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My first month in Canberra, Australia

Today marks exactly 1 month since the day I moved from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Canberra, Australia. Just thought I should write you guys a few updates about my new life.

1. Nature – Peaceful Rural Life

kangaroos canberra

As someone who prides herself as a city girl, I surprised everyone by moving to a remote city in Australia: Canberra.
Most stores here close at 5pm. The streets are often desert in the evening and on weekends. There’s not much to do except watching kangaroos :)
(Ok Canberrans, please don’t kill me ! By world standard, it is a quiet and less well-known city! :)

Most non-Australians don’t know this but Canberra is indeed the capital of Australia :) It’s a city for public servants, diplomats, and families – not really appropriate for the active lifestyle of a 20 something.

But somehow, I end up here and I’m loving it.

Canberra is technically not “rural” but with the population of only 300K, it definitely is the countryside life compared to the 3 last cities (NYC, Saigon, Hanoi) I lived in which each averages to 8 millions people.

As someone who hated San Francisco because it was too boring and not urban enough, I surprise myself by moving to such a tranquil place.

But hey, we all need changes! :)


Even though it’s out-of-character for me, I’m madly in love with Canberra and how it’s perfect for this phase of my life.

The nature, fresh air, serenity really soothe me. Every morning, I walk for about 15 minutes to the bus stop. There’s no one else on the road but me and the trees :) At the bus stop, I also wait alone.

I can’t emphasize enough how much I miss walking. This simple act is non-existent in Vietnam.

For the past 2.5 years back in my home country, Vietnam, everyday is a struggle through the traffic. And now, I get to use public transportation again. The buses here are also not crowded like the ones in San Francisco or NYC. Every morning, I usually have a leisurely hour of reading during my commute.

A few years ago, I would find all this deadly boring. But now, this little quiet ritual is my daily therapy and favorite part of the day. (Or perhaps you can argue that my life is now boring haha!).

I guess after all the turbulences, what I’m looking for is peace.

The calming nature of Canberra is all I need to justify my move.

(Oh and I totally thought kangaroos were just a marketing ploy for Australia. I didn’t know I would see them so often!)

2. Student Life

canberra university

I moved to Canberra for grad school. I can’t even begin to express how much I love the Student Life.
As an undergraduate student in California, I used to skip classes for my internships and just wanted to begin life in the “real world” (!) I just wanted to become an adult so I didn’t appreciate the student life at all. I didn’t get why people call college “the best years” of their life. I rushed through everything in college.
Oh, Ella,… :) You had it so good that you didn’t know.

After 4 years in the “real world,” I’m tired of it :)

This is my second chance to experience the student life that I never really experienced.
And wow :) I love this dream world.
My only worries are about….exams and papers! Lol

So yes, I’m enjoying to the fullest this surreal experience.

Oh, another surprise is what I’m studying.

I studied Communication/Media in college and was dead set on a career in the creative field. For the past 4 years, I have worked in Film/TV/Marketing from NYC to Hanoi to Saigon. I have never achieved any peak success but I’ve had some ideal jobs. By the end of it, I often spoke at events and was in a literal dream job: creating content strategies for a travel company.

But I gave everything up to go study …. accounting.

Pretty WTF, right?

student life canberra

This is Statistics – not Accounting x) I know …

There are a multitude of reasons for my 180 degree change from Communication to Accounting but the 2 main ones are:

• To gain analytical skills
Any company needs analytical skills even if your job is to create creative campaigns. You need to measure their effectiveness. As most of my university courses and work have been creative, I’ve slowly lost all my numerical logic. I know that I don’t hate nor scared of math and want to study further.
Furthermore, I started to receive lots of freelance and consulting projects. And sadly, I don’t know any basics about finance or accounting. What if I want to set up my own shop one day? I need to be able to read balance sheets!
So here it is a perfect time to challenge myself and study something new and useful.

• Self-awareness
I realize I actually don’t have that much creative talent. To further develop my creativity, I want to experiment with my own projects just as hobbies – not with the pressure that it is my job too.
The best thing is as I use mainly my left brain during the day, my creativity is not depleted. I now have plenty of energy to experiment with a variety of interests (like this blog….that I update every once in a while haha :P).

I didn’t expect I would love Accounting this much. I love the structure, the exact steps, the Excel formulas,… Who knows, right? :) This is why we always have to try new things even if some of them sound counterintuitive.

3. “Sometimes you don’t get what what you want, you get what you need”

university of canberra

When I finished college with a degree in Communication, about to move to NYC , if someone told me then that in 4 years, I would be in peaceful city Canberra studying Accounting. I would say “No way.”

But now, through trial and error, this is now my ideal path. I’m far away from all the noises and at peace with my choices.

A wise former colleague told me:

“Sometimes you don’t get what what you want, you get what you need.”

In the past years, sometimes, I’ve gotten what I wanted. But often, I don’t get what I want. And each time, that is exactly what I need. And it usually leads me to something even bigger and truer for myself.

It’s not that my first dream falls through. It’s that I matured, I learned more about myself, I changed. And so, my dreams also adjusted.

I guess I do need to believe Steve Jobs when he said:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

A pretty big change from the girl who loved NYC and indie films, right? :)

I’m immensely grateful for this new phase of my life and that “Studying Accounting in Canberra” would be a chapter in my life.

I’m also happy that I continue to follow my narrative of a traveler / “third-culture-kid” and only live in a place for about 3 years at a time.

It’s been only a month but Australia has already been more than amazing. I’ve traveled a little bit and explored around Canberra as well so new blog posts coming soon!
I’m excited to see what the future holds :)

To more adventures,
To Up & Beyond


PS: Please visit me in Oz! :)



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