Study Melbourne partnered with Melbourne Writers Festival 2018 to host a storytelling competition for international students. ‘Melbourne, Melburnians, and I’ by Claudia Huang from China was shortlisted in the High School category.

Melbourne, Melburnians, and I

As a victim of spontaneous sentiment and repetitive nostalgia, I can attest that Melbourne has rescued me and comforted my adolescent insecurities ever since I walked in that little bookshop.

I knew I always wanted to be a writer, not a significant one, but one inspired to write by the likes of Oscar Wilde and able to inspire others in a similar fashion. Two years ago, I landed in Melbourne, dubbed the arts and cultural capital, with absolutely no experience, an eagerness to write and a somewhat unhealthy tendency to dream.

My limited capacity to converse using the English language hindered my ability to make friends. Bored and frustrated I eventually developed a sightseeing routine.

I would walk across the Central then proceed to stroll past the elegant arcades, pining for the scent of coffee and gazing at graffiti. Those aimless ramblings brought me a new perspective on my philosophy of life. I saw the dedication and animation emitted from Melbournians, from those who busked on Burke Street to those who with rainbow hair working in vintage warehouse. I also saw a bit myself in them, so passionate and brave pursuing their dreams, only they didn’t hesitate to chase.

My teenage insecurities still troubled me. Restless and desperate with my burden of language barriers, I felt like my dream as a writer is fading away. For months a bitterness had embedded itself into my chest and was only alleviated on a particular Sunday afternoon stroll when I had laid my eyes on.

I knew immediately that the little bookshop was a haven for my unsettled heart for literature. Flyers advertising poetry were displayed aesthetically on the door, accompanying with the air of peace, mystery and the odour of antique books. I supposed the elder couple owned this shop as they smiled to me, then turn back to their reading. A collection of Joseph Conrad jumped into my sight. My world became blurry as I felt something warm in my eyes; questioned whether he ever had a clue that he would be one of the greatest writers in English literature when he did not speak a single English word at my age.

I stayed in my hidden haven for a while hoping no one would ever judge me for being emotional for weird reasons. I took one of those Conrad’s and delivered it to the elder lady. She looked at my eyes, still smiling, with encouragement. We had not spoken a word, but I guess people must have a method of communication more superior than the spoken word, either existing as a form of literature, or as the mysterious and pure feelings that I experienced at that moment.

I walked a few blocks after I left the bookshop, the indie busker became an oriental country music performer, dancing with an unknown group of oriental spiritual advertisers and puzzled passengers. I did not join the dance, but I saw happiness and was liberated by this city.