O-Week and first week of lectures

By Tom Collins (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia).

SAM_6423On my first morning at Burton and Garran Hall, I’m not gonna lie, I was scared to leave my room. It was the first time I realised I was actually on the other side of the world and had no one. When I finally did leave my room, I  went over to the main block and we were all divided into groups of about fifteen and were taken on a tour of the city centre, which they call ‘civic’ in the same way we’d call it ‘town’. Each group bought food and cooked together and everyone shared the food. It’s a really good idea and it was from this that I started to make friends. It was so easy in the end!

Purple Haze

During the week there were loads of events including a drag night (knocking on a random girl’s room and asking if I could borrow a dress was something I didn’t expect to do). There was also a toga party, a murder mystery night and finally a music festival, a bit like ANU’s version of Pangea. I only knew one of the acts, but the Australians seemed to know who the others were and it was really good! Of course these nights always ended up with us going out. Canberra’s nightlife, unsurprisingly, has nothing on Manchester.

Market Day (Freshers fair)

The biggest difference between O week and freshers’, however, was the amount of events that occurred in the day as opposed to just at night. There was a freshers’ fair just like in Manchester, but throughout the week there was also a trip to the local swimming pool, a water fight with another hall and lots of BBQ’S! The best thing about B & G is that you get fed during O week so there’s no need to buy your own food.

Purple Haze

My advice would be to get involved as much as you can. No one here has any desire to be cool, and therefore everyone gets involved and judges a lot less. This all creates a really good ‘college spirit’, which is really nice to be part of as it is so different to back home. I probably met more people in my first week at B & G than I did in my whole first year in Manchester. The University of Manchester and all universities in the UK could learn a lot from the college system here at the ANU.

The following week was the first week of lectures. In this week I sat in on several different courses to get a feel for them. I went to two lectures which were at least third year subjects, and I knew straight away they were too difficult for me. I then met with the exchange advisor at ANU and finalised my choices. I ended up taking Foundations of Australian Law, Australian Public Law, Corporations Law and Succession Law. I’d definitely recommend sitting in on a few courses before committing yourself, it really is the only way you can properly understand whether they are suitable.

My first impressions were that the lectures were very similar to back home. One difference was that our timetable is not generated for us like in Manchester. You have to go onto a timetable builder and click on your courses to build it yourself. I also had to get used to using Wattle, which is the ANU’s equivalent of MyManchester. It is very similar however and was not a problem. Academic differences are something I’ll talk about more when I’m more familiar with the system.

An Aussie, a Brit and a Canadian (met on the first day).

Overall, O-week was amazing. If you are going on exchange I can say with almost certainty that you’ll make friends, so there’s nothing to worry about on that front. That’s speaking from my experience at the ANU anyway!
Get involved, or as Aussies would say, ‘get around it’!

Flight, Perth and Arrival in Canberra

By Tom Collins (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia).

Having to wake up at 4:30am, I can’t say I was exactly excited (I love my sleep). This morning, as always seems to be the case with flights, didn’t go according to plan. My brother lost the car keys, but luckily my sister had stayed at ours that night so she took me to the airport! Crisis averted.

The flight itself was so much better than I thought it would be. First was a seven hour flight to Abu Dhabi. I didn’t get to see much of Abu Dhabi as I just ran through the airport to get to the gate. The next flight was delayed an hour and a half. It took eleven hours and I slept for about five of those. I landed in Perth at 2:30pm to 32C, just a tad hotter than Salford.

The car keys were in the ignition if you were wondering.
The car keys were in the ignition if you were wondering.

I’d flown to Perth because I have family living there. It actually worked out a similar price flying to Perth and then getting an internal flight to Canberra as it would to fly straight to Canberra. It might be worth considering this as flights to Canberra are often more expensive than other Australian cities. For the same price, therefore, I could visit another major city in Australia on my trip.

Caversham National Park.
Caversham National Park.

Perth was amazing. I only had three days there (I’ll return for a few weeks at the end), in that time, however, I visited Mullaloo Beach, Yanchep Lagoon and Caversham National Park. At Caversham I saw kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and loads more Aussie animals. The last time I saw a kangaroo was when I was in Perth when I was twenty months old. That time I decided to chase the kangaroos. There are now signs up saying ‘DO NOT CHASE THE KANGAROOS’. I’d like to think these were put up because of me. The kangaroos were amazing! They were so placid and you could stroke and feed them as though they were dogs. One did decide to grab my map and start eating it and refused to let go of it, however. I’d definitely recommend Perth and I can’t wait to go back for longer.

Think he won this fight.
Think he won this fight.
My room.
My room.

I then had a flight to Canberra which only lasted four hours. Checking in for an internal flight is a lot less stressful than an international flight. I got to Canberra at about 11pm, and when I got to my accommodation there was pretty much nobody around. I’m staying at Burton and Garran Hall, which is the cheapest (I think) at $405 a fortnight. This works out to just over £100 a week. I was shown to my room and I skyped my family.


Next time I’ll tell you about O-week (their equivalent of Freshers) and my first few weeks of lectures when reality actually starts to bite. I also plan to blog about academic and social differences between Australia and the UK and any trips I make around Australia.

Pre Departure

By Tom Collins (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

I finished my Semester 1 exams in Manchester exactly 2 weeks before I flew to Australia. Do not underestimate how much there is to do in this time. I had already sorted out my visa, insurance, flights, and accommodation long before this stage. You feel like you are planning for the trip forever! You’ll need a Student Non-Award (Subclass 575) Visa. It came through really quickly (literally within half an hour mine was granted), but you will need to pay ($540). You also need Overseas Health Cover (OSHC). Shop around for this, mine cost $192 for 6 months cover.

The obvious task which needs to be done is packing. I flew with Etihad so was allowed 30kg and hang luggage, which is really good. If you don’t have this much allowance just think about what you really will need, you can always buy stuff over there. Apparently a good way to pack is to get out everything you think you’ll need, and then half it. I didn’t do this and decided instead to take everything and was willing to wear 18 layers of clothes to the airport if needs be in order to avoid baggage charges.

Don’t forget to get money before you go! I’m going to set up a bank account when I get over there so needed some Aussie dollars to help me get by whilst I set up my Australian account. I left this to the last minute and I got the money the day before I flew. You might have to order the money which might take a few days.

  • Suncream (I’ve heard horror stories of Brits wanting a tan in Australia almost getting 3rd degree burns. Apparently the sun is hot.)
  • Universal plug adapter
  • Laptop
  • Camera
  • Tea bags (the most important)
  • Study abroad handbook (I honestly haven’t been paid to say this; it might come in very handy!)

Hopefully my next blog will be about the flight and arriving in Australia. If not, I’ve missed my flight.