When we arrived in Melbourne, I didn’t have the highest expectations. I normally don’t like big cities like New York, Philadelphia, etc. On our way from the airport into the city, I could tell it was going to be different. The roads were clean, and even the construction zones looked like they were swept up each night.
Coming into the city, one of the first things you are greeted with is the Melbourne Star, the Southern Hemisphere's only Giant Observation Wheel. There were skyscrapers hundreds of feet tall, and Melbourne had all the characteristics of a big city, just without the trash.
We went directly to the apartments, unpacked, and regrouped to find a place for dinner since we were all starving. We went out and had some food at The Irish Times Pub. The food was excellent, and afterwards we went back up to the apartment to talk and hang for a while before heading to bed after a long day.
The following day, we got up early and left in a van to go on the Great Ocean Road Tour. This way by far one of the best experience I have had in my life. Since there was a marathon happening that day along the road, we did the tour in reverse. It started with a long drive out of Melbourne and through the country all the way to the ocean.
Our first stop was the 12 Apostles in Port Campbell National Park. The 12 Apostles are big limestone pillars that have resisted erosion as the rest of the cliffs wash away over time. Currently, there are only 9 of the apostles remaining, the rest have collapsed and faded away into the seas. The views were absolutely breathtaking from the lookout points, and they only got better as the day went on.
The next stop was another section of the 12 Apostles called Loch Ard Gorge. Here, we could look out from the top of the sandstone cliffs, but we also were able to descend down onto the beaches in a large cove. There were cliffs 100 feet tall surrounding us on all sides, and a small spot where the water rushed in and out to the open ocean. While exploring the beach, we found a cave that was surrounded by water only accessible by crawling over the edges of the rocks along the bottom of the cliff. When I went in, it was very large near the opening and went back at least 100 feet until it got too small to continue. It was amazing seeing this naturally formed cave with stalagmites and stalactites covering the floors and ceilings, and it would be a perfect spot to camp and spend the night.
As we began driving to the next destination, we went through amazing transformations in the terrain. What began as cliffs by the sea with few trees or bushes soon became sprawling mountains and valleys as far as the eye could see. Quickly, the terrain transformed again into dense rainforests which is where we made our next stop. Here, we explored the rainforests for a bit and found the mountain ash trees. These are the second tallest trees in the world and the tallest flowering plants in the world.
From the rainforests, we went through another forest and back down to sea level in the coastal town of Apollo Bay. There was an amazing small town with pristine beaches lining its shores and a beautiful curtain of mountains as the backdrop in every other direction. As we continued along the Great Ocean Road, we stopped at rest areas along the way to step out and take in the views. Each stop was more stunning and picturesque than the last.
Along the road, we pulled into a campground and got out to look at koalas up in the eucalyptus trees. I spotted 4 different koalas and also had the tropical birds that were flying around land on me. We continued on for a bit longer through more mountains and valleys with flowing rivers until we reached the end of the Great Ocean Road. We took a quick detour and drove up to a golf course where we saw dozens of wild kangaroos just roaming around eating the grass. In order to make it to a beach before sunset, we drove quickly to Torquay, a surf town that boasts itself as the official start of the Great Ocean Road and the birthplace of both Quicksilver and Rip Curl. Since I love surfing, I took a dip in the water and it felt amazing and refreshing. We finished the day with pizza on the beach and a beautiful sunset before we headed back to the city for the night.
Monday morning the business visits began. The first business we visited was IBM. The employees were extremely nice, and they gave us a quick tour of their open workspaces where each person could choose where they wanted to sit in order to help facilitate collaboration and ease communication during group projects. We then had a meeting with one of the top people at IBM who explained what they do and why it is important. She was also very helpful in answering any questions we had and giving us great advice. Before we left, one of the program directors even offered us an interview for a position at the company.
After IBM, the next few hours were spent going around the city on a scavenger hunt. We were given a series of riddles which led us to the Victoria Library, the Ferris Wheel, Parliament, a hidden bar under a bridge with an excellent drink called the Gentleman’s Agreement, a hidden coffee shop under Flinders Lane, and finally a bar where we found the Ormsbees with prizes and dinner.
After dinner, I decided to take the tram out to St. Kilda beach. It was a great town with lots of restaurants, bars, and shopping. When I decided to go down by the beach and take a walk along the pier, I even stumbled on a colony of Little Penguins along the rocks! It was a fantastic end to the night.
The following day, we were up early to take a bus ride to the Toyota plant just outside of Melbourne. It was a huge plant, and we were fortunate enough to get a tour before they shut it down in October of this year. We toured the entire plant and saw a car built from start to finish with all of the processes explained along the way.
It was very interesting to learn about and afterwards we traveled to Monash University to work with graduate students in their StarLab for a global currency trading simulation. The student I worked with was great, and we talked a lot about the simulation, the markets, life in Australia, and life back in each of our own countries. The simulation was extremely fun, and I am eager to learn more about it in the future.
When we got back from Monash, we all went out for a group dinner at the Turf Bar which, like all the other places in Melbourne, had amazing food. After this, we set off for a tour of the Old Melbourne Goal which is said to be haunted. It was a fun experience, and I ended the night exploring on my way back to the apartments.
Our last full day in Melbourne began with a trip to KPMG, a global data analytics company. The building was amazing, and the partners who presented to us seemed very eager to share their work with us. Since they had only been in this office for about six months, they decided to develop a space with open concepts and a very natural, flowing design. Every room was updated with the newest technology including touch screens, virtual reality, and much more. The views from the offices were breathtaking as well.
After KPMG, we headed to the US Consulate, a branch of the Embassy. Here, the leaders within the consulate shared some of their experiences with us, told us some of the problems many people face going abroad, and explained what they do each and every day to help US citizens.
The last business visit for the night was at Carlton Brewery. Here, we got a tour of their entire facility as well as a lesson on how the beer was actually made and the processes involved in it. Afterwards, they gave up seven different types of the beer to taste and then gave us a very nice dinner.
On the way back, we went out to explore some of Melbourne’s famed hidden bars for the night. Some bars were hidden down winding alleyways and some had no marking on the doors which meant you had to find a door and then find your way in. One bar was hidden up a back staircase and behind a bookshelf where you had to pull out a specific book to move it. Another was hidden in a fake refrigerator that would only open a secret passageway when you entered the refrigerator and shut the door. Some bars were themed like one set it World War II Berlin and one designed like a bird cage.
This was an incredible experience, and I will never forget Melbourne, the City of Culture.