Study Melbourne partnered with Melbourne Writers Festival 2018 to host a storytelling competition for international students. ‘Melbournians who have made it feel like home’ by Yuhan Anna Jin from China was the winning story in the High School category.

Melbournians who have made it feel like home

It is said that home is where the mother is and finding my ‘mum’ in Melbourne makes the city a second home to me.

The first time I saw Grace’s photo was on my school website. She was in a blue suit and seemed serious and strict. Looking at her title of ‘International Program Manager’, I couldn’t imagine how hard my high school life would be under her supervising, especially when I would be in a foreign country, a place millions of miles away from my home.

Nevertheless, I could not be more wrong.

The lady I saw on the first day at school looked exactly the same as the photo, but her kind smile lightened up her whole face. She did not look like a program manager who made essential decisions and supervised international students’ lives. On the contrary, she looked just like a usual mom, who spoiled you when you were being naughty.

‘Are you the manager?’ I asked her doubtfully.

‘Please, call me Grace.’ Her voice was warm and cheerful. ‘And you must be Anna.’

I nodded nervously, and before I could have another response, she gave me a hug and said,’ Welcome to Melbourne.’

For that instant, I felt that I was not that far away from home at all.

From that day on, I could see Grace every day. She frequently came and checked our lunch to see if the food prepared by our homestays was healthy enough. She introduced us to the senior international students to help us better involved in the school community. She encouraged us to participate in various school activities to evolved with other local students…

As a guardian, a parent, Grace does not only give me care and love. She gives me courage.

I am a talkative person in my daily life, but it is an unimaginable challenge for me to stand up and talk in front of others, so as soon as I was called to make a speech in front of all of my 324 peers, I started to regret applying for SRC. When I stood under the spotlight, I legs were shaking, my hands were sweating, and my mind was totally blank. I was so prepared to just run downstage and be laughed at. Then I looked up and saw Grace. She was sitting in the middle of the theatre with her camera, ready to take photos for my speech. When she found out that I was looking at her, she waved at me and smiled. All of a sudden, I did not feel terrified anymore as I was sure that there was someone there for me and I had nothing to be afraid of.

On every Mother’s Day, there is always alumni coming back to school to visit Grace and I couldn’t understand them more as I have the same feelings towards her. She is the mum for all international students at my high school. She is the one who makes Melbourne a welcoming home to me.