Thursday, March 22, 2012

back to school

"Oxford - submerged now and obliterated, irrecoverable as Lyonnesse, so quickly have the waters come flooding in - Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman's day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days - such as that day - when to chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth. It was this cloistral hush which gave our laughter its resonance, and carried it still joyously over the intervening clamour."

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

The start of uni - going back, buying books, that fresh paper smell, that feeling of levity and a supreme sense of confidence in your abilities - is something quite marvelous. Somewhere in the third or fourth week it spirals downwards as assessments pile up and classes take a turn for the worst, but at the start, on the first day, in that first step back onto campus after a blissful summer holiday it seems like anything can - and will - happen this year. It's a feeling that is somewhat magnified when you're in your last year of study. In second and third year when I started it was with a sense of "getting shit done", I was here to slog out the year and get it over with and that was that. There wasn't a sense of the magical so much as there was the mundane. This was routine. But in my first year - and now, in my fourth and final - I arrived on campus with something I can only describe as elation. When I was freshly 18 it was the elation of tertiary study and the first steps into adulthood and of borrowing books from the storied Fisher library and making intelligent conversation in tutorials. Some of you who have been reading long enough will remember my first day of uni. (my, how so many things have changed! how so many things have changed...)

 But fourth year is a different kind of elation. It's not an aching happiness in the knowledge that you are finishing; that would be relief, and I haven't felt that, not quite yet. I want to finish but I won't be relieved when it occurs. I happen to quite like university, that is, I happen to quite like learning. It's an elation that holds a strong sense of satisfaction. I've stuck it out with something that people thought I wouldn't - or shouldn't - do. I've made it through the hard and the easy, the fantastic subject choices (Jane Austen and her contemporaries and American Indian Holocaust question-mark?) and the not-so-fantastic (I still regret that damn Medieval Germany subject from second year, that was a mistake). I was elated when I first walked onto campus three weeks ago because I finally felt comfortable and like I knew what I was doing, at least in some small respect in regards to my education. I may not have any idea about what's going to happen when I finish or even what's going to happen this weekend, but when it comes to education I know I made the right decision four years ago to go somewhere where I could learn something about media and journalism but also balance it out with my favourites: English and History. These things have kept me sane these past couple of years as I have battled with learning html for online media, or how to operate a marantz recorder, or struggled with the ethical implications of press releases. I had a real feeling of success. And, on that first day, I had the feeling that anything could happen. If you talk to me now - especially today - you might hear something different, but I felt pretty happy back then.

I think it has something to do with how bloody good Sydney Uni looks. I took these photos on one quite spectacular day last week when the sun was high and there wasn't a cloud in sight and Sydney was resplendent in sandstone and mossy green. The Quad at Sydney Uni couldn't be more perfect in its loveliness. Even four years in I can't shake the feeling that this is the way that universities ought to look. It has that "cloistral hush which gives our laughter resonance". Its age makes our youth - my youth - remarkable. A couple of other things that add to the university experience. A new bag for carrying all those books and pens and apples and magazines and water bottles around. Comfy walking shoes, buttoned up shirts and something to keep the time (although to be honest it doesn't really work - I've been late every day this week, for shame). A gang of friends to walk down Eastern Avenue with - perhaps not as cliquey as Emmanuelle et al, though. And a bike. University isn't university unless you can bike around in cable-knit sweater and your sleeves rolled up like Charles and Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited. I still remember the first time I watched the television series. I had just finished school and my parents had gone away for the weekend and left me with some pastabilities four cheese ravioli packets and the 12-episode series of Brideshead Revisited. I watched it all in one go and was enchanted. Enchanted by Jeremy Irons' dulcet tones, by champagne saucers resting on fountain edges, by getaways in Venice, by the "thin batsqueak of sexuality" that Charles felt when he lit Julia's cigarette for her, and by the possibility that at uni, if everything went right, it might be always summer.


ps. That last clip and the screenshot above are from the movie version with Hayley Atwell and Mathew Goode which is also excellent, but the TV series is even better.


Jess said...

USyd does look bloody good, haha. Sandstone and cloisters and ivy - it makes you feel like you're in a hallowed place of learning, so that's definitely a motivating factor when getting into the mindset of getting some study done. This is my tenth year at UQ (argh! - although to be fair, that's undergrad + Honours + a job for two years + almost a complete PhD now, but even so that's more than a third of my life I've been on the one campus!) and I still have to admire its grounds, with its sandstone and cloisters around the Great Court (UQ does love its sandstone - every new building that goes up still has sandstone in it somewhere, incorporated into completely modern architectural designs to give a feeling of modernity mixed with heritage, I suppose). I thought UQ felt like it was steeped in a decent amount of history until I went to work at Trinity College Dublin for a few weeks and... wow. Suddenly UQ seemed like a fresh-faced youngster compared to a university that was founded by Elizabeth I.

And may I say your 31 Hour bag looks lovely. :)

chloe-kiara. said...

you DID NOT GET A 31 HOUR!!!!!!!!

please bring this with you when we catch up.
and your pretty benah cuffs.
and your beautiful michael kors.



Anonymous said...

please don't ever stop writing.

Sonia said...

Oh I want to go back to school just to get that Phillip lim bag... Wonderful.
Sydney university looks really beautiful. Enjoy your last year at university.

Charlotte said...

Your uni looks so nice, just the way a uni should be. And I need to watch Brideshead Revisited x

WaiYana said...

Usyd is amazing!! I've just started first year uni and its been pretty good so far. I'm mesmerised by the beauty of the quadrangle, so happy I have a class there. Hehe

Uniforms said...

Beautiful attire.