Study Melbourne partnered with Melbourne Writers Festival 2018 to host a storytelling competition for international students. ‘Hero in Melbourne’ by Hui Dong from China was shortlisted in the Higher Education category.

The train, and the self

As an international student with curious heart, pop culture is always part of my daily life when I studied back in China. Heroes became the goals I would like to reach during my childhood period and their adventure journeys contribute to my dream of travelling abroad. When I tell you my story of travelling experiences, I could not believe I have been in Australia for almost three years. Melbourne has become my second hometown and life sparked every second since my decision to study here has been made.

Melbourne is known as the most liveable city by most of people live here and visit here. For me, it is a city of warmth.

My pop culture journey here began with volunteering at one of the biggest pop culture convention in the far away Melbourne Showgrounds. The fellow volunteers including me are called ‘supastars’ during the whole time thanks to our enthusiasm and passion for helping others out for the peak hours. As you may have known, Melbourne is famous for its street art, some of the local artists combine the graffiti and pop culture together to develop a special avatar painting style. You can see some of them around streets when you are wandering around city. In this kind of talent show, they also have a great opportunity to show some of the amazing skills to the audience in the crowded public area. It was during my break that one of the artists called out my name when I passed by. With a huge funny cap and cool-looking rider suit, the smiley gentleman called Barry is the artist to whom I

Since I just arrived in Melbourne for several months at that time, I was still cautious about talking with strange people due to my basic instinct educated and improved a lot back. I gave an awkward greeting and planned to run away quickly. All of sudden, he laughed out and passed me a name card written manga avatar.

Is this a new trick to make fun of people? While my thinking, Barry asked if I would like to be his model for practising manga avatar drawing skills. Although I was still worried about my image privacy and afraid of his strange behaviours from my point of view, my heart shout out loud, why not have a try?

I grabbed the chair near him and sat down. Now you could show me your tricks, while thinking and I showed him a big smile with nodding head. He immediately gave me a thumb up and began to play with his pen like a chef who is extremely good at cooking. With my mouth wide open, Barry had already finished the so-called masterpiece and I realised his gesture actually meant six minutes later from a friend. It was a great quick drawing and you can easily recognise my facial features on that paper.

You are an international student, am I right? Barry put his cap away and showed me his drawing with pride. Before my answering, he continued, I used to be a homestay host for the students like you, so it is very easy to recognise and you really impressed me a lot with your volunteer skills. While chatting, he told me that he observed my running around to help out different convention departments while some of others spent more time enjoying the performances.

I can only thank you with my little artwork but keep doing what you are doing, I hope I can see you again and draw you another great work after a while.

The cute hand painting picture that Barry gave me has been my Facebook avatar for a while, although I didn’t have many chances to participate in the pop culture convention afterwards due to the faster pace of study and life.

The moment Barry passed the avatar to me is still one my precious memories not only because of the interesting communication, but also for the instance of understanding. What pop culture drives my thinking is, a hero does not necessarily need to make great achievements that people normally can’t get. He can be the person delivers kindness and encouragement when everything around you looks strange. He can always appear around you as your journey continues. It could be everyone and it could also be yourself.