By Justin Lee, International Student of the Year (Regional Category) and Study Melbourne Ambassador 2021

Having lived in a big city for almost all my life, it came as a complete shock when I first arrived in Bendigo. Aside from the vast open space and green surroundings, people seem to know one another. This is in sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city life, where everyone always appears to be in a rush.

Gone was the sound of cars, trains, and trams. There were mobs of wallabies and flocks of ducks crossing the streets. I noticed people looking at me and smiling everywhere I went. It was something that I was not used to at the start, but I quickly realised that I loved the friendliness of the local community.

How did I come to love studying and living here? What is it about this regional Victorian town that captivated me?

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

The German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnie differentiates between two types of societies, gemeinschaft and gesellschaft. Gemeinschaft is characterised by intimate, face-to-face contact with strong feelings of community. In contrast, gesellschaft is defined by impersonal relationships and individualism. The former is what I have experienced during my days as a student in Bendigo.

Studying in regional Victoria helped me to meet and get to know people. I felt very welcomed, and this helped me to settle in my new environment quite easily. Volunteering as a radio host for a community radio station kicked things off for me. Through that role, I got to meet different people who were also passionate about community and multiculturalism.

Living in regional Victoria also allows me to fight and advocate for things that I am passionate about such as cultural diversity and inclusion. As an international student myself, I have lived experiences and I understand the difficulties of living away from home. This is why I try my very best to make other international students feel welcomed as much as I can. More importantly, I work to represent the voices of multicultural communities in Bendigo by participating in steering committees as an Intercultural Ambassador for the City of Greater Bendigo.

Living in regional Victoria provides me with opportunities to volunteer, connect, and contribute to my community. It also helps me to develop life-long friendships with some of the most amazing people in the world, and make a difference in other people’s lives.

A Relaxing Environment

Regional cities like Bendigo also provide a relaxing lifestyle that is certainly ideal for someone with a young and growing family like me. There is less traffic, less pressure to rush out the door and more time to spend with family. There are many parks, lakes, and green space with fresh air. I can certainly afford some time to stop, smell the flowers, and play catch with my daughter!

In spite of its distance from the city, regional towns offer the same facilities and entertainment opportunities that one can find in the big cities. For instance, Bendigo has many restaurants, cafes, cinemas, shopping centres and sporting venues. In addition to its famous tourist attractions, Bendigo also hosts many cultural events such as Easter Parade, Zinda Festival, etc. Other regional towns also have their own community events that attract local and international tourists alike.

Affordable Cost of Living

Another big plus of studying in a regional town is the affordable cost of living. Living costs like rent, food, drinks and services are usually cheaper in regional towns compared to major cities. I can honestly say that I have been able to save up some money for the rainy days, thanks to the opportunity to live and study in a regional city.

Because I am paying less for rent and other expenses, I can spend more on things that matter to me - such as making memories with family and friends, relaxing, learning to play a new sport, or enrolling in a new class. These experiences made my postgraduate studies in Australia more fascinating and interesting!

Come to Regional Victoria!

In conclusion, studying in regional Victoria is one of the best things that has happened in my life. The quality of education is world-class, the facilities are superb, and my supervisors have been very friendly and supportive. In addition, I feel very privileged to live in Bendigo, a beautiful and liveable city filled with very warm and friendly people. It is home to large green space, great heritage buildings, and rich cultural events and attractions. It is really an ideal place to study, relax, and have fun. So what are you waiting for? Come and study in regional Victoria!