They all said it to me. Aunts, uncles, my neighbor next door. “University, gosh! You’ll be a small fish in a big pond now, love!” I know, I said.
(I didn’t know).
Maybe nothing can prepare you for Change. Change knocks on your door, smiling crookedly, an unfamiliar face. Change grabs you by the sleeve of your shirt and jerks you out of your safe place, into the world.
High school was one of my safe places. I knew the way every door creaked; I knew my friends would be waiting for me at lunchtime under the big gum tree, peanut butter sandwiches in hand. Our Land of School was asking to go to the toilet please miss, of sweaty checkered school dresses sticking to our thighs at the end of the day, of the sugary sweet perfumes that lingered in the gym change rooms after PE.
Beginning university was like arriving at a new continent. I departed from a crowded Melbourne tram and stepped onto the campus, map open in my hand. Other students stepped around me, pacing along the main campus road and snaking around the maze of tertiary buildings and structures. I remember pulling out my own timetable. It appeared to be written in another language – of codes I did not understand, locations I’d never heard of.
I spent my first week pulling doors that said push, and stuttering throughout the Get To Know You! activities. Honey, said Mum when I got home on the fourth day, I think you’ve been wearing your t-shirt inside out! My lecturers were kind and welcoming, but I was shocked at the speed in which they delivered course content.
Vividly, I remember my first two-hour break between classes. I was wandering around the grass of South Lawn, listening to the laughter of lunching friends. I’d closed my eyes and wished for my school buddies. I wanted to meet them under the gum tree, down in the courtyard. I even wanted one those peanut butter sandwiches. A small fish in a big pond, they’d said.
But when the lines of trees along the campus turned orange and yellow, littering the paths with colour and crunching satisfyingly at my feet, Change was no longer an unfamiliar face. And nor was Melbourne University. In only a few weeks, I knew both so well. We were friends. In fact, Change wasn’t even dragging me out into unfamiliar territories. I was taking myself to them on my own.
My time at university has been the best of my young life. All summer long I’ve missed the atmosphere of the campus, wanted to return. Over 2014 Orientation Week, I was thrilled to take on a bunch of first year students in the host program, and show them around the place I love. I genuinely adore sitting at a campus cafe, studying and sipping on a latte, or meeting up with some of the beautiful friends I’ve made at uni. Furthermore, every subject I’ve taken in Arts has been incredibly engaging and thought-provoking. I’m only one third of the way through my degree and my horizons have already been broadened. I feel passionate and motivated about the world and the future.
University so far has been a challenge and a blessing. I’m a small fish in a big pond, swimming in an ocean of opportunities and wisdom, and I love it.
I recently had the pleasure of writing for my university’s ‘future students’ page for a blog called ‘My Melbourne’ (at http://blogs.unimelb.edu.au/mymelb/2014/03/25/my-first-weeks-at-melbourne/), a helpful resource for any future or beginning university students.
It surprised me how lovely it was to be reflective of the last year or so. Maybe it’s like that proverb one of my maths teachers had blue-tacked up on the back of his door at high school. I used to walk past it everyday, on the way to my lockers, and have a little ponder. ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it can only be lived forwards’.