An Interview with Alyssa, one of our Residential Advisors at UniLodge on Villiers.
What do you think of the location? Do you have any tips for new residents exploring the area?
Absolutely! I actually love the area! It seems very residential at first, but the location is perfect for me and I think for students in general. It has a very quiet feel, despite the hospital and police station. We all get used to the helicopters and ambulances. I actually kind of like watching the traffic from my window.
The best thing is, it is so close to Melbourne Uni. You just need to cross the street, walk by the hospital to Royal Parade, and there is a kind of tunnel which takes you straight inside the campus. I would say it is about an 8-minute walk to the Baillieu Library. It is close to some other universities as well – I have a friend who goes to RMIT and the walk for him is about 15 minutes.
Also, it is super easy to get to Queen Victoria market and to Melbourne Central. We have a tram stop on our street. With the 59, Melbourne Central is 4 stops away (about 12 minutes) and Queen Vic is just two stops away (most people actually walk there but I’m too lazy). So if you’re like me and you don’t need to be in the CBD all the time, but you want it to be close when you actually want to go, it’s perfect.
I would say it’s better than living in the CBD because of the huge park we have next door. Just walk down Flemington Road to Gatehouse Street. After a quick walk, I usually run in the Wurundjeri circle, and you find a lot of joggers there. But the park is much bigger than that. The Melbourne Zoo is inside it. And if you jog to the north-east side of the park and cross the street, you can jog inside Princes Park as well, which has a nice feel because of the sand and the fountain. It’s just north of Melbourne Uni.
A really popular place people go to as well is Errol St, which you can get to by going down Villiers St and turning right on Arden Street. People aren’t really aware of it at first. But it has lots of restaurants, coffee places, fancy brunch places, boutiques, banks, bars, etc. It’s a nice place to go with a friend.
Here is a random tip as well – the Lort Smith animal hospital is right across the street. If you love animals, it’s worth noting. After I introduced myself and offered to volunteer, they said I can actually come in any time to pet some cats and play with them. The cats were really cute.
So what are some of your favourite places to eat?
Only discovered this one recently – the Rice Cooker. It’s absolutely amazing. It’s just up Flemington road, past Domino’s. Most dishes are about 15 dollars and very filling. My favourite is the special fried rice.
A lot of people also get the 5-dollar pizzas from Domino’s and pick them up, which is great for a cheap quick dinner when you’re busy. However, the best-tasting pizza is at Eat pizza which is literally 2 minutes away. The manager is extremely nice and friendly.
Another awesome place is Joe’s Eatery, right next to Eat Pizza. It’s a popular spot for hospital workers and anyone in the area. It’s discreet, easy to miss, so that’s my tip for you. Joe is very friendly and welcoming, and you always get a really nice vibe there. Every day they make a mix of food – pasta, burgers, curries, lasagna, rice, steak, salads, the list goes on. It varies from day-to-day. The standard formula is you can pick up to 3 of these things for a meal that costs 9.50. It’s usually too much food for anyone, and I’ll keep half for later. Pro tip: come around 1pm to have more options available. At 3pm, they are usually already running out of a lot of things. And FYI, they also have coffee and tons of muffins and other treats.
Those are just my favourite but there are quite a few other places as well, including Jaspresso and Avist down Flemington.
Would you say it is quite a social and friendly place?
If you’re new to the building, it can feel be hard to meet people. The downside of everyone having their own space is there are usually few people in the common areas. There are a lot of couples and a lot of PhD students, and over time I got to know many of them. But the population of students of about 18-25 is a bit lesser than other buildings. At first, I met a lot of my friends through uni. But the good thing about CSP (our community spirit program) is it can help you break that barrier and make friends. Over a year ago, when I wasn’t an RA yet, I made some friends at a Bowling & Escape room event. That’s how I met my best friend. Him living four doors down was definitely a bonus because we could hang out all the time.
I’ve found having friends in the building is really nice, because you do run into each other all the time, you can walk to uni together, share food, and hang out any time. So, in summary, it is what you make of it, as with anything. A lot of people do prefer their space and have their friends outside the building. And if you want to make some friends inside the building, you can. Being approachable, friendly and coming to events all help a lot. I also want to add that the people at the reception are really friendly as well. I would stop by to talk, became friends with some people there and actually that’s how I eventually ended up as an RA, which I didn’t know would be something I’d enjoy. I would definitely be happy to welcome anyone new and to chat so look out for me – I wear an oversize beige jacket, have brown eyes, and my hair is long, brown, blonder near the ends, and usually gets messy. Don’t be afraid to smile or say hi.
What are the rooms like?
Again, it’s what you make of it. The rooms are nice – they have two tables, a double bed, a TV, a generous pantry. But some rooms become much nicer than others. You can really utilize the space. I’ve seen some amazing set-ups. Personally, I’ve added several pieces of furniture in the bedroom, all quite cheap and from K-mart, and it gives much more storage space than I need so I can keep everything organized. There is plenty of space for furniture in the corners. I use the sliding doors to put up notes and mind maps. You can add a small library, some plants, a gaming set-up, some lights above the bed, or anything else you like, and it really shapes up.
What about the facilities?
The laundry room is on the lower ground and is really big. I’ve never had to wait to do laundry. You do need coins to operate the machines. If you ask nicely at IGA, they will usually give you up to 10 dollars in change. The best thing is to go to the bank and get a lot of 1 or 2 dollar coins. Or you can do what I do – go to Errol St and easily switch out bills for coins at a machine inside the coin laundry. There is a courtyard with a bike store for anyone with a bike, you will just need to register your bike at reception and get a lock.
We have a very comfortable, colourful common area on the lower ground with a great TV. There are also common areas on L2&L3 (these are linked and to the right of the elevator) and on L4&L5 (these are also linked, and to the left of the elevator at the end of the corridor). L2&L4 both have TVs and couches. I’ve often hooked up a Nintendo Switch and played with people there. There is also a BBQ area on L6 where we sometimes host events and it has a great view of the city.
Recycling bins are sometimes in the courtyard and sometimes in Lt George St right outside the building to the right (that’s where they are now).
Can you tell us a bit about the maintenance of the building?
As an RA, I notice that a few lights in the corridors here and there stop working and then get fixed. Other than that there is nothing to mention. I believe it is one of the cleanest UniLodge buildings. A cleaner comes every day. The common areas are always clean and rarely busy. If there are any issues in your room, contact reception, fill out the maintenance form and it will get fixed.