Chapter 4: Final Reflection

Even though this semester was nothing similar to my earlier expectations, I am ultimate glad and grateful for this exchange experience. People’s lives suffer more or less under the global pandemic. However, I feel that coming to Australia and spending 6 months here was the best experience I could’ve gotten under COVID. 

  1. Course selection

I was lucky to discover a course called “CBEA3001: Special Industry Project (SIP)”. This course provides students with the opportunity to work in a small cross-disciplinary team setting and solve a business problem presented by a local business client. Our client is an aboriginal corporation in Australia and we are matched with mentors from Pwc. By doing this course, I not only learned essential skills in consulting and gained the experience of working with diverse people and interacting with real client, but the project also gives me a chance to explore the aboriginal culture behind modern Australia. At the very beginning of the course when COVID hasn’t spread globally, the whole class went on an overnight trip to meet clients and get first-hand information of the project. We would have gone to meet clients again for the final presentation if the semester went normally. I would say that this course is definitely special and the hard skills and soft skills that I gained would be very helpful for career development. 

(field trip to Eden)

Another course that I wished that I knew before is call “FINM3009 Student Managed Fund (SMF)”. This course provides students the opportunity to take responsibility for over $0.6 million worth of investments. They have 4 different roles under the course that you can apply based on the prerequisite courses you have taken. 

Although SMF is very limited to student with finance background, SIP is open to every disciplines. 

2. Accommodation

I am lucky to live at Wright hall, which is the newest and one of the best equipped flexible-catered accommodation on campus. Wright hall has a good proportion of domestic and international students. People at wright organised plenty of activities throughout the year. It has 7 floors and more than 500 residents living in the hall. I hardly feel lonely and don’t have to make much efforts to maintain the new established friendships because I can see those people every day! 

For those of you who find it expensive living on campus while coming to exchange in Australia, I would say that living cost is generally higher here compared to Manchester. You would find food is a lot expensive as well. Therefore, the catered accommodation is not as expensive as it looks. If you want to be self-catered, B&G might be a good option as it is cheap and renowned for its good social experience. 

(Wright hall commencement dinner)

3. Society

Another highlight during the exchange is the sponsored Sydney finance trip that I went with ANU finance society. We visited 11 companies in 2 days and stay overnight in the CBD center. I found the event on Facebook, paid a small amount of community fee, and sent my CV to give a try. I wrote down this experience just to encourage the future exchange students to actively search for activities during exchange and be brave to take part in any opportunities. You exchange time is precious and limited, so make the most of it! 

(Finance trip to Sydney!)

4. People

Finally, the softest part in this reflection belongs to the people that I met at ANU. Looking back one year ago, I got my exchange result and found that I didn’t get into Sydney and Melbourne. I was upset and hesitated to accept the offer. I talked to people and ultimately decided to go exchange even though the result was not ideal. Half year ago when I was stuck in China due to the Australia travel restriction, I didn’t give up and went to a third country to self-quarantine. Now all the coincidence and efforts make sense: Australian Capital Territory remains one of the safest places in Australia during the pandemic and I met lifelong friends at ANU. I have made memories with people and they will be the very few people to stay close in my life. I also know that I can take someone with me in this lifetime journey. 

Easter egg – a letter from my beloved at Wright:

Chapter Three: Places to visit in Canberra

Even though Covid-19 restricted me from flying to different places in Australia, I have been actively finding places in Canberra to make up for the travel losses. If you are a student coming to ANU in the future, you are lucky because you will have a plethora of stunning places in Australia to visit, and the following recommendations will help you catch some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Canberra.

  • Mount Painter Nature Reserve

Mount Painter Nature Reserve has a beautiful sweeping view of north Canberra with easy access paths. People love to walk dogs and enjoying nature there. I got my favourite pic here!

  • Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

A big big nature reserve in Canberra with plenty of wildlife. Instead of paying for an expensive ticket to the zoo, you can visit the Koala attraction. Also, keep an eye for different types of kangaroos on your venture in this reserve. They have picnic spots and BBQ facilities. Remember to be extra time cautious as it will determine your ability to see most of the place before it turns dark. For your notice, private vehicle access only. 

  • Lake Burley Griffin

This is the lake that is popular among every ANU student for its convenience in terms of going for a walk, jogging, and picnic spots. It is just 15mins walk from campus. It takes about 8hrs to walk around the lake, where you will pass by the Australian national parliament, the national gallery, and the national library. The Canberra Balloon Speculator and Canberra Fireworks night (both in March) are some of the major events that are set beside the lake. Definitely recommend visiting the lake before sunset. It is AMAZING.

  • Red Hill Nature Reserve

Another beautiful and accessible reserve in Canberra. Lots of eye-catching rocks along the tracks and an overarching view at the top. What makes this reserve distinctive is not just its view, but also it has an aesthetic fine dining restaurant which has got one of the most spectacular views and a team that brings a unique mix of culinary and beverage experience to offer quality food and wines from independent makers worldwide. This restaurant is called the Onred restaurant and I definitely recommend this for a special occasion.          

  • Yarralumla suburb

Last but not the least, Yarralumla is a beautiful suburb with one of the best real estate in Canberra (Most of the rich people from Canberra own the estates there). It’s very pretty!! 

Chapter Two: The Honeymoon Ends

I had never imagined that a global pandemic will happen when I went abroad for exchange. I thought once I got to Australia, all the troubles would be left behind and a whole new life would be ready to begin. However, not even after one month, I am stuck in my room, flipping through the album on my phone and lamenting that the amazing month I had has ended!

Some highlights in my wonderful first month:

  1. Two trips to Sydney

Sydney is an amazing city. It is so diverse and gives visitors different feelings. I went to Sydney twice last month. My expression may not be accurate, but I will try to convey what I felt when I visited those places by using other cities to analogise. 

Westfield shopping centre – New York, crowed, lots of big brands

Darling Harbour – the water, building and Ferris wheel are just like the view around River Thames

Opera house – magnificent and breath-taking, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco could be used to illustrate

Beach – made in Australia, nowhere else to see

2. Commencement dinner at uni accommodation

I chose Wright Hall as my accommodation simply because it is the only one with flexible (16 meals) catering, and the choice turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made. They had so many activities going on before the Covid-19 and in the first two weeks, I felt I would never get time to study. One of the most exciting and biggest events during the year was the commencement dinner for the whole hall. It is organised once per year in March when the academic year starts. (A similar event called Valete dinner happens in November when the semester ends.) On that day, everyone dressed up properly. Dinner started from 6pm until 10pm or later. People living in different blocks in the hall gathered at 5ish, took pictures, chatted, and used vouchers to get drinks. Then we came to the dining hall to have a proper dinner, which contained starters, main meals and dessert. Some alumni came to visit, staff announced the list of students who achieved extraordinary results in the past year and student representatives gave speeches. Hall residents were arranged randomly to different tables and had a chance to talk to someone new. After dinner, students could either go back or join the disco at the balcony. It was an awesome night.

3. Breath-taking view at Mountain Ainslie Canberra

Mount Ainslie is just a 20 minutes drive from ANU campus. It has a reputation for being the best spot to see the view of Canberra. We managed to get there before sunset and encountered an amazing night view. The unexpected beauty that I came across that night was the starry sky above the mountain. Even though stargazing wasn’t new for me, this remote mountain which stays away from the city’s light pollution surprised us with a sky full of stars.

4. Canberra Balloon Spectacular

The Canberra Balloon Festival is an annual event that takes place at the lawns of the old Parliament House. People gathered at the lawns before 6am and witnessed balloons taking off. It was exciting to see how the staff lit up fire and inflated big balloons. It costs more than $300 to take a hot balloon trip, but it is free and absolutely worth it to just stand by and watch. Those balloons are in different shapes including animals and cartoon characters. Whether the balloons will take off on that day depends on the weather condition. The official website updates their decision at dawn. That means whoever wants to see the balloons needs to wake up early on the right morning. 

Chapter One: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Australian National University

Going on exchange while the Coronavirus is spreading in the world isn’t a fun thing. I did not want to start the blog with the virus, however, without all the troubles prior to the beginning of my semester abroad, the story will not be completed. 

After taking the final exam at Manchester, I took a flight the next day back to China, planning to stay home for seven days during Chinese New Year and then embark on a journey to Australia. However, it was at that time that the Coronavirus outbreak started in China. On the 1stof February, after I checked in at the airport and started shopping in the duty-free area, my friends texted me that Scott Morrison has set a travel ban for visitors from China. “Are you kidding me?” I walked to the airport departure board and saw flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane… all cancelled! 

sdr

As you can imagine what happened next, the airport turned into a huge mess. People queuing for luggage, staff unloading and distributing them to the passengers. Each individual was wearing a mask, pushing through the crowd to get their luggage. I felt like even a healthy person could get sick or be affected under that circumstance. I finally got home with all my luggage, tired like a horse. 

sdr

It was a Saturday night, I sent emails to anyone who I thought may help. I kept telling myself to calm down, wait at least until Monday to see what they will reply. However,  I also worried that with one more day of hesitation, Britain will shut their door. Friends at uni texted me: “Hey, Ziqi. You can still come back to Manchester. Don’t have to gap.” Was this it? Were all my efforts for exchange ended up in this way? It was one of the most difficult weeks in my life. I was desperate: checked news, checked email boxes, texted Australian oversea students in China…

After struggling for one week, I weighted different options and decided to go to Thailand with two other girls for 14 days of isolation. It was my third time going to Thailand. Upon leaving there, I promised myself to never visit Thailand again. 

Hope is an important thing. Once there is hope, you will feel much better. In the flat we rented, we cooked, watched movies, chatted, and counted the 14 days down. It is true that plans can never keep up with changes. Just as I first planned to get to ANU campus early and mix up with all other students, I have now undergone an unexpected two-week vacation and missed O-week.