Melbourne Beginnings: Niu-Niu Tang

Presented in partnership with Study Melbourne, this annual storytelling competition is open to all international students living and studying in Victoria. This year, entrants were invited to write or create a visual work that shares their Melbourne story.

Winners will be announced at a virtual award presentation ceremony on Thu 21 Oct. Book your place here.

English Language Learning Shortlist

The Land of Possibility by Niu-Niu Tang

Gazing out the window to the blue sky as we go through the final hour of my flight, I hold tightly the bag I packed for Melbourne as in my previous two visits with an old set of swimsuits that were never worn. This is how my story began…

Melbourne, city area 9992.5km square, population 4.96million, where each person enjoys over 20km square of space, compared to the 0.068km square per capita in my hometown, the sense of excitement to freedom is indescribable, a place where anything is possible. The coffee aromas that fill the street of Flinders Lane, the graffiti on the walls of South Yarra, the music and dancing on the streets of Fitzroy, the more I recall my journey in the past, the more I am eager for the landing; I steady myself by holding my knees, hoping to slow down the slideshow in my head – the native vegetation in Royal Botanic Gardens, countless species of rare and endangered birds in Jells Park, and Yes! Brighton Beach.

I remember being in Brighton Beach in my last visit to Melbourne. My Melbourne/Colombian friend Angela was a big fan of beaches. It was a perfect sunny day, and she could not wait to introduce me to this beautiful beach. It quickly brought to my attention how lively the atmosphere was at the beach, people playing volleyball, the smokey barbecue bench surrounded by families and friends, others holding surfboards. As I was still distracted by the different activities happening around me, Angela had already plunged into the sea and started swimming. ‘Niu-Niu!’ she asked me to join her.

I hesitated and awkwardly smiled, as sweat dripping down my spine… Have you ever wondered the feeling of swimming freely in a big blue ocean alongside colourful fish? Maybe not so hard for some to imagine, but it’s only a dream for me.

At the age of 10, my cousin and I went fishing at a reservoir in the town named Dong-An. The idea of swimming was irresistible on a hot summer day. We needed to test the depth for safety, so we broke off a tree branch as a testing tool as we slowly eased into the water. Suddenly, I slipped and lurched myself into the deep water. I was overcome with fear, catching for breath and paddling frantically. My cousin tried to rescue me by extending the tree branch my way. My survival instinct kicked in and I tried all my might to catch the branch and let her pull myself out of the water, coughing out all the water from me and trying to breathe in at the same time…

When Angela was swinging her arms at me, I shut my eyes and took a deep breath, the salty air reminded me of where I was, an older me at a beautiful beach in a new country. At that moment, I decided to overcome my childhood fear and go into the water once more.

Yes, Brighton Beach, where I once conquered one of my childhood fears, where I started my story in Melbourne, a city where I shall start another new journey as a student this time.