Melbourne Beginnings: Taylor Freitas

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.

Vocational Education & Training Shortlist

Travel Tips from a Stranger by Taylor Freitas

“Oh, you’re going to Australia? You have to see Melbourne.”

Surprised, I turned my head to address the soft-spoken stranger on my left, who had just politely interrupted my conversation with a friend.

As I would soon find out, this stranger (his name was Tim, as I later learned) was an Aussie ex-pat visiting San Francisco.

He’d overheard my enthusiastic rambling about my upcoming trip to Sydney but wanted to share his love for his hometown: Melbourne.

“It’s an incredible city. Once you’re there, you’ll fall in love with it right away,” Tim said.

I smiled and nodded, half-heartedly accepting his travel tips — even though I knew that my itinerary was already packed (mostly with touristy Sydney landmarks that I’d seen in movies).

As the conversation ended, I thanked Tim and agreed to stay in touch on social media when I landed in Australia.

I arrived in Sydney two weeks later, stepping off my trans-Pacific flight into the warm and welcoming Sydney sunshine. As quickly as I could, I dropped off my bags and wandered through the city, eager to experience my first taste of life in Australia.

I can still remember the sheer awe I felt standing in front of the iconic Sydney Opera House — at the time, I couldn’t imagine anything more Australian.

But as I adjusted to my new surroundings, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. Sydney was beautiful, but it just didn’t feel like home.

And then I remembered Tim and our conversation in that dimly lit wine bar in San Francisco.

I thought about how he described Melbourne, with its art-covered laneways, diverse suburbs, and world-class coffee scene.

But more importantly, I recalled how he spoke about the people of Melbourne. He described them as warm, open-minded, and optimistic. Melburnians look after one another and make everyone feel welcome, he said.

At that moment, I knew it was time for my Melbourne beginnings.

The next day, I booked a train to Southern Cross. The 12-hour trip took nearly as long as my flight from California, but I was buzzing with excitement the entire way, knowing that I had so much to look forward to on the other side.

When I stepped off the train, I wasn’t greeted by the same sunshine that I’d gotten used to in Sydney. Instead, I was welcomed to Melbourne with a strong gust of wind and a few drops of rain.

I laughed, realising that Melbourne certainly had a mind of its own.

I was home.

It’s been more than three years since that first visit to Melbourne, but the novelty still hasn’t worn off. To this day, I can’t help but smile when I walk along the Yarra, pass under the Flinders Street clocks, or take the train past the MCG.

Even after living through 2020 as a Victorian, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

This is how my story began … and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.