Upon arrival in your chosen country, you take part in a Lattitude orientation – a few days with all the other volunteers in your cohort – designed to equip you with everything you need to know for your coming months overseas! It’s also a great chance to make new friends and explore a new city! A current volunteer in Australia, Oliver, has kindly written about his experience at orientation in Melbourne…
“A Brit in Aus” – Written by Oliver Lloyd
After landing at 5:15am and clearing customs, the first group of 12 British Lattitude gappies are met at the arrivals lounge by a representative of the charity, who takes us to our orientation accommodation – the Space Hotel, Melbourne. This is a high class hostel where we will all be staying and we are finally able to meet Sarah, our Lattitude supervisor in Australia. After being given the keys to our rooms (4 or 6 people per room) we have the opportunity to freshen up, something we were all desperate to do because, well, I’ll leave you to imagine what happens after 30 hours with no access to washing facilities.
We all met at reception a few hours later before heading out to find a cheap breakfast, ending up at a McDonald’s in one of a few local shopping centres, all of which are worth a visit if you end up in Melbourne. We returned to the hostel to find the reception was swamped. It doesn’t take long to realise that the flood of new people are our German counterparts, all 45 of them. Although we are greatly outnumbered, the two groups soon become one as we get to know each other over the couple of hours it takes to sort out Australian sim cards for 60 people, not an easy task, but something which the Lattitude and Telstra (main Australian phone company) organised without a glitch.
After being issued with our new numbers we are given time for lunch where myself and the other Victoria volunteers find ourselves in the food court of the earlier shopping centre. It is at this point that I realised I have missed out on some great food in my life – a beef burrito costing 14AU$ is honestly one of the best things that I have ever had the pleasure of eating, especially as it was cooked in the traditional Mexican way. The afternoon of orientation day one was then spent setting up Australian bank accounts – yes, although we’re gappies and volunteers we are still able to receive some pocket money to help fund our trip – so any parents out there don’t need to worry that we will be left short of cash for our time away from home. That Monday evening, we were split into groups and taken to a restaurant in Melbourne, with my group, led by Glyn (Lattitude Regional Director), being taken to “Father’s Office” a great bar where we were served “parma” – a dish that the Australians like to class as their own. After the meal, I took a walk down to St Paul’s Cathedral and had the opportunity to see Melbourne at its finest during the night where the lights help present the artistic side of the city.
Day two was another day of meetings and sorting out paperwork, but in Australia it’s never all work and no play. In the afternoon we were treated to a tour of Melbourne’s street art on which we learned that the art on buildings is not illegal, as long as the artist has received permission from the building’s owner and that much of the street art has been commissioned to attract shoppers into the side street stores, one of which is a controversial “street” shop which opened on the ally where street art began. This is controversial as many believe that people should not be making money in a place dedicated to portraying rather than selling talent.
Now, many often think of Australia as being warm all year round, and that included me, so I can tell you that it was a shock to be living in highs of 14⁰C, especially when a large rain storm hit the city causing all to flee to cover to avoid becoming wetter than boiled potato. The day was finished by spending the evening as a group in a local bar drinking jugs of a local beer or cider, where a jug equated to about 2.5 schooners, or two pints.
The final day was taken up by some final preparations from Lattitude before us gappies were given free time, in which a small group of us ended up on a tram to the seaside suburb of St Kilda (pronounced Sint Kilda) where we took a walk down the pier in the hope of spotting penguins – yes, they do live in Australia as well! On our return to the hostel, we met on the rooftop for our final group gathering before we were lead to the Australian market. This is a place that you cannot miss if you visit Melbourne – the smells of the food stalls mixed with the independent stall holders, accompanied by live entertainment made for a friendly, and typical Australian atmosphere, even if we chose to go for traditional Greek kebabs.
That’s all from me so I wish you all the best until the next instalment of “A Brit in Aus”.
If Oliver’s experience has inspired you to look into taking a gap year in Australia, click here.