It’s been a crazy few weeks settling in at ANU in Canberra, but I’m so excited for the next few months to come.

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It already seems like a lifetime ago I was in my quaint little university town, about an hour away from Toronto, Canada, suffering in the negative 30’s (and yes, that’s Celsius). Gone are the days of me wearing 8 layers in order to feel my limbs and being able to feel my nose hairs freeze while walking to class. Now I’m surrounded by sunshine, LOTS of bicycles, and friendly faces everywhere I go. Within my first day of being here, I was able to meet tons of other exchange students from all over the globe, thanks to the ANU Exchange Meet and Greet program. It was a good way to start off my O-week, followed by fun residence activities to get everyone to mingle, and tons of clubs and societies hosting welcome lunches and events. It felt a lot like my first year at my home school, when I first moved into my residence, except the biggest difference being everyone here is legal drinking age, so O-week ISN’T dry!

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Being in the “Bush Capital”, I’m surrounded constantly by unique wildlife. This place is COVERED with so many cute little bunnies, which is so cool! At home, a rabbit in the wild is a rare sighting, but here you can see at least 10 on your walk home from your evening lecture. Another animal which we luckily do not have at home is the cockatoo. While they are beautiful creatures, I have learned quickly to close my bedroom window at night to avoid a 6AM wakeup call with their rather obnoxious screeches that sound like a mix between a crying baby and a cat meowing. While I have yet to see any kangaroos, I am going to Tidbinbilla later on in the week and am almost guaranteed to see some there, so fingers crossed for that!!

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Something I love about Canberra is that even though I am across the globe from my home country, it reminds me a lot of Canadian university life. Unlike bigger cities, such as our neighbours Sydney or Melbourne, Canberra is cozy and everything you need can pretty much be found in the smaller downtown core. In the day you can study or hang out at one of the unique cafes with some local brewed coffee, or go shopping in the City Centre. At night there are a few main bars where all the uni students can be found, where there are cheap drink deals and student discounts. There’s also tons of stuff happening during most weekends, such as the multicultural festival held last weekend in the downtown core (only complaint about it was there was no Canadian booth!). The tight knit, community vibe is a really amazing atmosphere and reminds me of my university’s city a lot, which is an aspect of being here that makes me really feel at home.

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Before coming here, I had heard a lot of different things about Canberra. Coming here with an open and curious mindset, I have already been able to do a ton of things and meet so many great people. Going kayaking and paddle boarding on Lake Griffin was such a beautiful experience and exploring the Botanic Gardens is something that I couldn’t do anywhere else. I believe that everything has beauty in it, you just have to find it. And I’m so excited to explore as much as I can in Canberra while I’m here for the semester!

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If you want to follow me on my adventures in the Australian Capital Territory and other parts of Australia, check out my Instagram @jesshowatt 🙂

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