Canberra is the perfect destination for any student interested in studying abroad in Australia as it is the capital of Australia, combines Australia’s gorgeous nature with city life, boasts top notch universities, and is nestled between Sydney and Melbourne.
Canberra is the largest inland city and houses two universities – Australian National University and the University of Canberra. Students will enjoy being in a large city with a considerable student population while still being able to experience Australia’s well-known natural attractions. Canberra is known as the “bush capital” with nature reserves and parks located around the city.
While not the stereotypical “shrimp on the barbie”/live-on-the-beach-all-day Australian city, Canberra is a vibrant place that has a lot to offer students interested in Australian life and culture. For adventure lovers, Canberra has its own beautiful natural aspects including nature reserves and Lake Burrley Griffin; plus it is also close to the Australian Alps and the coastline.
For the art and history students, the most extensive collection of aboriginal art is located at the National Gallery of Australia. Canberra is the center stage for Australian politics as it is the seat of the government; students will be able to learn about Australian’s political past and present through the multiple museums and galleries located in the city.
Additionally (of course!), students will be able to enjoy awesome Australian nights out as multiple bars, cinemas, and clubs are located in the city. Keep in mind the drinking age is 18. A few more Canberra attractions include…
- Australian Institute of Sport: tour where the nation’s athletes are trained
- Old Bus Depot Markets: weekly market with 200+ stalls selling everything from food to home accessories
- Australian National Botanic Gardens: a rare collection of native plants
- Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve: experience koalas, emus, kangaroos in a natural setting
- The International Flag Display: 90+ flags line the row from the High Court to the National Library
- Parliament of Australia: take a guided tour of the center of Australia’s democracy
Compared to the larger cities of Australia, Canberra is relatively affordable. According the University of Canberra’s website, “The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship Affairs (DIAC) recommends AUD $9,305 per semester for cost of living in Australia for a student (as at 1 July 2012).”
The currency used is Australian dollars, and be sure to check the current exchange rate while you're budgeting your program. However, as a study abroad student, there are always opportunities to spend money – nights out, travel, and souvenirs...not to mention the university and housing fees! Don’t let this hold you back though – there are tons of scholarships out there.
Canberra is both cash and card friendly, so consider opening a credit card that offers rewards points or opening an Australian bank account to avoid ATM fees. Various scholarships are offered to international students. A few are listed below, but be sure to use scholarship search engines or visit your universities study abroad office to learn about more opportunities.
Culture Shock and Support
Within no time after your arrival, you will undoubtedly be comfortably living in Canberra; however, the first week or so may be completely overwhelming. This is absolutely normal, and the best way to combat those feelings is to immerse yourself in Australian life while maintaining contact with students from your home country.
Try looking for programs through your home university or programs that many students study through so that you will immediately have contact with students going through the same experience. Also, it is useful to choose a program that has an office in your city, or at least country, so there is direct support if you need it.
The University of Canberra hosts events (like hikes and BBQs) and trips (to places like Sydney and the Blue Mountains) for international students to help them explore Australia and meet Australian students. National University of Australia has a mentoring program where you are partnered with an established student to help ease you into the university.
Rich in Australian history and present politics, surrounded by a striking landscape while being near to the mountains and coast, offering students a great nightlife scene – Canberra has it all. It’s a perfect city for any student wishing to explore Australian culture while broadening their academic horizons.