Avoiding a Total Mental Breakdown in My Final Semester

So it’s week 5 and I’m drowning. Anyone else out there in your final semester? Final year, even? My kindred spirits; you’ll know my pain.

I’ve kind of cruised through uni up until this point. First year was a total breeze; I barely did any readings, assignments were 1,500 words maximum, and my professors treated us as though we had no clue what we were doing (they were right, we didn’t) (I still don’t). Second year was a little bit tougher. I actually had to do my readings to understand the content, lectures got a little more dense, assignments became a little longer, and our professors no longer spoon fed us and rocked our cradles. Even last semester—my first semester of my final year—was relatively cruise-y. I managed to get away with not listening to most of my lectures and skipping a good portion of the readings, totally winging it come assignment time, and coming out the end of the semester having done okay. But nobody prepared me for my final semester.

In high school, I relied pretty heavily on my older brother to impart on me his nuggets of wisdom and sage advice. He’d already gone through the motions and could tell me what to expect. But then we decided to do totally different things once uni rolled around. He set the bar higher than I thought possible by choosing to do a double degree in Commerce and Law. True to my nature, I decided to be a disappointment to my parents and everyone else around me by pursuing the humble Bachelor of Arts. A second gut punch for my parents came when I told them I was planning to major in Sociology (neither of them knew what that was) (I didn’t really know what that was either, but it sounded relatively easy) (to their immense relief, I added on Media & Communications as a second major in my second semester). Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I was completely on my own when I got to uni. I didn’t have my crutch of an older sibling to lean on for advice, so I had to figure it out on my own; since his degrees take about 100 years to complete, I’ve reached my final semester well before he will.

The first shock of this semester came when I saw how many assignments I have to do. Most of my subjects have had two or three essays throughout the semester, 10% of my grade being dedicated to that pesky class-attendance-and-participation trick. But this semester, I’m barely keeping my head above water with my workload. As well as having weekly readings that span hundreds of pages for each respective subject, I also have weekly quizzes, presentations, group assignments, and essays. I was not prepared. Add that on top of a 2-day-a-week internship and you’ve got yourself a Martha Stewart-worthy recipe for a breakdown, folks. I can only imagine what my mental state would be if I had a job (PS someone please hire me, I have no money).

The second shock came when I realised that I have to start thinking about my future. Now. NOW now. The future is no longer the future; it’s the present. I have to start submitting applications pronto. Do I want to pursue a Master’s degree? Will I even get into a Master’s program? Do I want to apply for work? Will anyone hire me if all I have is a BA? What do I even want to do for a living? Why are companies only hiring copywriters and social media managers? What even is copywriting, really? Am I meant to move out of home as soon as I get a full-time job? Can I bring my dog with me when I move out, or should I leave her at home to wonder why I left and never came back? What is superannuation? Is it normal to cry as often as I do?

So. If you’re wondering, or if you want to prepare yourself for what’s to come, here’s how I’m managing to avoid having a complete and total mental breakdown:

Write stuff down. Simple, but effective. I write down a to-do list each day and categorise it by what needs to be done right now, what needs to be done by the end of the day, and what can wait until tomorrow. It makes everything feel so much more doable (plus it’s just so satisfying crossing stuff off the list).

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Don’t procrastinate. Don’t. Don’t do it. I know The Bachelor is on and you’re promising yourself that you’ll get started on [insert thing that immediately sprung to mind when you read this] after this episode. Get started now. At least have your laptop or book open in front of you while the TV is on. Try to guilt yourself into doing at least some of it. Future you will be so, so grateful.

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Dip your toe in every pool. Or however that saying goes. Don’t know what you want to do after uni? Apply for everything and see where it takes you. If you haven’t been offered a job or accepted into a grad program (or whatever else it is you want to do) by the time you graduate, you’ll simply be in the same position you’re in now, but with one more degree and infinitely less essays to write.

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Coffee. If you’re not a coffee drinker, now’s the time to become one. And if you’re a one-cup-a-day kinda person, it’s time to up the ante.

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Your Melbourne Weekend Itinerary: Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

Maybe I’m a tad biased, but I reckon Melbourne is the best city in the world. We’ve got it all: beaches, mountains, a beautiful city, amazing food, an awesome art and music scene, and tons of festivals and events to fill your weekends with. You can never be bored in Melbourne—there’s always something to do. Whether you’re taking a vacation or you’re just in desperate need of a staycation, here’s how I would fill a perfect weekend in Melbourne.

Friday Night

Grab dinner at one of Melbourne’s best restaurants

There’s no shortage of dinner spots in Melbourne. If you’re aiming for something on the fancier (read: more expensive) side, Dinner by Heston, Attica, Rockpool Bar & Grill, and Vue de Monde are all safe bets. Want something more casual (ahem, cheaper)? Hit up Mamasita, Vegie Bar (or its sister restaurant, Transformer), Hochi Mama, or 400 Gradi. Since calories don’t count on weekends, satisfy your sweet tooth and grab dessert at N2 Gelato.

Holey Moley

Mini golf isn’t just for kids anymore. Past 5pm, this indoor mini golf joint is only open to 18+. It’s got 2 levels, 2 bars, 18 holes, and private karaoke rooms.

Grab a drink in a hidden bar

Melbourne has a knack for making things more complicated than they need to be, but still way more fun than anywhere else. Boston Sub in Windsor makes a mean roasted veg sandwich. But its real attraction is the bar it’s hiding behind the inconspicuous cool room door.

Hit the sack in an Airstream on a rooftop

The fun doesn’t stop just because you’re going to bed! Hands down one of my favourite places in Melbourne is Notel, a rooftop in the CBD filled with airstream caravans, all decked out with bathrooms, double beds, iPads, and minibars. One caravan even has its own private jacuzzi. A bonus of staying here? Everything in the minibar is free and you get a free round at Holey Moley. Although breakfast costs a little extra, I highly recommend ordering a breakfast box ahead of time. The hotel is positioned on top of Saluministi’s Flinders Lane location; you tell them the time you want your breakfast and they’ll give you the best breakfast (and coffee!) you’ve ever had.

Saturday

But first, coffee

Obviously everywhere in Melbourne does fantastic coffee, so if you decide to wander around and walk into the first café you see, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed by their coffee. However, some people like to have a plan, so I’m gonna give you a list of my favourite places to get coffee in the CBD. You’re welcome. Standing Room is small, but their coffee packs a punch; Rustica does an amazing smashed avo if you want a little breakfast with your coffee; I’m a huge fan of the batch brew at Shortstop (and their doughnuts are to die for—my favourite is the maple walnut & brown butter); Hash Specialty is home to the Insta-famous fairy floss hot chocolate, but it also has fantastic coffee; Trunk is the cutest café/restaurant/coffee shop/bar/beer garden and one of my favourite—if not my favourite—places to eat and get coffee in Melbourne; last but not least, Market Lane is one of the most popular coffee spots in Melbourne (but be warned—their coffee spritz nearly killed me).

Go walkabout

I can sit here and give you a million suggestions of things to do and places to go and attractions to see in Melbourne (and don’t you worry, I will without a doubt still do that), but the one thing I tell everyone who visits Melbourne is that you can’t go wrong just walking around the city, wandering aimlessly and without a plan, exploring on foot. Melbourne’s charm lies in the laneways and hidden coffee shops and street art. You’ll miss a lot of things if your nose is stuck in a map (lol, as if anyone owns an actual map anymore) or you’re on a tour bus. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said to someone, “I would’ve never found this place if I hadn’t just happened to walk past it!”, I could probably pay for Ubers so I wouldn’t have to walk everywhere.

That being said…

Melbourne has so many things to see and do that it can be overwhelming heading out without a plan when you’re spending a day in the city. There’s a bus tour of Melbourne and tons of walking tours, too. But it’s more fun for me if you let me play travel agent and map it out for you.

Start North. Soak in the street art and funky vibes in Fitzroy. Visit a thrift shop (don’t worry, it’s cool to do that now). Find a rooftop bar (Naked for Satan will never disappoint), grab a coffee, and check out the incredible views of the city. After that, make your way down to the Carlton area. Take a peek inside Melbourne Museum. Walk around Melbourne Uni (I guess it’s actually pretty beautiful when you don’t associate it with assignments and all-nighters and stress). Take a lap around the Royal Exhibition Building and the Carlton Gardens. Head down just a liiiiittle bit farther and you’ll get to the Queen Vic Markets (hot tip—the markets are best viewed on Wednesday night during the Summer or Winter Night Markets).

A little further South and now you’re in the CBD. The CBD is full of street art (check out Hosier Lane if that kinda thing sounds good to you), live music (walk down the street and come across about a million buskers), and amazing food. Grab a burger and a drink on the rooftop of Curtin House (this place also becomes an outdoor cinema in the summer!) or hit up Easey’s if eating your lunch in a refurbished train carriage sounds cool to you. Don’t forget to hit the token touristy spots like Federation Square (ACMI in Fed Square is worth a visit if you like film and digital media), Town Hall, State Library, and the clocks at Flinders Street Station.

Keep walking down and you’ll reach the Southbank area. This is an awesome part of Melbourne because it’s home to the NGV, Southgate, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Have a picnic in the Gardens or catch a movie at the Moonlight Cinema if you’re in Melbourne in Summer. If you’re in this area at night, you can’t not lose a little bit of money at Crown, the southern hemisphere’s largest casino—there are some amazing restaurants and even shopping in the complex, too.

Now you might wanna catch a tram down St. Kilda road all the way to the Esplanade. Walk along the beach, go for a ride at Luna Park, and grab dinner. Some of my favourite restaurants are in St. Kilda: Trippy Taco, Sparrow’s Philly Cheesesteaks, Rococo, and Little Blue. After dinner, take a stroll down the pier at sunset and watch the fairy penguins emerge from the rocks and dive in the water when it gets dark.

Sunday

Rise and shine, it’s day trip time!

You know what’s fun? Road trips. You know what’s even more fun? Road trips in a Kombi van to some of the most beautiful spots in Victoria/Australia/the world. Tour company Hike and Seek runs day trips out of Melbourne to tons of different places: Mornington Peninsula (including the hot springs), Phillip Island, Great Otway National Park, Wilson’s Prom, the 12 Apostles/Port Campbell, Mt. Buller, and the Grampians. The folks at Hike and Seek provide you with transportation (the Kombi, duh), a guided tour (usually including hiking, so dress accordingly), coffee, and vegan snacks.

If hiking and vegan food isn’t exactly your kinda party, maybe you’re better suited to a wine tour in the Yarra Valley. There are tons of different tours to choose from since Yarra Valley has no shortage of vineyards. Yarra Valley is only about an hour-long drive from the CBD and most tours include transport to and from the CBD and between wineries. Most tours range from $100-$200 per person.

Don’t drink? Or maybe you just don’t like to spend over $7 on wine? That’s cool too, Victoria has tons of spots that are perfect for day trips. Catch the V-Line to Bendigo, rent a car and coast down the Great Ocean Road, hike the Dandenong Ranges, or make your way to Healesville to check out the animal sanctuary where you can feed a kangaroo or cuddle a koala.

Melbourne is my favourite place in the world and no matter how far I travel, I’ll always call it my home. Here’s hoping you love it even half as much as I do.

Cheap Date Ideas For When You’re Broker Than Broke

Having a significant other is the best—you have someone who’ll compliment you but also be brutally honest with you, someone to zip up the back of your dress, someone to binge-watch Netflix with (your cat doesn’t count), and someone to laugh at other people with. But let’s be real: my boyfriend and I are both in uni and we can barely afford to use the bathroom at a Michelin-starred restaurant, let alone eat in one.

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Here’s us being very cute and in love and broke.

Wanting to shower your s/o in expensive gifts and dinners and holidays when in reality you can’t even buy them a scented candle is awful. Luckily, I consider myself a master of the art of Cheapskate Dating™, so here’s a comprehensive list of my go-to date night ideas that won’t force you to eat ramen for dinner for the next 2 weeks.

Free

Museums

I never get tired of wandering around NGV on a rainy day, especially since it’s free entry into their permanent collection—and if you’re lucky, you can sometimes catch a free temporary exhibit (their current temporary exhibit, Triennial, has free admission!). Melbourne Museum and ACMI also have free entry.

Art galleries

Something I love about Melbourne is that there’s no shortage of artistic talent. On any given day there are dozens of open art galleries that cost you nothing to have a look through. Some of my favourites are the Ian Potter Gallery, Seventh Gallery, and the State Library of Victoria.

1,000 Steps (Kokoda Track)

If you don’t mind your date seeing you sweaty and out of breath, the 1,000 steps is a beautiful hike in the the Dandenongs. It’s 5km uphill, but totally worth it (and not as painful as it sounds!)

Beach

This one’s obvious, but exploring a new beach on a warm day is one of my favourite things to do. Beaches along the Peninsula (St. Andrews, Blairgowrie back beach, Sorrento back beach, Mt. Martha) are stunning, even in winter.

Free dance classes

There are tons of free dance classes in Melbourne if you’re looking for a fun way to fill in a weeknight. Free beginners salsa classes are held in the CBD at 6pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Watch the sunset together

Yeah, this is a cheesy one. But if you know me at all, you’ll know how much I love watching the sunrise and sunset everyday (okay—maybe just the sunset. I’m not a morning person). Here’s a list of a few of the best places to watch the sunset from in Melbourne.

Melbourne Walking Tours

Melbourne offers free walking tours around the city, exploring laneways and street art and different monuments around the city.

Botanical Gardens

One of my favourite places in Melbourne are the Royal Botanical Gardens. They’re a beautiful place to have a picnic and watch the sun set or rise over Melbourne. It’s also the site of Sidney Myer Music Bowl, my favourite concert venue and home to one of my favourite events of the year, Carols by Candlelight.

Free concerts

Speaking of Sidney Myer Music Bowl, the venue collaborates with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra each summer and plays host to free concerts each week.

$15 and under

Cook dinner

Cooking dinner together is a cheap alternative to going to a fancy restaurant and a fun way to spend some time together. It’s not hard to find an simple recipe for steak and potatoes or lasagne or chicken—at the very least, throw some pasta in a pot and call it a day. Or make brunch together, because who can afford a $20 smashed avo?

Eureka Skydeck

Eureka Skydeck is the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere with amazing views of the whole city. Entry is only $15.50 for students. Pro tip: go in the evening so you can catch the sunset.

Drive-in cinema

This is one of my favourites. Concession tickets for Lunar Drive-In are only $11 each; every Tuesday is Discount Night, which means $10 tickets and free classic video games. They also have a super cute old-timey café with cheap food and drinks.

Food Truck Park

The Food Truck Park in Preston (there’s also one in Coburg) is an awesome place to go when you don’t want to splurge on an expensive restaurant and want more options than just one menu. Check their website for what the food theme of the weekend is—to save you a click, this coming weekend is cheese & wine and next weekend is chocolate. Come armed with cash and an empty stomach. Note—although it’s free entry, be prepared to line up to get in!

Bounce, Inc.

Bounce, a warehouse full of trampolines and trampoline-based activities, is another one where you can’t be afraid to have your date seeing you sweating and exhausted. It’s only $11.70 for student entry, which gets you an hour of bouncing time.

Studley Park Boathouse

Recreate That Scene™ from The Notebook by hiring a rowboat with your date. It’s $26 for 2 people for half an hour (that’s only $13 each, in case math isn’t your strong suit). There’s also an adorable café there if you’re feeling extra boujee and can spare another $20.

GlowGolf

This glow-in-the-dark mini golf venue in the Docklands is $15 for adults—and only $5 for a rematch! Wear a white outfit to really stand out.

Board Games at 29th Apartment

29th Apartment is a bar in St. Kilda that encourages you to sit down with a few friends and whip out the Cluedo or Cards Against Humanity or Jenga. Throughout the week they have a  $15 pizza and drink deal and if you go on Wednesdays you can snag unlimited pizza plus a drink for $10.

If you actually made it to the end of this list and still can’t find something that tickles your fancy, hop on Groupon or Scoopon and find a cheap date that’s more up your alley.

51 Thoughts I Had On My Last First Day Of Uni

Call me a nerd, but I love going to uni. I don’t know what it is—the pretty buildings, the abundance of good coffee, the feeling of accomplishment after actually going to a lecture (even if I sit on Facebook the whole time), or maybe all of the above. And between you and me, I actually enjoy writing essays. I mean, it’s eight uninterrupted pages of me telling everyone what I think—that’s my kinda party.

This morning marked my last first day of uni (or at least, my last first day of undergrad) and I was really, really sad about it. Here’s a peek at what was going through my mind today.

  1. Wow, I actually forgot what waking up at 8am feels like.
  2. I hate it.
  3. Why didn’t I do any laundry yesterday?
  4. Black jeans and a white t-shirt? For the first day of school? Groundbreaking.
  5. So we meet again, 9am train. I hope you know how much I loathe you.
  6. This is a coffee-scented, commuter-filled hell.
  7. It’s 9am. Shouldn’t everyone on this train already be at work?
  8. Maybe I should invest in a fake pregnancy belly so I’m always guaranteed a seat on the train.
  9. I should’ve bought coffee.
  10. Why didn’t I buy coffee?
  11. Okay, and I left my water bottle at home. Great start to the day, Monique, nice job.
  12. Omg. I had actually forgotten that I catch the tram.
  13. Dear Metro gods, why didn’t you bless us with a Parkville train station? Why must you force me to ride the tram?
  14. Honestly, the tram is just a humbling experience. It keeps me grounded.
  15. Okay, definitely don’t remember UniMelb being this big.
  16. And definitely don’t remember it having this many people.
  17. And definitely don’t remember first years being this small.
  18. Was I that small when I was a first year?
  19. Surely not.
  20. Do I look that small now?
  21. I’m 100% positive that when I was a first year I looked exactly the same as I do now.
  22. And I distinctly remember the third years being tall and scary.
  23. I’m not that tall.
  24. And I’m definitely not at all scary.
  25. Okay, first class. Media Psychology. Physics building.
  26. Where the actual hell is the physics building?
  27. I didn’t even know we had a physics building.
  28. I’m running 10 minutes late and I don’t even know where my building is.
  29. I swear, if this lecture theatre doesn’t have a back door, I’m leaving.
  30. Should I just ditch? I still haven’t had that coffee.
  31. HoHo’s is calling my name. I can hear it.
  32. No, Monique, find your class.
  33. Okay, so the physics building is literally the farthest building on campus. Great!
  34. Perfect, there are only 3 other people in the back row. Plenty of space for yours truly.
  35. Left my glasses at home. Awesome.
  36. Literally cannot read a single word in this powerpoint.
  37. Should I leave?
  38. No, stay. She might hand out free stuff at the end.
  39. When has that ever happened? Literally never. That has never happened.
  40. Oh, hang on. She sounds like she’s wrapping it up anyway.
  41. 20 minutes in and the lecture is over. I could definitely get used to this.
  42. What did I learn from that?
  43. Nothing.
  44. Except that I need to bring my glasses.
  45. And that I should’ve caffeinated before I got here.
  46. I’m coming for you, HoHo’s!
  47. I swear, if they spell my name Monic one more time I’m boycotting.
  48. Just kidding. I could never.
  49. My favourite barista! It’s been a long few months without you, Fabian.
  50. Damn. My last year getting HoHo’s in the morning.
  51. Gotta go take a depression nap now.