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10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Moving to Canberra

This article is sponsored by Study Canberra

Are you planning to study in Canberra? This dynamic Australian city offers a unique and enriching experience, tailored for international students like you who are ready to embrace a new culture, forge lasting friendships, and overcome academic challenges. 

To help you navigate this exciting new adventure, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide, inspired by the experiences of Ankita Unnikrishnan, a student from Bangalore, India. She shares her journey and the lessons she has learned so far, offering valuable tips for newcomers to this unique Australian city.

1. The city is more than just politics

Ankita initially had reservations about Canberra’s atmosphere, expecting a quieter experience compared to other major Australian cities. She was pleasantly surprised to find the opposite. She says, “I initially anticipated Canberra to be somewhat dull compared to Sydney or Melbourne, but my perception shifted drastically. Far from dull, my days are now filled with a dynamic blend of activities and camaraderie with friends, making Canberra an unexpectedly lively and engaging place for me.”

2. Canberra’s institutions offer a supportive and nurturing environment

In Canberra, universities like ANU stand out for their focused approach to student development. Ankita, studying a mix of Sustainability Studies, Earth Science, and Design at ANU, speaks highly of her experience: “The faculty at the ANU stands out as exemplary in their respective fields. The support and guidance I’ve received from my tutors have been nothing short of excellent.”

These universities offer more than just academic knowledge. They’re dedicated to preparing students for the real world, providing personalised mentorship, practical career advice, and opportunities for internships. Positioned in Australia’s political centre, they also offer unique experiences in government and NGOs, blending academic learning with practical application.

Explore the diverse range of educational institutions Canberra has to offer for your studies.

3. The city has a student-led culture

Canberra’s cultural scene is uniquely shaped by its student population. Ankita notes, “A distinctive cultural aspect of Canberra lies in the vibrant influence of the ANU student community. Despite being known as the governmental hub, the city pulsates with life due to its large student population.”

This energy translates into a variety of cultural experiences, ranging from dynamic live music scenes to a plethora of student-organised events. This young, vibrant culture complements the academic environment of the city, making Canberra an exciting place for students to live and learn.

4. It’s a small city with big connections

Ankita points out a cool advantage of Canberra’s cozy size – it’s a networking goldmine! “Canberra, with its relatively small community, has proven to be an ideal environment for cultivating connections,” Ankita shares. “This has not only translated into professional success but has also allowed me to engage with influential figures in politics, further reinforcing Canberra as an exceptional hub for careers in the environmental sector.”

In Canberra, students find an ideal environment to rapidly grow their networks, which is crucial for career development in specialised fields. The city serves as an excellent hub for students to create important professional connections and advance their careers.

Study Canberra offers a range of networking opportunities and resources so you can start shaping your career.

5. Search for the hidden gems

Ankita’s favourite activities in Canberra centre around exploring its lesser-known spots and enjoying its natural beauty. She enthusiastically shares, “Indulging in my love for op shopping at places like Vinnies Dickson and The Green Shed, and taking strolls around Lake Burley Griffin, have been delightful,” she says.

Cycling is a great way to find hidden spots in Canberra. The city is designed for easy biking, allowing you to easily explore its beautiful parks and interesting urban areas. You can ride through the parklands, visit bustling markets, and enjoy scenic routes around the city.

6. Start with on-campus living

On-campus living can be a fantastic start to your university journey, offering a supportive environment and easy access to university resources. Ankita reflects, “My personal experience living in a residential college during my first year was transformative. It fostered a sense of community and made it easier for me to build connections.” 

As you settle in and get the hang of things, many students shift to share houses, which are a great way to enjoy a sense of independence while still having the companionship of fellow students. It’s all about finding that perfect balance between comfort and community as you navigate your new life in Canberra! Check out Study Canberra’s comprehensive guide to accommodation options in the city.

7. How to get around in Canberra

When it comes to moving around in Canberra, Ankita points out some smart and convenient options for students. She recommends, “Investing in a bike, especially for commuting to university. This provides a convenient and efficient alternative.” Biking not only offers flexibility but is also a great way to stay active and explore the city. For longer distances or different routes, she suggests using public transportation: “Additionally, obtaining a MyWay card for public transportation is practical,” she advises.

This card simplifies travel on buses and light rails, making it a hassle-free and cost-effective way for students to get around Canberra. Tertiary students in Canberra also receive discounted fares. Find out more about navigating public transport on the Study Canberra website.

8. How to meet people in Canberra

For international students like you wondering about the social scene in Canberra, Ankita has some good news. She found that making friends in the city was easier than she initially thought. “Actively participating in social events both at university and within your residential college can significantly enhance your experience,” Ankita suggests. So don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone – your next best friend or a supportive study buddy could be just one event away! 

Check out your education provider’s events page or Study Canberra’s comprehensive guide to the city’s events.

9. Eating on a budget

Mastering the art of budgeting and cooking is a valuable skill for any student. Ankita advises, “Planning my grocery trips once a fortnight and embracing meal preparation has been beneficial. It not only encourages healthier eating habits but also helps optimise your budget for groceries.” Head to local farmers’ markets like the Capital Region Farmers Market for affordable fresh produce, and buy non-perishables in bulk at stores like Costco or Aldi to save money. Cooking at home, especially when sharing meals with housemates, is a cost-effective and healthier option.

If you find yourself craving an authentic meal or snack from home, Study Canberra can point you in the right direction.

10. Rug up for Canberra’s winters

Much like Europe, Canberra has four distinct seasons, unlike Australia’s coastal cities.

Ankita, learning from her own experience, emphasises the need for a proper winter wardrobe in Canberra’s brisk weather. “Understanding how cold it can get in Canberra and packing high-quality thermals for the winter months is essential,” she says.

Ankita also suggests a practical tip: shop for winter clothes right in Canberra. The local stores will have clothing specifically for the city’s unique climate, ensuring you stay warm and cozy.

And there’s more to Canberra’s winter than just staying warm. The city’s proximity to the Snowy Mountains opens up thrilling opportunities for skiing and snowboarding, transforming the colder months into a season of outdoor adventure and sports. With the right winter gear, you’re perfectly equipped to fully enjoy and explore the winter delights of Canberra.