Five things an international student needs to know about Canberra

If you think Canberra is boring, or even worse, you’ve never heard of it, our student blogger Jesse Zondervan will change your tune.

Canberra has a bit of a reputation for being boring among Australian students, but I could never understand why. In fact, exchange students fall in love with Canberra, and this is why.

1. Canberra is the bush capital

When you live on campus you’ve got access to some of Canberra’s best: Black Mountain, the Botanic Gardens and Lake Burley Griffin. Where Sydney and Melbourne are dominated by towers, Canberra’s skyline is made up of the mountains surrounding us.

From multiple lookouts – Black Mountain, Mount Ainslie, Red Hill, National Arboretum, Mount Stromlo – I’ve seen the expanse of the city sprawling underneath. It’s worth going during sunrise or sunset.

2. There’s knowledge and culture aplenty

Museums and art galleries are present on every corner of the city. Some highlights are the Australian War Memorial, old and new Parliament House, the National Gallery, Questacon and the National Museum of Australia.

The National Library, built like a Greek temple, houses the greatest collection of material relating to Australia and the Australian people. It’s had some impressive exhibitions, like Celestial Empire - Life in China 1644 – 1911 which I visited. It’s a great addition to the libraries on campus and I suggest you make use of their collection.

3. Bateman’s Bay is your beach

Bateman’s Bay, a two-hour drive away, is where a lot of Canberra disappears to during the weekend. The beaches, among green grassy hills with tall eucalypts, have some interesting marine life.

I got my diving certificate here and spotted some octopuses, a little shark, loads of colourful fish and nudibranchs and a seal.

A trip with a marine course could take you to Narooma, where I took a boat out to the ocean. The nearby region of Jervis Bay hosts the world’s whitest beaches according to the Guinness Book of Records: here I travelled in time too. Take advantage of the many little beach towns and these amazing beaches.

4. It’s got funky places

Think Canberra’s the boring stronghold of civil servants? Think again: with more than 35,000 students living in Canberra it’s got some vibrant student life going on.

A breakfast or lunch phenomenon in Canberra is the Freakshake, a big, elaborately decorated milkshake. No one lives in Canberra without trying one. The Pop-Up is an urban village in Canberra’s centre, home to food trucks and one of my favourite places to go for some exotic food.

Some alternative places include the Co-op – providing cheap and healthy student meals and hosting talks about green initiatives - and Smith’s Alternative – a small café providing a stage to Canberrans who’d like to perform their stand-up comedy, poetry, music or other skills. Don’t hesitate to get involved with life outside campus!

5. Kangaroos are your friends

Nowhere in Australia have I seen so many kangaroos as in and around Canberra. Being inland, it’s the only city where kangaroos frequently approach houses. On a walk through the national parks surrounding Canberra I guarantee you’ll see loads of kangaroos and perhaps even some emus.

I’m serious when I say I still haven’t done all in Canberra that I would have liked to. As for any city, it’s vital to keep seeing your home town through the eyes of a tourist every now and then and to get involved.

And now I’m leaving. Canberra, it’s been great.