“When I start university, I’m definitely gonna keep on top of everything! I’m gonna get good grades, meet new friends and just really enjoy the experience. It’s a brave new world and I can’t wait to see what life has in store for me!” – A (possibly overexaggerated) common saying by first years, including me, four years ago.
2016 feels like an eternity ago. I certainly had somewhat lofty expectations about what university would be like, especially in a brave new world. I definitely went through my fair share of resilience and coping before being able to navigate most of the ANU environment.
Back in my first year, I felt very lost, and leaned on different people whom I would look up to as mentors. In the last two years of my undergraduate degree, I often encountered people who were in the same position as the one I used to be in, and was more than happy to help them. Maybe one day you’ll do the same, because ‘people help the people’ .
At the same time, I’m wondering if I made the most of my time at uni. One of my core philosophies was to give everything a go, and I think I managed to do a major part of that. The small things like joining a Bollywood dance team back in first year was a small step. The larger ones, such as going on exchange, giving ANUSA a go, and doing an internship for course credit have let me realise that there’s probably no further freedom to undertake opportunities like this in the near future.
At the same time, I’ve been around ANU long enough to see key parts of history unfold:
- I’ve witnessed three different generations of student hubs (Union Court, Pop-Up, and now Kambri), as well as visited three vastly different iterations of Bruce Hall.
- I’ve seen the transition of Woroni’s printed material from biweekly newspaper into a quarterly student magazine, as well as the emergence of a second student media organisation.
- The cancellation of the number 3 bus route on campus, and the various advocacy efforts that accompanied it.
- A number of fun clubs like the Lettuce Society have popped up, but sadly were discontinued.
That said, I’ve certainly wished to have done more, such as being involved in a Senior Resident (SR) capacity, moving accommodation to Daley Road, or being more involved with the College of Asia-Pacific (CAP) side of my degree.
Has there been positive character development? Absolutely. I came here for an accounting degree, but the real treasure was the friends we made along the way.
It’s not a golden ending, but it’s certainly a good one. I think I’ve made the most out of what I could have, and I’m not exiting undergraduate life the same person who came to ANU. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I think that these four years have been a quintessential life experience for me.
Baby steps, dear heart
From dancing sober in the Buttery on my first day, to pole dancing, I wouldn’t change a thing for the world. From living in rural Indonesia to travelling for official university business, I’ve had the time of my life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been the hardest time of my life thus far, but it has surely been incredibly rewarding. It will be stressful, and you might cry, but always know you will get by.
I still remember 2016 me getting dropped off at Bruce Hall after 12 hours of international travel. I was scared, so incredibly scared. I wasn’t used to my room that I would eventually call home, eating at 5.30pm, or the time difference. I was so lucky that the friends I made on those first days are the ones who still hold my hand four years later. You will find your people, some earlier than others, but you will find them, don’t you worry. Sometimes, people grow out of each other, and that’s okay.
I’d like to think I’ve made the most of my university experience. It’s taught me a lot about myself, really. I think university has been a good platform for self-discovery – can’t say that it’s always been pleasant, but it’s part and parcel of the experience. Things change, people grow.
Honestly, I’m not the person I thought I would be. I’ve grown far more than I thought I would, and I hope that 17-year-old me would’ve been proud.
If there is anything I could tell baby me coming into university, it is:
Don’t commit to something that you don’t like or doesn’t make you happy. My dear, you are worth so much more than that. Just because something is good doesn’t mean that it has to be good for you. Four years is a long time to do things that you don’t enjoy.
Do things that scare you, that put you so far out of your comfort zone, but at your own pace. You are so much more capable than you think you are. Try aerial yoga or historical dancing, who knows, you might enjoy it.
Seek help when you need it, there is no shame in it whatsoever. Don’t be so stubborn – if you need help, ask. If it’s medical, there is no shame in medication. If it’s academic, there’s no shame in wanting to improve. If you need an Education Access Plan, use it. It is to help you, not hinder you.
Fall in love with yourself. Take care of yourself. There’s no shame in slowing down or taking a break. Don’t shrink to make others comfortable – find people who encourage you to keep growing. You are allowed to be yourself, and that’s a journey of self-acceptance I am still on. You are allowed to walk away from toxic relationships and people who hurt you. You do not owe anyone an explanation for taking care of yourself. You always come first.
Last, but never least, you are loved and capable.
Baby steps, dear heart. You’ll be okay.