To the surprise of everyone except Canberrans, Lonely Planet recently announced that Canberra is one of the top ten cities for tourists in the world. It's high time to revisit some of the things that make Canberra great, starting with my experiences in Canberra and what I have learned from the country capital.
I came to Canberra with the same preconception that I think many people share – it’s cold, it’s quiet, and it’s cultureless. I had every expectation that, by the end of my five-year degree, I would be sick to death of Canberra and its endless roundabouts. But instead, I’ve grown fonder of it with each passing year. Canberra is constantly changing, and today, it is a vastly different city from the one I moved to just a few years ago.
What’s so great about Canberra?
Much like our politicians, I’ve developed a three-point plan to demonstrate what I love about Canberra:
Canberra connects people. In Canberra, you’ll find families who’ve lived here for generations, but you’ll also meet people from all over Australia and the world. At ANU, I’ve lived with people from parts of Australia that I didn’t know existed: rural and remote areas and cities alike; the east coast and the west. What you get from this is a richness of experience, and I find that I learn more and more about the world each day, just from the people that I speak with.
This is perhaps more evident at the ANU than anywhere else in Canberra. At ANU, thousands of students come together on the one campus to study, socialise and sleep. For me, this community has helped explore my interests in photography, snowsports, and student leadership, areas which I had previously had little exposure to. In each interest that I pursue, I become a part of amazing communities of people with shared interests and goals.
One of these communities is Burgmann College, home to about 200 undergraduate students at the ANU. One of these students, Khalil, is a former Afghan refugee who now studies Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the ANU. He shares my enthusiasm for Canberra: ‘Canberra is a city full of opportunity. Here, people from diverse backgrounds study and work to achieve their goals and make a difference in the community’. For Khalil, studying at the ANU enabled him to participate in international Taekwondo competitions and join the Australian Army Reserves. Not only does Canberra enable people to pursue their interests and passions, it also fosters networks of people with similar goals.
Canberra is growing, and growth brings excitement. I find that many of the people here are buzzing with energy and ideas. Canberra is developing its own hipster culture, and by many standards is doing it better than your hipster central, Melbourne (for the record, I’m from Melbourne). Freakshakes? Canberra started it. Gothic lattes? Canberra. Whichever way you look at it, Canberra is evolving rapidly, and it’s an amazing environment to be a part of.
There’s always something happening in Canberra. No, you might not get your late-night shopping on a Wednesday, but you will find an amazing range of stimulating cultural and intellectual experiences, changing with the seasons. ANU, with its many clubs and societies, regularly hosts high-profile speakers – politicians, ambassadors, leading academics. In Canberra, you’ll see a growing number of music festivals, night noodle markets and social and cultural events, all adding to the vibrant, spirited experience this city offers.