Weathered international student Nawaf Ibrahim offers some tips on how to make it through your first year in one piece.

If you flew into Canberra and thought you accidentally got on the wrong plane and landed in a small town, don’t worry, I thought the same. While Canberra is one of the quietest capital cities in the world, it’s also one of the most livable, and you’ll find your footing soon enough, so slap on some SPF15+ sunscreen (the rays here are deadly), and prepare yourself for some extremely handy tips on how to make it through. 

Be open-minded

Most of you will be arriving right in time for O-week, and this will be a great opportunity to meet new people, so be proactive and initiate conversations; you might have more in common with the handsome, six foot jock in gym shorts than you might imagine. There are plenty of events to meet such people, from free barbecues, to workshops on managing studies and avoiding plagiarism. If you plan on socialising off UC campus, get yourself a Proof of Age card, then, there’s no way you’ll lose your Passport out on the town.

Map it out

One thing you’ll notice when you first arrive at UC is that the buildings lack numerical consistency: Building 17 is next to Building 27, and Building 16 is on the opposite side of the campus. You can access campus maps on the UC website, or download the free UC Map application on your smart phone, you’ll never get lost.

Public Transport

Action buses are your greatest ally if you don’t have a car, download the Google Maps app, write down you destination and it will show you the best bus route to take. All 300s (weekdays) and 900s (weekends) take you from Belconnen to Civic and Woden, and vice-versa. A Tertiary Student MyWay card will get you on the bus a little cheaper, so pop over to a Canberra Connect, the closest is in Swanson Plaza near the Belconnen Bus Interchange.

Master the language

You might struggle to understand the Australian ‘twang’ at first, but you’ll be rolling the slang off your tongue in no time, so let’s start with a few general terms: Barbecue becomes a barbie, good day becomes g’day and McDonalds becomes Maccas. Now a little harder: if it becomes full its chockers, a lie becomes a furphy, and cheap wine is known as goon. Also, if someone offers to shout you, scream YES! It means they are offering to pay for you. If you don’t know what a word means, feel free to ask, Australians and especially Canberrans are some of the nicest bunch of people you will meet.

Ask and you shall receive

One of the most important things to remember is to always get help if you need it. Culture shock is nothing to be ashamed of, and hits even the strong. If you need any help or assistance, talk to the IS3 team, or make an appointment to see a counsellor at the UC Medical and Counselling Centre, located in Building One next to Student Central, they all love to have a good chat.

Lastly, make the most of your time in this splendid country, here’s hoping to a wonderful academic year filled with new friends, and cheap drinks.

By Nawaf Ibrahim

Originally published in Curieux Issue 1, 2015.