Hi there! My name is Nicolas and I am currently completing my exchange in ANU. Canberra is a completely new city to me as I am from University of British Columbia in Canada.
Canberra is one of the most unique cities in Australia; it combines the accessibility and inclusion of a small city with the resources and institutions of a large one.
In addition to beautiful natural parks, Canberra also has world-class museums: the National Gallery of Art includes several Picassos, Monets, and space for temporary exhibitions, such as this years’ Cartier exhibition which had stunning jewelry on display. Entry to the main galleries is free, as is entry to the National Library and its archives, Old Parliament House, the National Portrait Gallery, and the new Parliament House as well. There are also constant night markets and festivals, such as Oktoberfest, the International Cultures Festival, this year’s on year anniversary party of the Yes campaign, Floriade, the hot air balloon festival, and Enlighten. Canberra’s rich cultural scene is easily comparable to that of major cities.
Of course, as a student you want to know about the drinking. In Australia, nearly every place that sells food also sells alcohol; I’ve even been offered beer while waiting for a haircut. Canberra’s easily walkable civic centre and large range of bars are perfect for casual drinks, dates, and easy conversation, while the weekend clubbing scene is mostly centred on Northbourne, and since nearly all venues are free of cover, you can hit up more than one location in a single night, and head over to one of the late-night eateries with your mates afterwards to grab a bite to eat and recover. On Thursdays, which is uni nights at most places, drinks are very cheap, and with no cover, all venues are quite busy. You’re guaranteed to run into friends there, or make new ones while you’re out! Fridays and Saturdays attract a more mixed crowd, from ADFA students to civil servants, but the vibes remain enjoyable, and you’ll still see many people from university out for a good time. There are also areas to eat and have some drinks further away from civic, such as the beautiful Kingston Foreshore, on the south side of the lake shore.
As the top-ranked university in Australia, and a very well-funded one at that, ANU offers numerous academic opportunities that I didn’t experience back home. Firstly, diverse class offerings: I was able to take courses in strategic studies, as well as interdisciplinary courses such as a combined philosophy/law course, both of which I didn’t have at my home university. This type of academic enrichment will give me a huge advantage for my post-graduate plans, and has expanded my knowledge and skills in new directions.
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.
Being in Canberra allows ANU greater access to extracurricular enrichment opportunities. 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.