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Welcome to Melbourne!

Volume 7 Number 1 January 10 - February 13 2011

If you’ve ever started life in a new city, or just passed through on your travels, you’ll know a local connection can mean the difference between just scratching the surface of a new city or really feeling at home in the community. By Zoe Nikakis.

For the University of Melbourne’s international AusAID students, a local connection also means knowing there’s someone close by who can offer support, advice or just a friendly face. Since 2009, the ‘Welcome to Melbourne’ program has helped make the transition to Melbourne a little smoother for these students by pairing them with an alumnus host for a home-cooked meal.

This unique program matches international students with members of the University community, who have the opportunity to invite the students and their families into their homes for a dinner and the chance to learn more about each other.

“We’re doing this because one of the major challenges that faces all universities is to find a way to introduce students to the host culture and support them to be part of that culture: there really is no substitute to being invited into someone’s home,” University of Melbourne Provost, Professor John Dewar, says.

Feedback from departing international students has revealed a genuine disappointment in never having an opportunity to experience life in an Australian home. This program makes the experience of our international students more personal for both them and their host families. ‘Welcome to Melbourne’ has enabled many friendships to form and grow between the students and hosts, and has made a genuine difference to the students as they transition into their life on a new campus, in a new city.

A previous success story Mehreen Malik, from Pakistan, was grateful to be hosted by alumnus Jennifer Pfeiffer and her daughter.

“It’s a good opportunity to interact with alumni and to know how people live and work in Australia,” Ms Malik says.

Her host, Ms Pfeiffer agrees, saying “It’s a really good idea to engage in this cross-cultural activity. I would be happy to participate again. We are still in contact with our student from last year; we expect to meet up in the next week. She will be here until mid-year. It has been a pleasure.“

Other hosts are equally positive about their experiences.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed meeting people from other countries,” says Harry Blutstein.

“We have participated in the program three times, and have met some really nice people.  In two cases, we have continued to keep in touch, which I expect will continue. “

“In addition to the dinner, I invited my student to the Museum Day – that was a great opportunity to share some Aussie culture as well as have a more general conversation about all kinds of things around what we were looking at – insects and the “yuk” factor are shared across cultures!! It was a fun activity,” says Keri Whitehead.

“Yes, I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting Rafiq and his wife and daughter and we plan to meet again soon,” says Jeremy Cohen.

“I have learnt about Bangladeshi culture and society and hope that our friendship continues.”

“I’ve had a good experience this year (and last year),” says Leigh Mackay.

“Both times I invited friends to meet my international student for dinner in my home and they found it a very positive and interesting experience. This year my student brought a friend (also an international student) and that helped with the introductions (and so she was not the sole focus of attention). I cooked a turkey which I found out they had never eaten but seemed to enjoy.”

If you’d like to register for the program, contact the alumni relations team
8344 1746.

The Welcome to Melbourne program website