It seems I have a lot to learn and yet some things I’ve clearly not forgotten. I stuck out like a sore thumb and that wasn’t my paranoia, the gusty wind made sure I was the centre of attention as my knickers became the latest exhibition at Swinburne University‘s student gallery of calamity.
I’m not even sure why I went there, I was brain-dead from filtering through realms of research from work at government agency the last thing I wanted to do on a 29* balmy Wednesday evening was read some more, but when I saw the signpost to the campus was only 1km, I turned left and found a car park.
I’m the first to admit I’m an online geek but I have to say, I’ve struggled with reading the set reading in e-book format. I printed out the first week’s worth but soon regretted that as my home office space and work office space seem to be merging into a mass of dog-eared paper. I thought I’d go old skool and buy the text-book. Heaven forbid!
So I found myself among my fellow undergraduates milling through the campus only they seemed to know where they were going. I was lost. I found a campus map. The names of the buildings on the map bore no resemblance to the names of the building surrounding me, but I was pretty confident I’d found the students’ union.
It was strikingly different to my 90s British university experience of a huge temporary building with a ‘old pub’ themed…er…pub downstair and tacky nightclub theme upstairs. The floors were sticky, the walls stickier and the toilets, generally broken. There was a cloakroom, pool tables and some sort of sonic the hedgehog type racing game (I never have been very up on my games consoles). It served hangover curing greasy breakfast and heart attack inducing dinners of cheesy chips. It was bleedin’ marvelous. It was my home for 4 years. I experienced all range of emotions in that place, it was basic yet beautiful and served our every need. After all, what more does an 18 year old want in life except cheap beer and chips ‘n’ cheese.
I had the best times during those years. I made some of my best friendships many of which still last today, or at least as best they can last when you leave at the other side of the world. It was where I became me. It was where I learned what made me happy and how to get it.
In some ways, ever since I returned for the Olympics last year and had a reunion at a uni friend’s wedding, I’ve tried to re-capture that care-free happiness and gusto. The Olympics did so much for me in hindsight, in taking me out of my Melbourne life, reconnecting me with true friends and familiar surrounds and highlighting that work had taken me too far down a path I wanted to go. Things needed to change – and so they did in a way I couldn’t have predicted.
Maybe that’s part of why I’ve gone back to uni, to learn again both academically and personally. Only the offline version didn’t live up to the online experience – or indeed the British way.
1) Student Union membership costs $40. WTF? I’m sure this was free back in the day (although pls correct me if I’m wrong, it’s possible given the number of brain cells I killed on snakebites).
2) There are 2. That’s TWO urban-esque coffee establishments. What do student want with coffee. And by that I mean the nice, freshly ground barista type. I lived of instant and pro-plus tablets (NoDose over here). I know Melburnians like their coffee but it’s all a bit too hipster.
3) Student fashion is bound to have moved on slightly since 1996 as I’m sure flared jeans and Parker coats are illegal in most states. However, I was not ready for the smart, profession wear dotted around campus. They wear looking more professional than me, and I’d just come from work. Although, having worked NFP for 8 years, that’s not really saying much.
4) The overseas student was an emerging bread back in the 90s. There were a few but to be fair, Leicester wasn’t really on the target list for a prestigious overseas university experience. However, Swinburne could have been in Europe or China given the percentile of overseas students I saw. I know universities are commercial entities now just like all organisations, but when the first 2 people I stop and ask for directions don’t have enough of a grasp of the English language to respond without pointing, there’s something a little wrong. How on earth are they to understand the lectures if they can’t understand me….actually don’t answer that.
5) Some things haven’t changed though. The library suffers from over investment and under-use. The bookshop is still dire and only holds minimal stock. Can you belive one week in and there were no copies of the sociology text in the library or in the bookshop. I’ve had to order it in.
6) The walls are still grimy and sticky and I came away from the student’s union wanting a shower.
7) I didn’t see a bar or even one daytime drunk skivving off lesson to put their loans to best use. I’m starting to think the 2013 student life is an alternate universe. We all lived in shared terrace houses, with front rooms converted into another bedroom to max out on rental income. I scorned at my sister’s year for living in ‘Friends’ style NYC apartments with communal areas and now it seems student life has evolved again to a sober, coffee drinking, mobile phone addicted existence.
I think I preferred it the old way.
At least this time, I got to drive away from campus in a convertible. That NEVER happened back in 1996.