Nineteen years ago, when Hmalan Hunter-Xénié first came to Canberra to study at the Australian National University, she felt like she'd landed on another planet. For one thing it was cold. No one was barefoot like back home in the streets of Darwin. Here they wore black and blue suits - and things called uggboots.
"I couldn't really cope," she said. "Being away from my family and from country was really hard. I'd grown up out bush."
She stuck it out for a year then packed up back to her remote Aboriginal community in West Arnhem Land.
This week, after returning from a decade-long "gap year" in 2016, Ms Hunter-Xénié finally graduated from that Bachelor of Science. Her parents travelled thousands of kilometres from the top end and New Caledonia to watch her walk across that stage.
"Our mob always cheers the loudest when our kids graduate," said Anne Martin, the director of the ANU's Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre.
"I'm a Yuin woman from La Perouse but I used to work in Darwin and I've known Hmalan since she was a baby.
"It can be a challenge for them being away from home and culture. But sometimes it's when you choose to come back that you know you're ready. Hmalan was like that. When she came back she was so focused."
Ms Hunter-Xénié had already spent years working in environmental research under the mentorship of a scientist up north when she returned to the ANU. But she said the Indigenous centre, her "home away from home", made all the difference to adjusting back to city life and accessing scholarships.
"I've made so many friends, I've started snowboarding but I always have the heating up too high at the centre," she said.
"My mum was really worried when I moved, she kept asking 'have you introduced yourself to the local mob?'. It's important to be respectful as a visitor, knowing this is not my country. There was actually as Ngunnawal student at the centre."
What began as a tiny room set up behind the Chifley Library in the late 80s by Ngambri-Ngunnawal elder Matilda House has now become a thriving hub for students to study, eat or relax. About five Indigenous officers are on hand to offer support but Ms Martin said a lot of the mentoring came from the the students themselves.
It's one of a number of programs now under way on campuses across the country, including at the University of Canberra, to close the education gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander students.
While Indigenous enrolments beyond high school have more than doubled in the past decade, they are still low even among top achievers and students far less likely to complete their degrees.
At the University of Canberra, new student Adina Brown is following in the footsteps of her grandfather - the university's first ever Indigenous graduate - with the help of a scholarship.
"I've been talking to my cousins, and they've been asking a lot of questions about coming to uni," Ms Brown said.
"I think that's empowered my cousin to move to Sydney and look at studying education and pushing boundaries herself."
Ms Martin said not all Indigenous students could return home after graduating, as jobs in professions like the law kept them in cities, but connections remained strong.
"The ANU is really leading the way on this, giving that support," she said.
Next year, Ms Hunter-Xénié will take her research back to the top end for an honours year.
"My Nana was [part] of the Stolen Generation so I want to work on country supporting Indigenous livelihoods and helping them lead their own research," she said.
"Last time I was home, one of the uncles said to me: 'You're really coming back? You haven't forgotten us?'"