Let’s be honest, we all think of Australia as “the surfers’ place”, one where it is always hot and sunny, but that is not always true! What happens in Australia is that seasons are completely random and crazy: it can be sunny and freezing cold, or cloudy and still very warm. Most importantly, there is no consistency in the weather! You can have 18 degrees one day and 24 the next one. Thus, you can’t look out of the window and choose what to wear, nor can you wear the same type of clothes you worn the previous day and expect to be fine, but the only solution is to constantly check the weather conditions and forecasts and choose accordingly. (PS: I am currently on exchange in Semester 2 2019 – that’s the period between June-December. If you are going on exchange in Semester 1, make sure to check the weather forecast as it might be different from what I am experiencing right now).
Canberra is pretty cold. I was personally reluctant to bring a winter coat with me when I left: “I refuse to believe I even need a coat down there!” I would say, but thanks God I brought one. Indeed, temperatures can go down to zero and lower in winter and they usually drop at night, so you need to really cover up if you wish to go out for dinner. Moreover, although the weather is not humid, it gets quite windy, meaning that you often need a hat, a scarf and often even gloves during winter days and that you will need to moisturize your skin often, to avoid the pains of it cutting and breaking all the time.
You also want to consider what season you are coming from. For me, I came from European summer to Australian winter in a couple days, meaning that my body was not able to gradually adapt to the change. This caused me to literally freeze, perceiving the weather as even colder than it actually was for the first weeks.
Therefore, I would plan on wearing different layers of clothes, thus bringing undershirts, long and short sleeves shorts, jumpers and sweatshirts. Moreover, based on my experience, university accommodations can be rather cold, so I would pack some warm, comfortable, easy to wash clothes and warm slippers if you are living there. In fact, you may spend long hours studying, cooking or just chilling with friends in the common areas.
At the same time, this is mostly a sunny place, so you want to have your sunglasses with you all the time. For this same reason, it is also important to always wear sunscreen. In fact, UV rays are particularly strong in this geographical area and may seriously harm your skin. Thus, although I have a rather dark skin type, I learnt to wear a 50+ facial skin protection every day, before exiting my room. I can suggest buying the “Cancer Council” brand here, which is easy to find, reliable and definitely not greasy, hence perfect to be worn daily.
For the clothes’ style, both students and teachers are casual, so you will not need an extremely elegant outfit. Even meetings with professors are informal, so you can wear your normal jeans and t-shirt for them. The same goes for nightlife: there are some nice bars and a few clubs in the city, but they do not have any specific dress code, so you may find both very elegant and very casual people together in there and you can choose to wear whatever you feel comfortable with. However, many balls are organized at the university, so you may want to have some fancy dresses and a nice pair of shoes if you wish to participate to those. Apart from that, I spent my whole experience wearing my beloved jeans and sneakers.
There are two gyms at the campus, so you should bring your gym clothes if you think you will join. They both have clean showers and one of them also has a gym and a spa area, so you will need to have a swimsuit (maybe a one-piece would be most comfortable for women), as well as flip flops, a cap, goggles and a towel. However, they sell everything at the gym, in case you forgot or decided to join last minute.
For what concerns shoes, I only had 4 pairs: a winter one, a summer one, the gym ones and sandals. They might become heavy in the luggage, so I suggest to only bring the necessary ones and then substitute them by buying new ones here, as you can often find them cheap.
Moreover, you may decide to travel around while you are in Australia, so consider that when choosing your luggage. In fact, your flying company may allow checking two small luggage instead of a big one of the same weight and this might be a good choice to then be able to travel domestically carrying only one bag of a reasonable size. You also want to have a big, soft backpack to always bring with you and maybe a small handbag for every other occasion.
You may also want to bring some essential medicines, as fixing an appointment with the campus doctor can often take days and you will not be able to obtain any prescription soon, so you may like to have a quick-fix in your room.
Finally, bring a good camera! Australia is amazing and you will want to capture all of your magic moments!