Young women walked by in tiny denim shorts, some holding hands with their boyfriends, all of them smiling and chatting as they strolled in the sun towards their next lecture.
The scene that Afghan women's rights campaigner Nasima Rahmani surveyed at the University of Wollongong this week was a far cry from her own uni days.
The 38-year-old's path to getting her law degree was as rough and treacherous as her country's ongoing road to peace and independence.
Islamic fundamentalists burnt down the school in the village where she was born and high school was interrupted by explosions and shutdowns. It took her 12 years to complete a four-year degree due to ongoing conflict and the rise to power of the Taliban.
"How would these students react if there was suddenly an explosion not far from where they were standing? How would they feel if some of their colleagues were killed? How would they adjust to wearing a burqa?" Ms Rahmani asked.
Not that she begrudges Australian students their freedom. As the director of the Women's Empowerment Centre at Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education in Kabul, she wants the same thing for her countrywomen.
The centre receives funding from Wollongong's Indigo Foundation, and Ms Rahmani visited the city this week to present a talk at the university titled Women in Afghanistan: Education, Equality and Empowerment.
The shooting this month of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai by a Taliban gunman was a tragic reminder of the dangers Pakistani and Afghan women face trying to get an education.
The 14-year-old, who has become a symbol of resistance against the Taliban's efforts to deprive girls of an education, was flown to Britain for specialist care this week after Pakistani surgeons removed a bullet from near her spinal cord.
Violence and killing have always been a part of Ms Rahmani's existence. And while debate over sexism has raged in Australian political circles in recent weeks, for Afghan women, equality is still far from a reality.
Born in a small village in Parvan province, Nasima was four years old and about to start school when war erupted in Afghanistan in 1979.
"Russian troops invaded the country and those who wanted to resist them formed about nine or 10 groups - the mujahideen," she said.
"These people burned down schools - including the one in my birth village - and they killed many people who they thought were associated with the communist government."
Ms Rhamani fled to Kabul with her family and for a while, life was OK - or as good as it got for a country in conflict.
She said under the communist regime Kabul was "relatively safe". Girls were allowed to go to school and women were allowed to work.
"Of course conflict was never far away and we were rocked by explosions and there were killings," she said.
"In the last two or three years of high school the attacks were more frequent and schools would shut down for the sake of the safety of students - so there were a lot of interruptions to our studies."
Ms Rhamani completed the first year of her law degree at Kabul University in 1991, but in 1992 the mujahideen overthrew the communist government.
Over the next four years much of the beautiful city of Kabul was destroyed and people left Afghanistan in droves. They hoped for a better life in neighbouring countries.
Ms Rhamani said the Human Rights Commission estimated that 66,000 civilians were killed in Kabul during the mujahideen's four-year reign.
"Schools and universities were shut down - this was a time when the focus was on survival. In 1995 Kabul University was reopened but many women and girls were being kidnapped and raped or forced into marriages," she said.
"They were not safe outside the home and so while the university had reopened, not many parents - including my own - allowed their daughters to return."
The following year Ms Rhamani was able to go back to her studies, but only managed to complete one semester before the Taliban came to power.
Women lost their freedom. Again, they were not allowed to go to school or university. They could not work, nor even move around without a man to accompany them. And they were forced to wear a burqa, a full-length garment that includes a mesh or gauze screen over the eyes.
"Most days we did not leave the house and I spent my time teaching myself English and making clothes," Ms Rhamani said.
"Most of my free time was spent sitting somewhere and just crying and regretting the previous years when we had a little freedom and a reasonably good life."
With the Taliban in control of 95 per cent of Afghanistan, she said women had little hope.
But when hope returned - in the form of September 11, 2001 - it came at a terrible cost to the Western world.
Nearly 3000 people died in the four co-ordinated attacks on the US, prompting the American-led invasion of Afghanistan. The Taliban was ousted from power.
"September 11 happened and we didn't know such a terrible event would bring about a positive outcome for the women of Afghanistan," Ms Rhamani said.
"But a window of hope opened. Universities reopened and I was able to finally complete my degree in 2003 and start working."
It was then that she got her first chance to taste life outside Afghanistan as one of the first Peace Scholars from that country granted a scholarship to study and obtain a master of laws from the University of Technology, Sydney.
While she enjoyed Australia's freedom and lifestyle, her heart remained in Kabul. She went back and is now working as a law lecturer at the Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education (GIHE), where she also runs the Women's Empowerment Centre.
With financial and technical assistance from the Wollongong non-profit organisation Indigo Foundation, the centre provides a scholarship program to support about 10 disadvantaged women wishing to enter GIHE each year.
University of Wollongong staff member Sally Stevenson is the chairwoman and founder of Indigo.
It was established 12 years ago and supports projects for marginalised people in countries including India, Uganda, the Solomon Islands and Australia.
"The Women's Empowerment Centre is funded by the foundation as part of its education program in Afghanistan," Ms Stevenson said.
"We are providing $60,000 over three years to allow marginalised women to access education at the centre, and cover some of its operational costs.
"The opportunities there are so limited but the importance of giving women access to education to take control of their own lives in such a context is vital.
"Women's education is not a priority in many Afghan families, so if we can help them cover their costs, the advantage to these women is huge."
Ms Rhamani said education was the key to changing the lives of Afghan women, many of whom are still vulnerable to abuse and violence.
"Education is the only way for women in Afghanistan to get a decent life - it's a bridge to their empowerment," she said.
"If they are able to get an education, they can get a job, they can earn an income, they gain their independence and the confidence to stand up for their rights.
"The status of women who are educated is very different to those who are illiterate and who are dependent on the men in their lives.
"So while the circumstances have improved so much for women living in Afghanistan's major cities, in general the women living in remote areas remain illiterate and still suffer from a lack of very basic rights."
Even now the highly educated, respected professional and staunch campaigner for human rights still feels the need to don the burqa on occasion as protection against male harassment.
"I had to wear the burqa for five years so I got used to it," she said. "Even now I will wear it so I feel safer walking down the street.
"Without it women are still very vulnerable to abuse and harassment by men who think women should remain in the home at all times.
"Otherwise you can't even go and collect some bread or potatoes from the shops without them calling you a 'bad' or 'immoral' woman.
"So while we have come a long way - every aspect of a woman's life in my country remains different to that of a Western woman."