In late February and early March of this year, Study Melbourne and Asia TOPA joined forces to help international students jump straight in to Melbourne’s world-renowned arts and culture scene.

Study Melbourne Ambassador Darren Lee Yeu Jyn attended one of these events, 'Black Ties' a co-produced Aboriginal and Maori live theatre performance at the Arts Centre Melbourne. Read on below for his thoughts on this event and how Study Melbourne is connecting students with the local cultural scene.

Words by Darren Lee

Black Ties is a witty and heart-warming theatre experience showcasing a stellar cast with Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori origin. The show’s central message of bringing two strong cultures together, despite adversity, through music is a true example of how international students can assimilate into Australian society - with Study Melbourne as the bridge between international students and the local culture.

I was reminded of the time when I first arrived in Melbourne. I felt lost and lacked the confidence to interact with my Professors and fellow colleagues as there was a huge cultural disconnect between the Asian culture I was brought up on, and the local Australian culture. I was more comfortable hanging out with my own peers from the same background, and only communicated briefly to my other local friends when the need arose. I also felt pressured into faking an Aussie accent when speaking to other locals, much to my discomfort. However, as the years went by, I immersed myself within the Melbourne culture and attended more local events, including the ones organised by Study Melbourne.

Today, I find myself comfortably initiating conversations with not just local Australians, but people from all around the world. Instead of fearing not knowing what to say, I am more excited about the chance for a possible cultural exchange and want to learn more from other cultures.

A scene from Black Ties: A Wedding © Mark Gambino, Arts Centre Melbourne

The beauty of Study Melbourne collaborating with Asia Topa to organise shows like Black Ties is that it opens up the opportunity for international students to witness and learn more about the other cultures within Australia, especially the Indigenous. Coming from a multicultural country Malaysia, I can see the relevance if I were to adapt this show and bring it back home. It also serves as an excellent networking platform, especially amongst individuals with a shared creative passion, both in the audience and the cast.

I may have walked into the show alone, but I left with a few new friends, and with a happy heart.