Layla in Australia: Canberra

One of the things I was warned about before coming to study in Australia was that certain times of the semester are extremely busy, while others are relatively light. I’m here to report back that this is definitely true! My past few weeks have been chock-full of exams and assignments, but for the next few weeks I haven’t got much going on. Now after recovering from my past few weeks (and the delightful disease my mates and I have dubbed the ‘Canberra plague’), I can recount what I’ve been up to!

Like I mentioned in my last blog post, last weekend I travelled to Canberra, the capital of Australia, with the Sydney University Quidditch Society. While in Canberra, we played a tournament against other teams in New South Wales. Technically, Canberra isn’t in New South Wales but in the Australian Capital Territory, like how Washington isn’t in Virginia or Maryland but the District of Columbia, but it’s grouped with NSW for geographic reasons.

 

The USYD Quidditch Society at the September Triwizard Tournament at Australian National University! Our team name is the Unspeakables, and so we take this picture after every tournament. We may have gone 1-3, but we looked pretty fierce doing so.

The USYD Quidditch Society at the September Triwizard Tournament at Australian National University! Our team name is the Unspeakables, and so we take this picture after every tournament. We may have gone 1 in 3, but we looked pretty fierce doing so.

 

Speaking of Washington, D.C., comparisons between it and Canberra were on my mind for most of the trip. Unlike DC, Canberra is almost an embarrassment to Australians — it’s a small city in the bush lacking in grandeur. My Australian friends who don’t play quidditch were a bit perplexed as to why I was bothering going to Canberra. However, Canberra’s similarities to DC were pretty interesting to this American. It’s got the cherry trees, a big body of water in the middle, a “Capital Hill” with the Parliament House at the top, and very confusing roundabouts. Like DC, it was a planned city, a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne. However, while DC feels very lively, Canberra feels more like someone built a city and then forgot to put people in it. Driving from Sydney to Canberra is a bit eerie — you’re in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden, a small city appears, seemingly out of thin air. It’s so remote that half an hour before we got to Canberra, my mates and I got out of the car and did a bit of stargazing because the light pollution was so noticeably absent. Anyone who’s driven the cesspool that is I-95 into DC knows this is the exact opposite of that experience.

Due to the prevalent belief among Australians that there’s not much to do in Canberra, we spent a lot of our time in the cabin we rented for the weekend, hanging out and playing mafia, the signature card game of the Quidditch Society. So naturally, I don’t have many pictures documenting my weekend in Canberra. The one downside I’ve found of having mostly local friends is that they aren’t particularly interested in doing touristy things like visiting monuments or museums, so I didn’t visit anywhere that really warranted picture-taking. Perfectly understandable, if a little disappointing! Luckily, one of my quidditch friends is a newcomer to Australia and just as keen as I to be unashamedly touristy, so we’ve been doing fun things in Sydney like going to the aquarium together. While I’ve loved my experience so far being fully immersed into Australian life, it is good every now and then to take a step back. I have to keep it all in perspective and remember that I’m not here permanently, and I need to take advantage of my time here. Right now, I’m finding that the best mixture is having a set routine during the week of school and going to the pub with my quidditch mates, and dedicating one day of the weekend to freedom and touristy exploration. Balance is key!

I also learned from this trip how to better go with the flow. I’m naturally pretty controlling — I like to be in charge and make decisions. It’s not the best part of my personality. But during this trip, I wasn’t the one driving and therefore had no control over where we went or what we did. It was frustrating, but also a necessary experience for me. Being more flexible was something that I needed to work on, and I think this trip was a really good exercise for me in learning to let go of the need to obsessively plan out a trip. Especially when traveling, things don’t always go according to plan, and it’s good to be prepared to handle it.

 

The one touristy thing I did convince my friends to do! Canberra has recently become famous for this tiny cafe called Pâtissez, which makes these ridiculously large and decadent milkshakes that they have dubbed "freakshakes." I had the Pretzella freakshake, which probably had half a jar of Nutella in it and was absolutely delicious (and deserved after a day of quidditch!)

The one touristy thing I did convince my friends to do! Canberra has recently become famous for this tiny cafe called Pâtissez, which makes these ridiculously large and decadent milkshakes that they have dubbed “freakshakes.” I had the Pretzella freakshake, which probably had half a jar of Nutella in it and was absolutely delicious (and deserved after a day of quidditch!)

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