Trisha is one of 15 undergraduates who were awarded 2018 Streicker International Fellowships. Streicker Fellows design their own projects or internships in conjunction with a hosting organization. She interned in a quantum-sensing lab at the University of Melbourne in Australia, where she studied Silicon Vacancies in diamond and explored local environmental conservation efforts.
Most people wouldn’t think to find culture in a bathroom on the 35th floor of a luxury hotel downtown. But my last week in Melbourne, day 81 out of 84, I took the elevator up Sofitel tower to experience the hidden yet raved about views of the city, my home for 12 weeks. While photography and cameras were a large theme of my cultural exploration, I took this moment, staring out of a wall-to-ceiling glass panel that overlooked all of Melbourne and beyond, to reflect. In search of the self-posed question, what is Melbourne’s culture?, I found the answer in this unexpected place.
(Caption) The start of my adventure in Melbourne, with the boys from my homestay family
In the bottom left corner, I can see the Melbourne University oval, where I sat in the prominent David Caro physics building for work every day. I replay meetings with advisers, group presentations, political debates over lunch, and the confocal microscope I used to image my diamond sample. My thoughts drift to the future briefly, when I show off the results of my quantum sensing methods project to the nitrogen-vacancy community. Musing, I think through the exciting conundrum of science and what it means for my future at Princeton and beyond – the more I learn, the more there is to discover.
(Caption) Rob, DB, and Scott, good friends from work, keeping me company in the lab, office, and lunchroom
Peeking through the trees, Lygon street shows off its hustle and bustle. I would spend hours every week exploring this little Italy, and relishing Melbourne’s coffee capital status by trying out cappuccinos at different streetside cafes every day.
(Caption) One of many aforementioned Lygon Street cappas
Peering through dusty glass, I manage to make out some of Melbourne’s vast surrounding greenery. I re-live my hikes with Melbourne Bushwalkers, giving me an excellent opportunity to talk with locals about the environment, the government, and Aborigines treatment while exploring Victoria’s forests, wetlands, and mountains.
(Caption) Sunday hike with Melbourne Bushies on the Olinda trail
As my eyes trace the snaking Yarra river that runs through the city, I catch glimpses of Melbourne’s Immigration museum, graffiti-filled laneways, government buildings, state libraries, AFL mega-stadiums, and outdoor marketplaces, a new memory and feeling resurging past each location. I glimpse past Kensington, where hole-in-the-wall “La Tortilleria” was located. I spent endless hours sharpening my Spanish and munching on authentic tacos with locals here. My gaze finally reaches the coast, where I recall planting hundreds of trees on weekend with Conservation Volunteers.
(Caption) Excellent tacos were eaten here
(Caption) The massive Queen Vic Market downtown
I search for 42 Bowen, my homestay for the 12 weeks, located at the neck of expansive Princes Park. I feel the warmth of a family and place to call home. The tastes of authentic, homecooked Italian and Australian meals linger on my tongue, accompanied by the memories of dinnertime conversations with Tom and Angela, homestay parents, as Felix and Gatti, the 4-and-6-year olds did puzzles in the living room. Home is wherever you make it.
(Caption) Angela (host mom), and four other girls from the homestay on my last night
And though I’ve scanned the whole landscape of Melbourne, my memories don’t just stop there. Tullamarine airport in the top left corner reminds me of weekend trips to Tasmania and Sydney, where I have memories exploring the eclectic MOMA in Hobart, staring at the inspiring Opera house, hiking through Mt. Wellington and Mt. Fields, practicing photography at Wineglass Bay, eating through Tassie seafood, surf-watching at Bondi Beach, and peering through the darkness at the southern tip of Tasmania to catch a glimpse of Antarctica.
(Caption) The Twelve Apostles on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road
(Caption) Hanging out with some locals in Tasmania
(Caption) Quintessential Sydney
The past twelve weeks took me far and wide, yet at the same time I haven’t even scratched the surface of this massive place. How can I be expected to answer such a marginalizing question? The flush of a toilet incites an epiphany. Melbourne’s culture, and culture in general, is whatever I make of it. There is no set of multiple choice questions that characterize a culture, there are no categories like dress, food, and language, that can fully relay what Melbourne’s culture is to me. Only my own experiences and memories sparked from the 35th floor of Sofitel tower can help me grasp the ever-changing concept that is culture.
Though it would be impossible to relay the full answer I arrived at, I hope this snapshot comes close. Thank you, Mr. Streicker, OIP, and colleagues-turned-friends, for making this experience exactly how it was.