Flemming Pedersen: The University of Melbourne, Australia

Last changed: 15 September 2023
picture of a kangaroo

My exchange to UniMelb gave me an opportunity to take a close look at the discourse and challenges in landscape architecture in the Australian context. Apart from studying and working on projects set in another culture, the culture of studying in Australia and at UniMelb differed a lot from that of SLU. The challenge of making informed and good designs without real base knowledge of the cultural and political setting of a site made me realise just how intertwined and important those are for landscape architecture.

Why did you want to do exchange?

I wanted to see what landscape architecture was like outside of the Swedish/Nordic context since the discourse in the programme so far have only been of a very western/Nordic character. I also wanted to spend time somewhere else to meet new people and find inspiration for my future profession and life in general. 

Which courses did you take?

I took three subjects, as the courses are called at UniMelb. These covered a ‘full load’ i.e.50 credits (30hp) which appeared to be quite a lot due to the fact that the actual semester at Unimelb is a lot shorter than ours at SLU.

- Landscape Studio 3 Speculations (ABPL90172)
The studio subject I took was worth 25 credits (15hp) and was as the name of the subject implies a speculative design project. The final product was supposed to be a response to speculated global trends and it encouraged thinking ‘outside the box’ to attain design thinking beyond contemporary conventions. My project got chosen for the ‘End of Semester Exhibition’ accompanied by a page on the MSDX where the project is described briefly: https://www.msdx-gallery.com.au/2022/s1/students/flemming-pedersen/. This subject was very challenging since speculating in trends and knowing what existed and what was needed required understanding of the Australia/Victoria/Melbourne context and connotations to different suburbs and their relation to each other.

- Contemporary Landscape Theory (ABPL90078)
This subject was all reading/writing and focused on looking beyond just the physical design and instead at trends, culture, and politics that shapes design and how design is perceived. A lot of it was shifting the discourse from an all-Western perspective and looking at the adjacent Asian context and how the different Asian cultures and economies shaped landscape architecture. This subject was challenging with the sheer amount of advanced weekly readings, but all in all a lot of fun and very thought-provoking.

- Constructed Ecologies (ABPL90263)
This subject revolved around understanding ecological processes (mostly concerning water) to be able to incorporate them into designs. This subject focused on the Australian context and gave examples on Australian ecological processes and situations. The subject contained both reading, writing, and lab experiments with flumes and sand boxes. I liked this subject since it covered a lot of different things briefly, and the assignments were similarly spread out and resulted in a lot of learning in the end.

The whole experience of studying at UniMelb differed from SLU most strikingly in how much less class hours there were, and how short the semester was. The studies were at large more autonomous than at SLU. On the other hand all the course coordinators and teachers were very nice and helpful, and there was a student culture of studying together and helping each other out. Out of an academic perspective there was more focus on looking at theory in the discipline and precedent projects and using these to both inspire and explain your project, something I think is really good. Additionally, there was a lot less focus on plants and that part of landscape architecture and a lot more on presentation and the visual material created.

What was the student life outside of your courses?

I am not one for student associations and activities and did not partake in any of them really. I skateboard and I made friends with people I met through that activity instead. I did however travel around Victoria quite a bit and also to Sydney and Tasmania. If you have access to a car there are heaps of nature of all sorts fairly close to the city. Regardless of not partaking in any planned activities I did study and spend time with classmates I had tutorials with, Melbourne and UniMelb has a very welcoming social culture which is wonderful coming alone from the other side of the world.

What was your best experience during your exchange?

In terms of my studies and the university I must say the constant friendliness and help I got form fellow students and teachers, together with nice tutorial discussions was a running ‘best experience’ throughout the semester. If we are talking outside of university hours, the numerous nature experiences hiking in the bush really was something out of the ordinary.

What was the biggest challenge during your exchange?

A couple of things made the exchange more straining. Firstly, the obvious one of not understanding how the institution worked, who to contact and where to turn with questions. UniMelb is huge, and arriving amidst Covid restrictions made it impossible to just go and talk to a real person. Instead I had to navigate different zoom meetings and send variation forms and so on. It all worked out for the better in the end though. Secondly, the combination of taking hard subjects and having to all of them at once was a real challenge. I did get through it, but it took a lot of careful planning and prioritizing to be able to work three different subjects at once coming from just having to focus on one. The fact that the semester is so much shorter made it a really intense couple of months with no days off for weeks and weeks. And lastly, Not knowing the university ‘standard’ made it really hard to know what expectations the tutors had on my work, creating a lot of stress wondering if I would pass or if it would be good enough.

Advice for future exchange students:

As for advice I would recommend coming to Melbourne as early as possible, so that you have time settling in, finding a place to stay and also spend some time around Uni before the semester starts. If you ask me, I would also do the extra work and try and find a share house with ‘real Melbourne’ people to live with instead of the student accommodation offered. The student accommodation is way more expensive and staying with people not also on exchange open doors to getting to know other people and see and do things you wouldn’t have otherwise. My other recommendation is to ask for help; all subject coordinators and fellow students are more than willing to help you with all kinds of things, more than one would ever expect coming from Sweden. Finally, the university has heaps of things going to help students socially, but also financially. I signed up via email and could go pick up 5kg of vegetables and fruit every Friday for free, not bad at all!

Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions :)


Name: Flemming Pedersen
Exchange at: The University of Melbourne
Programme at SLU: Master of Landscape Architecture (full five year programme)
Period of exchange: Spring 2022 (Semester 1)