When Kalisi Fonua moved to Melbourne to go to university, he felt college would be the most sensible place to live. Little did he know what kind of opportunities lay ahead.
‘I had a vague idea that a college was somewhere you lived,’ says Kalisi Fonua, thinking back to Year 12 when he was gearing up for university and looking into accommodation options. ‘But I didn’t know it would be something so full on. I really came in blind.’
What Kalisi found when he moved to Trinity College at the University of Melbourne – where he’s currently studying a Bachelor of Biomedicine – was plenty of smiling faces, a jam-packed calendar of events, and many sports, cultural and leadership opportunities.
‘I was mostly surprised by how nice people were when I arrived,’ he says. ‘Because everyone's so friendly, it was easy to just walk up to someone and say, “Hey, how are you doing?” I didn’t know anyone when I arrived, but it was easy to make friends.’
Kalisi also hadn’t been to the Trinity College campus before he arrived and describes the moment he saw his new home – which has manicured gardens and sandstone buildings reminiscent of a Harry Potter set – as surreal. ‘You see the history in the buildings and everything, and it's kind of unreal. It's like, how am I here?’
As the type of person who has always put his hand up for everything, Kalisi found the college environment suited his personality. At school in Toowoomba he was part of the chapel choir and played basketball, and, now at college, he continues to play basketball, has taken up volleyball and rugby, is the secretary of the film society, is part of Trinity’s all-male a cappella group the Tiger Tones, has a role in the musical, is a member of the games society, and is a student coordinator, which involves leading and looking out for other students in his corridor.
‘There are a lot of things happening on campus and if you really let yourself be immersed in the college experience, then it's pretty fun,’ he says. ‘There are a lot of options to try something new if you want to.’
Amongst all the on-campus action, Kalisi finds the time to pursue his studies and has the goal of becoming an orthopaedic surgeon. He has been making the most of Melbourne University’s ‘Melbourne Model’, which allows undergraduate students to take a range of subjects in different fields that count towards their bachelor’s degree. For Kalisi, this means taking management subjects like organisational behaviour, which he feels will be helpful if he ever wants to set up his own clinic, along with the odd music subject for general interest.
‘The lifestyle in Melbourne is different to Toowoomba – it’s a lot more fast-paced,’ he says of his current home city. ‘But I’m the kind of person that likes being busy, so the atmosphere is just perfect for me.’
His advice to others thinking about moving interstate and living at a college next year?
‘Definitely try it out, at least for a year and see if you like it. And you never know, you might make some friends that you’ll have for the rest of your life. I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep the friends I’ve made at college forever.’