Coming from a small campus, I was accustomed to a tight-knit community in which I knew most of the people in my lectures; I thought that a larger campus such as ANU’s might feel alienating. I couldn’t have been more wrong. ANU manages to retain that community feeling while simultaneously providing far more diverse campus experiences than a smaller university could. There are literally over one hundred clubs on campus, covering nearly everything from languages, sports, and politics, to student societies for many degree programs. Rather than alienating or overwhelming, the larger student body and ample resources combine to create a campus experience defined by a high volume of student participation in activities, and people taking the initiative to ask for, and plan, the events that they want to see. The level of involvement and immersion into ANU’s campus culture was astounding, and contagious. In no time at all, I was joining clubs and societies. I highly recommend the ANU Dining Society (DinSoc); it’s a fantastic way to meet people and enjoy a delicious meal for a very cheap price.
Apart from the clubs and societies, the ANU Students’ Association also runs a variety of events during O-Week, Bush Week and throughout the year. The Friday Night Party concert at the end of O-Week was one of my most memorable experiences at ANU. Similarly, colleges, halls, and Lodge run their own events, from Burgmann’s toga party to the ongoing barbecues, morning yoga and parties at Lena Karmel’s rooftop. The variety of events was something I wasn’t expecting: there were plenty of sausage sizzles, but also ticketed parties, dry events, organized outings and excursions, volunteer work, festivals, showcases, and a whole season of formal balls. I also distinctly remember the day ANUSA brought a miniature pony on campus for De-Stress Week, and seeing alpacas visiting campus not once, not twice, but four times!
While I was here, Union Court was being transformed into the new Kambri; this meant that the old ANU bar and BKSS were being rebuilt, and that the centre of campus was moved to a “temporary” fixture, the Pop-Up Village. However, the Pop-Up felt anything but temporary. MOLO bar had constant trivia nights, live music, and provided a venue for the various clubs and societies to stage events, such as Pride Party, a poetry slam, or cheeky drinks after a debate club meeting. During the day, the Pop-Up Village was a natural meeting place, where you could be sure to run into friends and acquaintances from your college, Lodge, tutorials, or clubs—and more often than not, you’d end up grabbing a coffee and bite to eat with them, and end up late for class! The Pop-Up was a permanent fixture for me throughout my time here, and now that Kambri is nearing completion, I can only imagine the new experiences that other exchange students will get to experience in Kambri’s modern, state-of-the art, student-oriented spaces, especially the pool!
My first lecture in that combined philosophy/law course was given at the National Gallery of Australia, where we were able to see firsthand art on the Tasmanian Black War, which was the topic of the first lecture. Furthermore, thanks to the ANU Learning Communities as well as the huge number of student societies, I attended a variety of panels on numerous topics ranging from the economic future of Indonesia to discussing the Epic of Gilgamesh with a renowned scholar of Sumerian. Meeting people such as the Egyptian ambassador to Australia, and several UN representatives, were unique opportunities that tied directly to my academic studies in political science. ANU’s facilitation of these events enriched my academic work and allowed me to apply previous academic knowledge to lively discussions with leading experts in their fields.
Professors were also friendly, accessible and knowledgable. It was quite easy to talk to them about stuff related to the coursework, or outside of the course’s scope, and I regularly got back feedback and communication on my performance and the content. Furthermore, many professors at ANU are renowned within their fields: I took a course on the politics of nuclear weapons taught by a professor well-known in the field, who was able to bring in guest lecturers who were also leading academics in this field, and who had firsthand knowledge from her work with governments and international agencies within the field of nuclear weapons and strategy. No other university could have offered me such an experience.
Part of academic work, in my opinion, is involvement on campus. ANU offered a vast amount of opportunities to get involved; ANUSA’s events regularly asked for expressions of interest, and it was super easy to join one of the departments and get involved in planning and executing large events. More importantly, the associations and various departments were run very transparently, and it was easy to get involved with the administrative side, such as attending meetings and amending constitutions.
ANU has a very sophisticated academic environment, and offers a variety of different courses, many of which touch on multiple disciplines. The content is engaging and enriching, and ANU provides a plethora of extracurricular opportunities to apply this knowledge and further expand it. I’m extremely glad to have chosen ANU for my exchange.
Australians are a very friendly and relaxed people, and I had no trouble making friends. Although I was quite close with a lot of exchange students due to our shared experiences being abroad, I also became close friends with many Australians from all over the country who came to ANU; the university’s environment and the high percentage of the student body living on campus was a natural facilitator and helped foster this creative and active campus culture. ANU fosters a creative community of students, most of which genuinely want to be involved in campus life, which is made much easier by the huge variety of near-constant events.