Want to spend some quality time bonding with kangaroos, but can’t bear the thought of studying abroad outside of Sydney or Melbourne? Think again, mate. You should definitely consider study abroad in Canberra, the hip, artistic hub of Australia you don’t hear enough about. Named after the cranberries grown in this neck of the woods, Canberra (pronounced Can-bra) was planned by an American architect couple who won a design competition in 1912 that sought to designate the nation’s capital. Today, outdoor aficionados, concert goers, and museum buffs make Canberra their cultural classroom, carving a special place in their hearts for the outback’s quirky capital, and you should too!
Study Abroad Programs in Canberra
Caberra specializes in as many different educational fields as there are types of snakes you should stay away from in Australia. Diversity is rich among both locals and international students, so you’ll be in good company no matter which path you decide to embark on by studying in Canberra.
Since the Parliament House calls Canberra home, this city is a great place for future senators, prime ministers, and presidents to study political science. Take courses on Australian politics and government and boost your resume with an internship at the Australian Parliament, an Australian public service agency, one of many embassies, NGOs, or lobby groups.
Canberra attracts students working toward degrees in the arts, because of its plethora of theater and musical performances, galleries, and museums. Become the next Rebel Wilson or Hugh Jackman by enrolling in theater courses while studying in Canberra, or practice your sketching skills at the the National Gallery of Australia or the Canberra Museum and Gallery. Mingle with other artists at galleries like the Canberra Contemporary Art Space, and meet musicians at the ten-day Capital Jazz Project festival each June.
If you decide to study abroad in Canberra and Crocodile Dundee is more your thing, then sports courses may be a great choice for you. These types of courses will teach you heaps about how sports, like rugby, have formed Australia’s identity. Attend lectures and go on fields trips while learning about the history of sports in pre-colonial Australia, the role of sport and recreation as a form of social education, the concept of elite sport vs. sport for all, gender issues, sports and the media, and much more.
Semesters run from February to June and August to November, with long winter and summer breaks in between. Studying in Canberra in the August to November semester is optimal for enjoying springtime. The summer months, from December to February, will fit your fancy if you love water sports. While studying abroad in Canberra, don’t expect as many assignments throughout the semester as you might back at home. In order to adjust to the Australian independent learning system, join study groups with locals who’ll help prepare you for final exams and papers.
Life in Canberra
Canberra has big city comforts with a small town feel. The city claims two mountains, Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie, both of which are perfect places to hike on weekends. The Garden City’s wide avenues and tree-lined streets make Canberra a nature-filled city with ample shade to rest from the January heat. Canberra offers natural splendor balanced by a fair dinkum (genuine) appreciation for culture.
Spend a weekend hanging around the NewActon precinct, which houses some of Canberra's best restaurants, bars, cafes, and an art-house cinema complex. The nearby University of Australia’s beautiful bush campus is worth exploring. Don’t miss the stunning view of Black Mountain from the top, and balance your study sessions with beautiful hikes around the area.
Walk to Lonsdale Street in the Braddon neighborhood, where a colorful mix of pop-up stores, quirky cafés, and boutiques will greet you. Since Australia already had a developed coffee culture for many decades before coffee chains came to American and Western European markets, you’ll be hard pressed to find a Starbucks in Canberra.
Take a stroll in the up-and-coming Kingston Foreshore precinct and enjoy views of Lake Burley Griffin. Next, stop by the National Arboretum, which was built over the ashes of the 2003 bushfires. Its 100 fledgling forests charmingly mark 100 years of Canberra’s existence. Snap stunning views of the bush capital from the armadillo-shaped visitors' center. Finish your tour here with a selfie by the immense sculpture of the words "Wide brown land" in cursive, which come from Dorothea Mackellar’s poem, My Country.
Hungry? Bite into a Broad Salmon burger with a side of salt and pepper calamari at Brodburger, a glass-encased burger joint found inside the Canberra Glassworks building, where glass-blowers breathe art to life. Then, continue your culinary explorations in the many different ethnic cafes, streetside markets, and top-notch restaurants that can refuel any tired mind and re-energize any over-hiked feet.
Accommodation & Visas
While your lodging will vary depending on your chosen study abroad program in Canberra, you’ll no doubt feel right at home. Whether you're dying to decorate your dorm room with aboriginal art or dreaming of eating grilled emu at your host family’s weekly barbies (barbeques), each living situation will help you adapt to Australian culture in its own way.
Homestays are common options for students who can’t wait to pick up as much Australian English as they can. You may have less privacy than you’re used to living with a host family, but don’t get your knickers in a knot. They may just become your second family that you won’t want to leave. Being placed in an apartment will give you more privacy, but you also run the risk of staying cooped up and refreshing Facebook. Instead, how about inviting your Aussie friends over to watch a game of rugby? Lastly, if you’re housed in university dorms, you’ll get to know lots of Aussies your age. After having spent enough time with them, your English will become as Australian as vegemite on toast.
Visa requirements for study abroad in Canberra vary depending on your nationality and the length of your program. If you plan on studying in Canberra for longer than three months, you’ll need a student visa. If you decide on a short term program, then you can obtain a work or holiday visa. Both of these visas usually allow students to work up to 20 hours a week to help supplement their cost of living while studying in Australia. Most study abroad programs in Canberra don’t include visa fees, but will coach you through the process instead. Refer to GoAbroad's Australian Embassy Directory for more details.
Benefits & Challenges
Canberra has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Australia, but it also has one of the highest costs of living. Luckily, festivals, like the comedy and Floriade flower festivals, prove that there’s always something to do on a budget. You won’t break the bank as long as you take advantage free attractions, like the Australian National Botanic Gardens, the War Memorial, the Film & Sound Archive, the Lennox Gardens, the Old Bus Depot Markets, and the National Gallery, Library, and Museum while studying in Canberra. You might actually save money while learning a thing or two about Aussie culture.
Since Canberra is laid out in concentric circles as opposed to a grid, this might throw you off when you’re first exploring the city and you’ll question your internal compass when you wonder which way is north. Just ask a local for directions; they’ll be happy to help. Unfortunately, the city is totally geared toward cars, so it's difficult to explore by public transport. You really need wheels to see it all, especially if you want to explore the surrounding mountains, which is when host families and roomies with cars come in handy.
While countries like France and Italy are known for their capital cities, Canberra isn’t the first city that comes to mind when one thinks of Australia. However, that’s slowly changing, as this up-and-coming city is making a name for itself. The city itself may have been planned, but it will surprise you with endless cultural and natural adventures on your study abroad adventure.