Exchange: Australian National University (ANU)
Name: Olav Soldal
Study Program at CBS: BSc International Business and Politics
Exchange School: Australian National University
1.What is the Australian National University like?
Welcome to the best university in Australia* (there is no ‘*’ but if you want to be empirical: http://www.topuniversities.com/universities/australian-national-university)! Perhaps the most underrated university in Australia, at least within the CBS bubble, this is really a university that deserves more attention! Now before you think I have been lobotomized or simply given a top job in their marketing division, let me share my experience with you:
The Australian National University (ANU), is the ‘National’ university (no surprises there), located in the capital, Canberra. This means that there are no tropical beaches, surf or reefs to attend in between studies. Don’t stress it, because you will be so eager to attend your next classes, that you’ll have no time to waste on indulgence. It is no coincidence that it has been ranked among the top 20 universities in the world this year. ANU is top notch when it comes to academic quality. Here, you will find so many celebrity scholars, that you won’t be able to avoid getting one as your teacher. It really is a leading university when it comes to research. As the ‘national’ university, it attracts students and professors from all over. Additionally – it is strategically positioned nearby ‘the hand that feeds’.
As the national capital, Canberra has a lot to offer as well. Although pretty small, it has tons of national attractions. So if you are interested in Australia’s history and want to learn more about the current shape of the nation (as you should), you can discover it all here – for FREE! ANU campus fills a large chunk of the city, and much of the city life is dominated by students.
2. What made you decide to go on exchange?
Pretty simple. I’ve always known the world is bigger than Scandinavia. I wanted to see it. So I took that matter into my own hands. It’s a great thing to be able to see the world while working towards your degree at the same time. Besides, I believed attending a different university would give me more perspective on my experiences at CBS all the while giving me new academic opportunities. It definitely hasn’t disappointed.
3. Based on your own experiences, what advice do you have for future students going on exchange, for when they’re in their preparation stage?
This is the cliché advice, and something of a catch-phrase – but it can only be because it is important: Start preparations as soon as possible. This does not necessarily mean a year in advance or more, because sometimes you might simply not be able to start preparations before you are further in the administrative process. Expect a lot of liaison (i.e. read e-mails) between you, CBS and your host university. There are plenty of forms that must be filled out, signed and scanned for ample return. This will take most of your last semester before your exchange.
For me it seriously felt like having a part time job sometimes. Especially with ANU, there are a lot of steps in the application process and a lot of administration to be done prior to arrival. Believe me, this is worth it when you first arrive, because you will not have to touch a form ever again. This also means you will have to follow up on it quite regularly and it will continue throughout your preparation semester.
Expect to have a little money set aside for the final preparation phase. For exchange in Australia you will need a student VISA, that grants you at least 6 months of stay and part-time work rights in Australia. This costs something like 3000 DKK! Processing time can vary greatly, so apply at least a month before going. Then comes the flight costs. BOOM, another 8 – 10 000 DKK. Then your accommodation deposit and fees, yet another 5 – 8 000 DKK.
4. What was it like arriving at your host country and university?
Arriving was pretty smooth. As long as you made sure to prepare a bit in advance, nothing will come as a surprise. Be prepared for a lot of information thrown at you. Some of this is important, but most of it is meant for first year students. For me it was a bit hectic with several important decisions for the coming semester and tons of classes to attend. I decided to try out at least 5 – 6 courses before I decided exactly what to attend. Then comes getting used to the city, your new home and new friends.
In Australia, a special mention should be made to avoid a high chance of being hit by a car during the first few weeks- ALWAYS LOOK THE OPPOSITE WAY BEFORE CROSSING A ROAD!
5. Was it easy to make friends?
The short answer is YES – see Q7 and Q10 for elaboration.
6. Was language a barrier?
No. If you know your English, you’re good. If you pick up some Aussie English, you’ll have no worries at all. Australia is highly multicultural with close connections to Asia and Asian languages, but everybody speaks English from morning to eve. Be prepared for some weird words and expressions, unique to this continent, like: “arvo”; “brekkie”; “bludger” and “crack the shits”
7. What was the accommodation like at the Australian National University?
At ANU you are guaranteed student accommodation as an exchange student. There are a range of different halls for residence that in themselves work much like a miniature Australian society through which you’ll meet people, a lot of people. You can also be rest assured that they’ll be from all around the world.
There are between 200 – 1000 students living in each hall, meaning you are guaranteed a social student life during your semester. I lived at a dorm called Fenner Hall, together with approx. 500 fellow ANU students. I have subsequently made 500 new friends! Making friends at Fenner literarily just requires walking down to the common kitchens and sparking up a conversation. Rather, the problem is getting time for yourself, because you will spend most of your days in close company with these awesome people. I guess it depends a bit on what you are looking for, but for me it was perfect.
8. What electives did you take, and what did you think of them? Tell us a bit about the workload/exams etc.
Well, to summarize shortly (and this is no easy task), I took three courses at ANU:
Identity, Difference and Ethnicity, 7.5 ECTS
Australian Political Institutions, 7.5 ECTS
Australian National Internship Program (ANIP), 15 ECTS
I thoroughly enjoyed them all. The first two are pretty standard courses, one being a sociology course (my first!) and the other a comparative politics course. Fairly straight forward curriculum and normal exams. The last one however, is completely unique to ANU…
The ANIP is a highly esteemed and popular internship program which invites students from all universities in Australia to undertake research-focused internships in public policy offices from the capital. After a long and time-consuming application process, much like for any internship, interns are given offers within museums, public institutes, think-tanks, government departments or within politicians’ offices in the Australian Parliament. I was employed in the office of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion. Here I did research as part of my course and delivered a longer report towards the end of the semester. I had normal classes, as well as working in the office approximately two days a week. You can choose to do it as a one course, two course or a full semester-value. Mine counted as two courses, so the exam was pretty big, but it also gave me more time for my research.
I highly recommend this internship program. It has been hugely rewarding and fruitful for my education. It is a unique chance to combine real-life work experience from an intership with a semester from an exhange. For more information on the program itself, you can check out their web-page: http://anip.anu.edu.au/
9. What’s the social life like compared to Denmark?
In my opinion, the student social life here is much more diversified. Just as you will encounter all kinds of cultures and traditions, you can find almost any activity to suit your interests. Now, my experience of social life in Denmark has been mainly attached to one of two: Sports and drinking. You can get this down under as well, but there are so many other options available as well.
At ANU there are loads of social clubs, sports activities, interest groups, debating societies, even what they call “learning communities”: You meet up twice a month to make dinner and discuss niche (academic) topics with like-minded people. The sports that are offered are really good as well. Notably, you will find one of Australia’s most dedicated Quidditch teams. Then you have your typical student bar (a lot bigger than Nexus!) and tons of locations for hosting self-initiated activities.
Then of course you have the game-changer: The dorm social-life. As I have mentioned, you will (if you chose to) be living with between 200 – 1000 fellow students around your age, and a significant proportion of student fees is signposted to funding social activities. You will find Hall-specific student-organisations and societies similar to those found at CBS, at each hall of residence. Here you can find everything from theater-sports groups to bush-walking clubs. There are tons of activities to choose from and you will have to start prioritizing them. Many of these activities are offered free-of-charge by the hall residence committee.
10. What are the main differences between CBS and your host university?
There are quite a few. I will try to summarize some of the most important aspects.
Of course, there is the obvious – and hugely significant – difference, that at ANU, most students live together in closely-knit student dormitories that are located in a small geographical area. So most of the social life is centered around these key locations (where each compete to offer the best student activities). This means that if you chose NOT to opt in for the student accommodation (or lose your spot) it might be harder to gain a social network.
The second difference is interrelated. Most degrees at ANU are highly flexible and based on student-chosen electives. This means most of your classes will be compiled of a dispersed group of people without any previous attachments. School is in other words not somewhere you go in order to be social (unless you are meeting up with friends for lunch). Another consequence is that in group-work and tutorials, you might have difficulties when it comes to forming groups with someone you know or “bond with ” among your classmates. Therefore, there is a clear divide between your professional life at Uni, and your social life at “home”.
11. In terms of expenses, can you give us an estimate of how much you spent/are likely to spend in your time abroad?
Australia is fairly expensive. Consider what you would spend daily in Denmark and multiply that by something around 1.3. Especially when you’re buying vegetables and alcohol. Going out in Canberra is a costly sport. You might be able to find some good student discounts somewhere, but expect to spend between 60 – 100 AUD (250-500 DKK) on a night out. With that being said, I have managed my funds well enough on my student grant by being a little conservative with my money – but again, that is a +6000DKK grant from Norway….(don’t hate!)
Then of course comes travelling and exploring this beautiful country – a MUST, that seriously adds to your budget.
12. And finally, do you recommend going on exchange? Why/why not?
Well, *drum-roll*… That is a big: YES! To quote a wise man: JUST DO IT! GO! NOW! It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and your chance to try out something completely new.