When I first stepped into the beautiful, Jenga-like mess, that is UTS Building 1, (AKA ‘The Jenga Tower’ or ‘That Ugly Building’) I could never have imagined that I’d be completing my final year online — during a pandemic — five years later.
While 2020 was a dumpster fire, shit-show of a year, it also taught us a few things. The one thing it taught me, more than anything else, is to never take anything for granted, even the small stuff. Catching up with friends before a lecture. Those same friends teasing you for being (perpetually) late to said lecture. After class, grabbing a bite to eat together somewhere on campus, or (when you were feeling brave) going for dodgy dumplings down in Haymarket.
In 2020 I felt the loss of campus atmosphere — not the buildings, bridges or lawns, that’s all background. I’m talking about the people. The familiar faces of strangers who habitually sat at the same corner table in Penny Lane. The acquaintance who was in your 10 a.m. International Studies tutorial and then behind the Underground bar at 6 p.m. We lost those sometimes awkward, but essential, human interactions. Like when you’d run into a familiar face but couldn’t quite put two-and-two together about how or where you’d met. 2020 robbed first-years of their formative university experiences, graduates of a proper send-off and final-years of working alongside friends they’d known for years.
In 2021, Murphy’s law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”, is still in full effect. It started quickly with the firing of pretty, yet wasteful fireworks, the notoriety of Twitter’s Bean Dad, and more seriously, the recent riot (or coup if you’d like to flatter Trump supporters by suggesting that they might have achieved anything) at the US Capitol. Oh and of course, ‘Rona is still with us, and it’s not going away anytime soon. 2020 taught us that we have to (when it’s safe to do so) hug our loved ones tighter and appreciate our moments together (meaning phones away at the dinner table!) We now know how quickly they can be taken away.
I used to desperately want to have figured ‘it’ out by the time I finished uni. I’m not happy about it, but I’m okay with saying that I still haven’t. That’s the truth. After five years of uni, I’m no closer to figuring out where I want to go in life, who I want to be, nor the life I want to lead — and that’s totally okay. Uni isn’t the end; it’s just a beginning. It’s only one busy corridor in a nexus of them, with many vibrantly coloured doors leading to different paths. Some of us waltz or jump through, some cling to the door frame afraid to step out into the big, wide, scary world. Adding International Studies to my degree and taking on an extra two years was only a delaying tactic. No one can outrun time. So here I am, putting this chapter of my life to a close.
For those who might be reading this at the start of their university experience, I say this; make most of every second. During my time at UTS, I seized every opportunity, including at one point editing this very mag- azine. You don’t have to figure everything out by the end. Some people will, but many won’t. Network as much as possible. Do your best to make friends. If you can make one or two great friendships, they just might be your confidants for life. Whatever you do, don’t take anything for granted. Hold onto each new experience as if it might be the last.
Graduating is scary, but every bird has to fly the nest at some point.
The sky's the limit.