My initial impression of Melbourne……wow, this is a city! As we were driving into the city, I was instantly amazed at the beauty of the skyline. The buildings had a beautiful, modern architecture that we hadn’t seen in Adelaide, and throughout our first days in Melbourne I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to take in the beautiful sights this city has to offer.
Our first stop in Melbourne was to the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. Honestly, I was initially pretty skeptical about this visit. I was unsure about what to expect, and couldn’t see how it was possible to make a visit to the Chamber of Commerce interesting. Within the first 5 minutes of our presentation, however, my skepticism was gone and I was completely in tune with what our host Sally was saying.
She touched on a number of different topics, including the role of the Chamber in Australian business and what sorts of things are done at the Chamber, but what fascinated me was when she began talking about some of the differences between the Australian and American marketplaces. Australia has nearly the same amount of land as the United States, but only 25 million people as compared to our 390 million! This small population, spread out over a relatively large area, is a huge contributing factor to the high costs associated with living in Australia. To create enough revenue to build infrastructures to connect cities or deliver goods and services across the large country, taxes must be high and the costs to buy and sell goods are much greater than in the United States. This fact, among other things, was something that really stood out to me during our visit to the Chamber. It was an extremely educational experience, which I found to be both interesting and valuable.
Upon completion of our visit to the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, it was time for our second scavenger hunt of the trip. We were split into teams and given riddles to help us find unique or iconic spots throughout the city. Among the interesting places that our scavenger hunt brought us was a restaurant and bar called the Chin Chin. This modern eatery not only served as a place for young people to hang out and grab a bite, but also as a place where the work of young Art students could be displayed. Student artwork is projected through a large glass window onto a cement wall in the alley next to the Chin Chin, for all those who dine there or walk down Flinders Lane. I find this idea to be extremely unique, and unlike anything I have ever seen in the US.
The completion of the scavenger hunt left us sore and tired from walking the streets of Melbourne for 4 hours, but I now feel like I have a much greater understanding of not only how to navigate the city, but also the culture that goes along with it. The tour of the Toyota plant was next on our list, and, as I will be interning in a manufacturing setting this summer, I was extremely excited to see what went on inside a Toyota manufacturing facility. Let me tell you, this plant did not disappoint. It took nearly a 2 kilometer walk to just brush the surface of the plant’s operations, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how automation and human labor come together to turn sheet metal into a full, working car. We were able to see the entire process from start to finish, and it was amazing seeing how something so standard in our every day lives takes such an intricate process to make. My favorite part of the Toyota Plant tour was seeing all of the robots and trying to understand how it is even remotely possible that technology like that exists.
The DiBella Coffee Roasters was our next stop, and as an avid coffee drinker I was extremely excited to do this visit. Tucked away on a street corner was the small, adorable coffee shop. We were brought to a back room, fed lunch, and given samples of freshly roasted coffee (which did not disappoint). We were able to see coffee beans being roasted in front of our very eyes, and taught a lot about different types of beans and the processes used to make specialty coffee.
Two coffees later, we were all caffeinated up and ready to head over to the US Consulate. This visit, like the Chamber of Commerce, was not one that I was necessarily excited for. However, it’s safe to say that it turned out to be one of my favorites of the trip thus far. We spoke with 3 different Americans, who were relocated to Australia as part of the Foreign Services sector of our US State Department, and they taught us about what functions a Consulate performs and their own individual roles within the office. I could never have imagined the importance of a Consulate in foreign nations, but after this visit it has become very clear to me why we have them and the good that they do for Americans all over the world. The entire Foreign Service program fascinated me, and I was surprised to find myself considering what it would be like to be a career diplomat, even though working for the government has never even crossed my mind up to this point. There is a US Consulate in nearly every country in the world, whether enemy or ally; our first speaker, Bill, was even stationed in Afghanistan for a year!
Our final stop of the day was at the Old Melbourne Gaol. When describing this place, creepy would be an understatement. This building was once a maximum-security prison for some of Australia’s most dangerous criminals, and featured gallows that saw 133 executions. Legend has it that many sinister spirits haunt this jail, and after spending an hour there, I completely believe it. I get easily spooked, so I was borderline terrified to be a part of this tour. After being in the jail and hearing the stories, however, my fear turned into fascination. I was even brave enough to stand in the most haunted cell in the entire prison!
Overall, I am very impressed with Melbourne and have thoroughly enjoyed being in the city thus far. I am extremely excited to see what else this beautiful city has in store for our last 2 days here!