Australian coins
From left to right: 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 dollar, 2 dollars

The fact that I’m in an entirely different country completely justifies my need to experience everything in Melbourne that I can get my hands on…right? What’s the point of travelling almost 8,000 miles around the world without spending that $100 bill for a relaxing wine tour in the famous Yarra Valley and a classy good time? The initial fees of airfare and tuition seemed really daunting back when I was still in California preparing to go abroad. But I would be kidding myself if I said that my expenditures accumulated here in the last few months didn’t cost me a pretty 5 cents (the Aussie 5-cent coin is the symbolic equivalent of an American penny). So to compensate for my uncontrollable purchases of that Woolie’s double chocolate muffin or the freshly-baked biscuits from Queen Vic’s Market, I found myself a job.

Co-workers in Australia
A few of my co-workers and I enjoying our hard-earned ice cream bars after a relentless storm of hungry customers one night!

When my friends and family back home found out that I started waitressing part-time once I landed in Melbourne, all of the questions immediately poured in: “How did you get it? You literally just arrived in Australia! Do you even have time? Don’t you want to enjoy your time abroad?” Of course I want to enjoy my time here in Melbourne, but as an intense foodie and lover of live music, such experiences can be quite pricey. Adding up the additional costs of that doctor’s appointment I had last week and the ticket I bought to Matt Corby’s live concert, I can proudly say that I earned my way to those benefits. Melbourne is home to the most eclectic array of bars and pubs, distinctive restaurants, and performer’s central to all sorts of musicians and artists, so I made it my mission to truly indulge in everything this city has to offer.

Working while studying abroad
This is “my turf” where I prepare the drinks and work my waitressing magic!

Many people are also curious about my job-hunting process here in Australia, so I’ve listed my own “Six Steps” (in tribute to this being my sixth blog post!) below:

1)    Polish the resume. The week before classes start, print 20 copies even though you think that’s far too many. It’s not.

2)    Explore. Walk into restaurants and stores with open positions posted on the window.

3)    Smile. Try to make a lasting impression on the managers even though you’re only going to be in Melbourne for 5 months.

4)    Hope. Play the waiting game and cross your fingers that someone will call you back especially since you’ve spent your entire day getting lost in Melbourne.

5)    CELEBRATE, but be quick on your feet when a restaurant calls you in for a trial day.

6)    Commit. Continue working for them because the coworkers, managers, and environment remind you of home and are all worth your tireless energy!

Free food while studying abroad
I wish I could show you all of the meals that our “Mum” cooked for us, but we ate a range of Laotian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Malaysian foods. This is the dumpling noodle soup and spring onion pancake we sell at the restaurant.

In addition to the fact that I’m getting paid to do something that I love—interacting with people and providing a friendly food experience, there are a whole list of advantages to working in a restaurant. Especially when I first arrived in Melbourne, I found that learning the cash register helped me grasp a better understanding of the Aussie currency, as I was forced to work at a quick pace. Within days, I soon felt that my diverse range of coworkers and managers were like family in our tight-knit community I looked forward to seeing every shift. Even though the free meals I receive will be hard to beat, my favorite part of working there is the customers. I have met and befriended such a diverse range of dumpling-lovers from Chile, Germany, Spain, Australia, and even California! Working while studying abroad is truly an experience I would never replace, and I will cherish the fun, sweaty, and sometimes stressful times for the rest of my life.

Co-workers in Australia
After three months of working together, my hilarious and hard-working co-workers have essentially become my Melbourne family. We’ve suffered steam burns, knife cuts, diva customers, and reveled in the simple joys of tips through thick and thin. Thank you to everyone I interacted with through my job and the life experience I gained working abroad in hospitality!

Jodi Huang is a student at the University of California, San Diego and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Jodi is currently studying abroad with TEAN in Melbourne, Australia.