Everyone has a soft spot for the Australian stereotype: I would have loved for all of the students at the Australian National University to travel to lectures on the back of an emu or to spend every day in the company of kangaroos (although in the suburbs of Canberra, this sometimes isn’t so far from the truth).
After spending two months at an Australian university I have learnt that students here put a lot of effort into their studies. The fairly rigorous workload here is one of the many small cultural shocks I have experienced since arriving. Another shock is that nearly all shops and restaurants in Canberra seem to require you to spend over $20 or $30 to pay with your debit card. A third surprise is just how long it takes to travel from one place to another. Prior to my arrival, my Australian housemate told me to get a bike and cycle into campus every day like he did. I assumed it would be perhaps a 20 minute journey, but once I arrived I found out it took him an hour each way! I spent the money I’d saved up for a bike on a handy bus pass instead.
After spending a year and a half at UEA, adjusting to a completely new university and a fresh way of doing things took time. The freedom of handing in coursework any time before midnight on the due date to a strict “no later than 4:30pm” policy took a bit of getting used to. It may have taken a few weeks, but I’m finally getting settled in and beginning to enjoy this very different world of education.
Australia, it goes without saying, is an amazing place. Even when you’re not based in one of the country’s larger cities, there’s still a lot to see and do. Despite the capital, Canberrra is not a very big city, mainly consisting of very quiet suburbs. The local students don’t seem very fond of the city; neither do those who live outside of it.
However, there is certainly something about Canberra: the fact that it is somewhere between a city, university town and a rural landscape. It is a wonderful feeling finishing a full day of lectures and being able to kayak along the city’s signature Lake Burley Griffin. The Australian Parliament House and War Memorial are amazing structures, and it’s always handy having the National Library so close to campus. Canberra is often affectionately known as the Bush Capital, and the city does indeed have a large amount of wildlife, with kangaroos occupying the botanical gardens behind campus.
Altogether Canberra may not have the most exciting sights in Australia, but it is still a remarkable place to study. Just remember to pay cash in restaurants!