By William Kelly (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia).
First of all I must apologise for firstly not being up to date with the blog. I shall look to update you on my adventure so far and what it is like studying at ANU! Pre-departure thoughts
Being away from home has never normally bothered me. In actual fact, I always jumped at the opportunity! But before I left England, it is fair to say I was quite apprehensive about leaving everyone. I was particularly emotional to receive numerous messages and phone calls wishing me all the best of luck. It appears I am quite soft after all! Packing proved quite a difficulty, as I was only allowed to take 20kg! I was first going to stop in Hong Kong for a couple of days to stay with a friend and then to fly on to stay with friends in Melbourne before I made my way to Australian National University in Canberra. Hong Kong would be surprisingly cold, but then Melbourne was to be reaching temperatures of 40 degrees! Moreover, my time in Canberra would head into winter, so deciding the balance of clothes proved difficult. Having unconvincingly packed, I set off…then remembered I had forgotten my sunglasses whilst I was in the air. Typical. I had an amazing 5 days in Hong Kong visiting many sites and to be honest, it made me realise a lot of things. First of all, I was terrible at ‘selfies’. Secondly, thank God I was out the country whilst my team Manchester United continued to play awfully. But most importantly, I had an amazing opportunity ahead of me. I know many who were put off going to study abroad because they didn’t want to leave their friends they made in Manchester. But they may look back one day and regret that decision, because it is an amazing opportunity to be able to study abroad and to explore a new country. And there was no point feeling sad, I should be excited!
I watched some of the tennis at the Melbourne Open on TV in England and was very aware of the soaring temperatures. Indeed, it was so hot! Unfortunately I did not get to travel around Melbourne as much because I still had essays to finish from the University of Manchester. From what I did see, it’s a very fun place to be. It perhaps was not so fun visiting the Melbourne Cricket Ground at a time when English cricket had reached capitulation! But the banter was all good hearted and it was great to see such an amazing stadium. The city centre was ridiculously easy to get around although the tram around the city did feel crammed like the 143 at 5:00 on a uni day. It was also good to go up the ‘Eureka’ tower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. There was also the opportunity to be shoved into a glass box and hung out over the edge. The cinematic noise of glass shattering was very nerve racking! But nevertheless, there were some incredible views.
Possibly the shortest flight I have ever experienced, it only took 45 minutes from Melbourne. Rather that than an 8 hour coach drive! So I entered my college, John XXIII and I am having the time of my life. ‘O week’, which what we would called freshers week in Manchester was one of the funnest weeks I ever had. Loads of activities were set up, which gave everyone possible the best chance of meeting everyone, something that I had not experienced in Manchester. Each corridor was assigned a theme, so I am currently in ‘B1 boyband’. Each door already had your name on, plus a random image of the theme you were assigned. Quite frankly, I have never heard of this band, but I thought it was a really good way of meeting people, and especially remembering their names! We were also assigned a bib, to which we had to be assigned a nickname to write on. Mine continued from my friends back home “Welly”. The week was packed out with organised activities throughout the day and they were very funny. One is example was a challenge around the city. We were assigned into teams and had to complete some very funny tasks, such as proposing to a stranger in the middle of the street, falling asleep in a public place, and even ordering something for yourself behind the counter. And of course, the week was full of partying and it was probably one of the best weeks I have ever had in that sense. I am afraid I cannot expose on here what we got up to! But for those who like to party, John’s is definitely the place to be.
So far, I am loving college life. There is a real sense of a community and it is definitely what I envisioned University life to be. The fact it is also catered not only helps me save money, but it also provides a greater opportunity for meeting people.
John’s is also very competitive against other colleges. There are numerous sporting competitions and others such as debating, drama etc (you can tell I am more into sports!) and it is constantly packed with supporters on the touchline, cheering everyone on. For instance, there was an event called Inward Bound (IB) and the whole college went out to cheer on our runners. You effectively get blind dropped late at night, and run in a team to the end point, staggering distances of around 50km. They had been running for 8 hours or more! This is something very unique and I regretted not trying for the team due to sporting commitments for the University. But it was a very proud moment seeing your friends, after all the training and effort they had put in, to cross the finish line.
About ANU/Canberra: ANU is a campus university and so living on site certainly makes things easier. Especially when you are running late for class! The place is huge, not sure I have even managed to see it all yet! Union court is essentially the central student hub of the place and there are great places to study, socialise, and even sort out your necessities such as banking and hair (haha!). What I find with the university as well is how good the technology is. For instance, the computers are mainly Apple Macs. I am not really the techy sort of guy but the equipment is brilliant and easy to use. Because the University is so big, there is more than one library. This to me is a bonus because everything is spread out, so you are not scrapping to get a seat or use the computer. The Sports facilities here are fantastic. The Gym is huge, and it also gives people the opportunity to sign up for fitness sessions, body attack classes and all that jazz. There is also a 3G pitch outside. When I first heard I got into ANU I was buzzing. However, on a night out in Leeds, I had bumped into two Aussies (who were typically in their flip flops or what they call ‘thongs’), who simply laughed that I was going to Canberra. For the tourist, there are very few places to visit. But that has not meant to say how fun it is to be here because the place is effectively over run with students. Being a sports fan has been a lot of fun for instance, as the Brumbies Rugby Union team play in Canberra. But even the nights out into town, they are always a laugh and there are certainly some good places to go. I know for instance, a friend in MONASH at Melbourne said that they would rarely go on a night out because it was expensive getting there and back, plus the expense of the night itself. ANU is roughly a 15 minute walk into town, and it is certainly not as expensive as Sydney or Melbourne. For those who do want to travel, it is particularly good that Sydney is only a 3 hour bus away. And with the people I have met here, everyone has been so helpful in offering me to stay with them if I go travelling, which is a lot of fun but also good to save money.
Because it was a three day weekend in Canberra, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to go and travel. The coach journey was really good considering the price (students get a discount) and I arrived in Sydney city centre. However, I had a guide book from 2000 which didn’t really help. For instance, asking where the monorail was was particularly embarrassing considering this had been shut down! I had managed to get tickets to the Sydney football derby, but little did I know was I would be sitting with the Western Wanderers fans, who effectively behaved what you would see Europeans do. Despite the poor quality of the game (and rather humorous goals scored) I had a great time with Lucy Knox, a friend I was staying with. The next day I visited Manly Beach which was very beautiful, and I got the ferry which went right across to the Sydney Harbour bridge and the Sydney Opera House. I did not have quite enough time to climb the bridge but this is the good thing of not being too far away and most of my friends live in Sydney anyway.
Back at ANU, I was a volunteer at the Study abroad fair at which I helped promote the University of Manchester. It was great to meet other international exchange students and there are already plans in the pipeline to go travelling with them. The possibilities are endless!
If anyone has any questions they would like to ask me, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help!