or if you can bike ride. As International students you don't get travel concessions in Victoria as the government doesn't allow this

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The perils of Myki and how it will affect International students who have just arrived

On December 29th a new form of ticketing came in to play: MYKI. MYKI is the only one card that you can use for any train, tram or bus in Melbourne.
With the exception of.....
Where it is still paper tickets.
As explained by Katherine.
" I don't live near a top up place or a 7-11. In fact my tram stop is metres from it. I can either catch the bus or the tram to get to the city. There is no shop near the bus stop. If I don't have any money on my MYKI I am screwed".

" You can top up your MYKI online. It takes three days to process the payment. I do top it up online, but if I want to use it straightaway and there is no money on it, I am also screwed. Imagine what that would be like for the international student who might not have an account which allows one to buy things online".

"International students are not eligible for concessions, hence everything including the card is really expensive. To fork out $6 bucks for this is asking too much. International students should be eligible for student concessions."

"I sometimes see people getting on the tram (visitors of course) with no ticket and there is no means of purchasing one on board as all the machines have been removed. Most visitors get confused about this system and don't know that they only just have to touch on on the trams and for trains and buses it is on and off"

" I have had a few instances where I got overcharged and they did nothing to assist to me to get my money back. I want the old system back".

"I have also had an instance where my myki was damaged and I couldn't use it on the tram, as all the ticket machines are removed. So what am I to do? Fare evade?"
" I have left my myki at home and had to buy another one. What a waste of $6. Where are all the short term tickets?"

"The ticket inspectors get on and occassional visitors get fined for no ticket. They didn't know about MYKI and that they have to pre purchase them. They thought that the tram was free. Fare evasion has gone up ever since the introduction of MYKI"

What are your thoughts?

Ham and ricotta lasagne

Ham and ricotta lasagne

(taken from Taste Website 2013)
This recipe is easy to make and there are five servings in this. You can easily freeze this for lunch the next day. It takes about 40 minutes to cook
Ham and ricotta frying pan lasagne
  • Ingredients
  • Nutrition
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
  • 200g sliced leg ham, chopped
  • 2 medium zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 medium red capsicum, finely diced
  • 200g button mushrooms, sliced
  • 500g jar tomato and basil pasta sauce
  • 3 fresh lasagne sheets, cut into quarters crossways
  • 200g fresh reduced-fat ricotta, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat grated tasty cheese
  • Small fresh basil leaves and crusty bread, to serve

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gaijin Lunch bar by Katherine

Gaijin Lunch bar is a cheap place where a lot of students come for lunch. It is near the new Grill'd and 39+ Pizzeria.

I have heard about the $8 lunch deals for a while, but hadn't had a chance to venture out that way until Sally invited me to lunch with her.

When we arrived at 1pm it was quiet.

Here we were asked by the lovely waitress whether or not this was our first time. It was. It was nice to be asked that question. Not many people do. She also explained the menu to us and explained that it was run by Indonesians.

This place is the sister of the Gaijin restaurant in Prahran.
The place is a little comfy bar like place. It is cute like Giraffe Cafe. They have small tables as well as big communual ones.

Here I had the raw salmon don ($9 for a small, $10 for a large) and iced tea ($3). sally had the crunchy don ($8). And we both shared the Agedashi tofu ($8.5 for 6 big cubes). We were easily full after this.

I loved the moving bonito flakes on this. Very authentic. The tofu was nice today, except it could have been a little bit better without all of that sauce.

I loved my raw salmon don except for warm sushi rice down the bottom. Loved it. But didn't like the fact that they put too much mayo on my lettuce. But loved the crunchy bits.

Sally loved her crunchy don. I think I might just have to get that next time when I come. Next time I come it might just have to be during their happy hours on Thursday and Friday nights when they are open as I'd love to try their dinner menu.
Gaijin Lunch Bar on Urbanspoon

Le Petit bourke

Le Petit Bourke is a French Patisserie and crepe place. Whilst the food is good it is expensive. They do also do Turkish food and coffee, but I had a craving for crepes.

They have been opened for two months now and they are still going strong. Around 11am when I cam it was busy with all the people wanting brunch and the cupcakes.

I have been wanting to go there for some time now. On the outside it looks like a beautiful old building with the lovely sign. Inside it is nice and cozy, good for a cold winters day or a rainy day. I loved the books and the fireplace.

You can easily study in here and enjoy a tea or coffee.

My coffee wasn't too bad ($3.90 for a big long black) but the crepes were divine though. I loved the poached pear. I wondered if they did use organic pears? I loved the maple syrup though. My crepes were $16.50. I didn't expect them to be so expensive though. I had four crepes on the plate hence each one would have cost about $4.

The service was a tad bit slow but I didn't mind. The lady there was lovely as and I wouldn't mind visiting again and trying their lunchtime options. I forgot to ask them about vegetarian options but the savoury crepe in the display looks like it is vegetarian.

Here's the veg and Peach Water would love this place
Le petite Bourke on Urbanspoon

Mamak by Katherine

Mamak is a chain store. It started in Malaysia and then took Sydney and Melbourne by storm. Now it is the most talked about place that does the best roti. About 28 other bloggers have written up about this place including Yellow Eggs, The world loves Melbourne, The Chronicles of I-Hua, Eat and be merry etc

I came here at 1pm wanting roti wanting a break from work. Although it was really busy I managed to get a table (and a squizz of the other dishes on the menu).

The place is huge. Here the service was a little bit slow, but I forgive them as they were busy. I think they forgot my water. They also forgot the guy's (from the table next to me) Maggi mi until they reminded the waitress.

They only open limited hours from 11:30am-2:30pm for lunch and 5:30pm-10:30pm. I had wanted to go in for afternoon tea several times.

I also got to watch the guy make roti. I took lots and lots of pictures (with permission of course).

They are famous for their roti and satays hence the limited food menu. But they do have a lunch menu where nothing costs more than $12.

I had the cham ($3.5- Malaysian half coffee and half tea) and the Roti Telur Bawang (roti with eggs and onions and three sauces- $7). Yummy.

Like the others said the roti was nice and fluffy and it was nice with the egg inside. I also loved the onion. The sambal and the sauces weren't too spicy so if you aren't a fan of spice then go for it.

My verdict: go for the rotis. I would. But I would also like to try out their Maggi Mi and the rice dishes. And this time I'll come at night with Sally.
Mamak on Urbanspoon


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