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Putting Canberra back on the map

Izzie Weerasooriya is a second year, Bachelor of Arts student, majoring in French. This is her first University-related blog post and she hopes it’s not her last. She enjoys long walks down Wally’s Walk, lying in the grass after exams and drinking coffees made at Presse Cafe. She hopes to one day live in the French Riviera or become a mermaid at Disneyworld.

If you’ve ever scrolled through GLP events, seen the Canberra Symposium advertised (thought to yourself “nah, not this time”) and kept scrolling – stop doing that because it is an amazing opportunity you will not regret.

We started on a Thursday at 7am (don’t let that throw you, it’s not so bad) and we, nineteen students and one GLP staff member, piled onto a bus and headed off to what most people would describe as “the boring-est place in Australia”, the nation’s capital: Canberra.

We spent our first day slowly getting to know one another; we toured Parliament House, attended Question Time and got to see the back of Tony Abbott’s head. We visited the Sri Lankan High Commission, where we received a briefing and some tea and then made our way to our accommodation where we finally got to take our shoes off.

On Friday, we had a briefing from Gugan Gulwan, an Aboriginal Youth Corporation youth centre and Companion House, a community based organization that cares for survivors of torture and trauma seeking refuge in Australia. Both briefings were a reminder that despite all the bad press surrounding these groups, there were people who fought on their behalf.

After lunch on Friday (Mexican food, it was delicious), we were briefed at the Brazilian Embassy and visited the National Film and Sound Archive, where I spent much too long playing with an display called ‘Fractured Heart’ which was used during a Gotye/Kimbra performance a few years ago.

Saturday was a slightly more chilled day; we visited the National Museum and the National Zoo (Canberra does indeed haves a zoo!) where I fed a lion named Mishka (not going to lie, this was probably the highlight of the trip for me) and some other students got to feed a giraffe named Hummer.

At the beginning of the trip, we were placed into groups and were given a group and a project on which to work on during our few days in Canberra, each with a different topic based around some of the places we had visited. At first I dreaded this project, I was unsure of my group members and had no idea how I would be able to present anything without a laptop. However, but we came together on Saturday afternoon and got our project together. This was probably one of the best projects I’ve ever done throughout my entire University career.

At dinner that night, all the groups presented their projects and had a lot of fun being silly and having fun. My group won the prize (there is a prize, even more reason to attend this symposium) and we spent the night eating and celebrating with amazing, new friends.

On Sunday, we had a lovely breakfast of pancakes, took a group selfie then departed for the National Art Gallery. I’ve always wanted to have a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off moment where I stand staring at a piece of artwork and I managed to achieve this many times while visiting the Gallery. I also accidentally set of alarms and got told off by security a few times because I stood too close to a Monet but it was totally worth it.

We then headed for the War Memorial, where we were humbled by the sacrifices made by brave men and women for our freedom. We took a group photo to commemorate our amazing four days in Canberra and headed to the Old Bus Depot Markets (a must-do if you happen to be in Canberra!) where we ate and had a bit of time to explore the markets before we headed back home to our assignments and responsibilities in Sydney.

I had always thought of Canberra as an incredibly dull place to be and to live but those four days have changed my mind completely. If you ever get the opportunity to experience Canberra as I have – take it because you absolutely will not regret it.

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