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Overseas university spotlight: The University of Melbourne (Australia)

The University of Melbourne is Australia's highest ranked and second oldest university, founded more than 160 years ago.


It's also Australia's leading research institution with a curriculum that's quite unique as well.


Set in one of my favorite cities in the world, UniMelb would absolutely be on my list if I were given the opportunity to go back in time and rethink my undergrad/grad degree options - and that's not something I would normally say!


Here are more of the highlights from my trip to campus in October 2022.


The University of Melbourne campus

Melbourne, Australia


Picture a 'cool' city; what comes to mind?


To me, Melbourne is the essence of cool.

But perhaps the first thing worth mentioning is that Melbourne was ranked the 10th most livable city in the world in the 2022 Global Liveability Index, which is based on five factors: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.


A section of the Melbourne skyline

Although it's one of the only major Australian cities in which I've never actually lived myself, I can certainly see the appeal, and it prides itself on being the culture, sport and coffee capital of the country.


You don't have to go far to come across an alley of graffiti art, a gallery or places to shop.


Graffiti art in Melbourne
Melbourne grafitti scene
Melbourne by night
A Melbourne department store
Possibly the most beautiful (and largest) H&M I've ever seen!
Melbourne's Federation Square
Federation Square
Melbourne's St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul's Cathedral

A brief stroll alongside the Yarra River will also lead you to Melbourne Park, where you'll find various sports stadiums.


View from Melbourne Park

Melbourne Park includes the world famous Melbourne Cricket Ground (the MCG) that hosts Australian rules football and cricket, the Rod Laver and Margaret Court Arenas (where the tennis grand slam, the Australian Open, takes place) and AAMI Park, home to soccer and rugby.


The world-famous MCG
The MCG

I managed to catch a Melbourne FC game while in town, and although it wasn't well attended, the atmosphere was still good!


The home of Melbourne FC
Melbourne FC in action
Melbourne FC v Western United

Possibly my favorite aspect of Melbourne, of course, would be the plentitude of cafes; no burnt coffee to be found here!


Street sccene, Melbourne

With a population of around 5 million, Melbourne also offers an amazing public transport system; there is free tram service within the city centre that you can hop on and off.


To go a bit farther afield, there are other trams, buses and trains, all linked and easily accessible with a myki transport card.


Melbourne's Flinders Street Railway Station
Flinders Street Railway Station
One of Melbourne's famous trams
Road sign in Melbourne

Do pay attention when you're crossing the street though; Melbourne has a weird system where cars turn right from the far left lane (I will never understand this!).


One thing I do have to mention to students unfamiliar with Australia, however, is that Melbourne's weather can be... how should we say... unpredictable?!


In fact, it's not uncommon to experience four seasons in a day!

To me, this is absolutely part of its appeal, and the rain adds to the mysteriousness of the place (just bring an umbrella and dress in layers!).


But where Sydney tends to get the edge when it comes to beautiful beaches, Melbourne is not without its own fair share, however.


The most popular and convenient one is located in St Kilda, about a half hour on the train from the centre.


I also took the train out to Brighton Beach, home to the famous and colorful beach bungalows.


Beach bungalows, Melbourne
Brightly coloured beach bungalows

Academics


The University of Melbourne is part of the Group of 8, the Ivy League equivalent Down Under.


Although rankings don't paint the complete picture of what it's like to study at a certain university, one of the things The University of Melbourne is most proud of is the fact that it's ranked #1 in Australia in three of the four major university world rankings.


It also has 40 disciplines ranked in the top 40 in the QS subject rankings, which shows it's a comprehensive institution.


And it's very well known for the Melbourne Curriculum, which is different from the way most degrees outside the U.S. are taught.


Melbourne's curriculum was designed to help students 'become great thinkers and ensure they have the flexible mindset required to solve the problems of tomorrow.'

This is achieved through the concept of 'breadth,' which means students are encouraged to explore studies outside their majors and core classes to develop a broader set of skills and knowledge base.


In short, it is kind of a middle ground between a U.S. bachelor's degree involving possibly two years of general education classes and other foreign bachelor's degrees in which students study only their specialist topic from day one.


Faculty of Veterinary & Agricultural Sciences


One of the degrees that attracts a lot of attention with students from North America is Melbourne's Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), particularly because it has the AVMA accreditation.


For the first two years of the 4-year program, students will study in the new Western Edge Biosciences building below.


A University of Melbourne building
University of Melbourne buildings

The second two years are then spent in a more clinical setting at the Werribee campus, about 20 miles to the southwest of Melbourne.


Entrance into the DVM is highly competitive (700 applications for 160 places), with academics being the key factor (75% weighting based on final year grades).


No interviews or work experience are required.


Once you do get in, you'll get to enjoy modern labs and these unique classrooms that can be divided or opened, collaborative or closed accordingly.


Study space for University of Melbourne students
University of Melbourne students

I LOVED the outdoor top floor terrace (hello sun!).


Terrace at University of Melbourne
Fossil collection, University of Melbourne
Fossil collection in the basement

Campus


What immediately struck me about UniMelb is the fact that it's a campus-based university super close to the centre of Melbourne.


I actually walked to it from the centre in about 15-20 minutes, but again, there are free trams that can get you there even quicker (and when it's raining).


Once you're on campus, you can walk from one side to the other in just 15 minutes as well.


Entrance, University of Melbourne

With 54,000 students (almost evenly split between undergraduate and graduate), UniMelb is considered a large university, but with the campus being relatively compact, it didn't feel as overwhelming as a U.S. university of the same size.


In fact, my student tour guide regularly bumped into other students he knew.


There is also plenty of green space and regular events held on campus offering free food for students.


South Lawn, University of Melbourne
The South Lawn
Students at University of Melbourne
Students enjoying green space at University of Melbourne

And speaking of green space, there is even a botanical garden!


Botanical Garden, University of Melbourne
University of Melbourne's Botanical Garden

Like the city, UniMelb's student population is diverse, made up of 40 percent internationals.


Its buildings are equally diverse in their architectural styles, such as:


  • The cloisters of the oldest wing (which evoke images of Oxford and Cambridge)

  • The new Faculty of Architecture building (in which a classroom is literally suspended from the ceiling into the main foyer)

  • The new Arts West building (with funky elevator designs and cool music coming from overhead speakers)

  • Various buildings covered in beautiful ivy


Historic buildings, University of Melbourne campus
Some of the buildings on University of Melbourne's campus
Archways, University of Melbourne
Interesting architecture, University of Melbourne
Lawn and historic buildings, University of Melbourne
A suspended classroom at University of Melbourne
Glyn Davis Building - with a suspended classroom!
Beautiful University of Melbourne buildings
Arts West building, University of Melbourne
Arts West
The interior of the Arts West building, University of Melbourne
Inside Arts West
Study spaces in the Arts West building
Inside Arts West
Students in the Arts West building
Elevator, Arts West Building
The inside of the elevators in this building are all uniquely decorated
University of Melbourne campus view
Melbourne Oval
Melbourne Oval (with the residential colleges behind it)
A Sports Centre on campus at University of Melbourne
Sports Centre

Another unique thing about Melbourne's campus (particularly for those interested in health sciences) is the fact that it's actually located within the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, (Australia's leading biomedical precinct in fact), where there are teaching hospitals, patient care facilities and more than 40 research organizations co-located.


There is also lots of construction going on, with plans to introduce a metro station on campus for even more convenience, as well as a Student Precinct being developed.


Development at University of Melbourne campus
University of Melbourne developments
Construction on campus, University of Melbourne

But it's not all academics; UniMelb exists in pop culture, too!


Ever seen the movie Mad Max? UniMelb's underground car park actually made an appearance in it!


The underground car park on the UniMelb campus
Entrance to the car park
Cycle parking at UniMelb

And last but not least, I was delighted to learn that there are also more than 40 cafes on UniMelb's campus.

This includes Axil, where you'll find this year's winner of the World Barista Championship.


Coffee shop on University of Melbourne campus

Despite this accolade, there's no clear cut answer as to which cafe is the favorite amongst students.


According to one recent graduate, each student has their own hierarchical ranking of UniMelb's cafes (which may also depend on what the student is studying and which cafes are physically closer to where they study).


Housing


Although most college dorms look the same, UniMelb offers some of the best student housing in my opinion -- and I've seen a lot.


From residential colleges (best for those wanting a strong community feel, robust academic and career programs, meal plans and US style dorms) to apartments (best for independent living and for those more on a budget), there are so many options.


Ormond College, pictured below, is one of the colleges and is just stunning.


The dining hall is reminiscent of an Oxbridge building, and a Hogwarts-themed episode of MasterChef was actually filmed there in 2013.


Ormond College, University of Melbourne
Ormond College

There are also plenty of others, including International House, which is made up of 65 percent international students.


Grad Student Housing, University of Melbourne
Grad Student Housing

I was fortunate to get an inside look at an example of the UniMelb dorms at Little Hall, a brand new apartment-style residence hall that is more modern, chic and comfortable than many places I've lived!


When can I move in?


University of Melbourne buildings