My first impression of Canberra and ANU

Canberra might be silent at times, but student life is humming.

The dark and sparse lighting of the roads (compared to what I’m used to on Dutch roads) disorientates me, so I don’t know where I am at all when we arrive at my student residence. This hall will be my home for the coming year and is surrounded by white eucalyptus trees shedding their bark.

I’m a Dutch third-year exchange student coming from a university in London to study at ANU for a year. I signed up for the Set4ANU program, which linked me to an ANU student who’ll help me settle into live in Canberra and study at ANU.

Before I got to Burton & Garran Hall I arrived at Canberra’s airport.

As I enter the wide arrival hall of Canberra’s airport, a young woman in a black woollen winter coat introduces herself. Lea is my Set4ANU mentor. I notice the colourful number plate of Lea’s car: ‘Celebration of Canberra, 2013’, it reads. Canberra’s just had its centenary year, Lea notes.

While we’re driving in the dark along Canberra’s highways, I ask Lea about her studies, uni and personal life. She proves to be a very good conversationalist. Even though she doesn’t live on campus, Lea’s very involved in extra-curricular life. Students who aren’t part of a residential college  can still join Griffin hall, a virtual hall which has a common room on campus. Next to organising stuff for Griffin, she’s got a role in the UN-Youth organisation and has other stuff going on as well.

Lea’s busy, but has found the time to help me and Eleni, her other mentee, to settle in. My Set4ANU mentor is an exceptional student and one of many such students that I met at ANU over my year here.

Once inside, we notice the office is closed, but someone is quick to ask us if we need help. A few moments later a tall, mature looking young woman, one of the Senior Residents on duty, comes to check me in. She takes a photo and guides us to my room.

At Lea’s exclamation at my misfortune for having to tread so many stairs to my third floor bedroom, I answer my indifference: my last two rooms in London were quite high up too. Trust me, after a while you’ll have a much better stair-climbing fitness than your peers.

Once shown to my room, we go downstairs to get an introduction to the kitchen and to pick some bedding. The kitchen is the size of a football field, full with cooking islands. I’m a bit dazed by the brightness of the kitchen and marvel at its size and liveliness.

During the following days Lea gave me advice on shops, local laws etc. and invited me to her birthday party. Eleni, her other mentee, turned out to live at B&G too and ended up doing a lot of the same courses as me. I met some other Dutch people and exchange students.

Especially since I had such a tiresome flight and no parents to drop me off, signing up for Lea’s help was really valuable for me to settle in. After a drive through dark and silent Canberra I arrived in a warm and bustling college.

If you’re coming from abroad, I advise you to take a look at the Set4ANU programme. Also, don’t be put off by arriving in a city during the dark: it’ll be totally different during the day and if you’re arriving in a student residence you’ll be sure to arrive in a bustling home.