I’m taking some time to lament on my time at Monash where I wore a few hats. The idea to reflect came around early October, when I mostly navigated the twilight zone shared between the stretch of lecture content I was only physically present for and the little-to-none progress achieved for the physical copies of Monga. The later the hours I have chosen to go home (out of sheer desperation, not diligence), the more uneasy I felt about having to leave a familiar environment in very little time. I never knew damp wrought iron benches and warmly-lit patches of artificial turf would bring a bizarre sense of Stockholm Syndrome.
Something I enjoyed as a student. For content I can barely recall upon receiving a plagiarism score, having the know-hows and tools to solve an I-Don’t-Know-How were things you and I both have boiled down to a formula. You reach out to the same three contacts you have on standby at 2am the night before submission; that one tutor you would rather ask help from; and people you would rather do your quizzes with. This sense of familiarity stems from certainty and the luxury of solving problems that lead to certain, tangible outcomes, whether you believe that ‘P’s Get Degrees’ or would not hesitate to cut any bitch that affects your WAM.
Familiar routines offer a perceived notion of control. Knowing which highways to take and sticking to the same two playlists, regardless of what my Spotify subscription suggests, provided comfort at the cost of mundanity. Even if everything else was in shambles, at least I knew which food stalls to avoid. As temporary fixtures that promised a degree of foreseeable stability, some of us clung on to lectures and tutorials as tangible measures of success.
However, waxing poetic about this institution does not imply the desire to prolong my time as a undergraduate. I am only grateful for the fleeting experiences with the same people at this very point in time.
Translation: Favorable time, place, and people (to go to war)
The saying (something my father uses quite often, and apparently is a quote from Mencius) signifies that the right experiences require the right people being at the right place and time. While Monash has set itself as a platform for experiences to manifest, the awkward coming-of-age period for plenty has provided great context towards the people we have met and decided to form relationships with. Allies were formed, romances wilted, and screenshots were sent. The 12-week-long semester just makes everything feel like a reality show supercut.
Irregularity, however was something that made Monash a harder place to say goodbye to. My MUSA experience felt more like a self-mentored internship than a service catered towards the student welfare, which definitely took the edge off compared to my colleagues who had much more immediate, noticeable repercussions from making decisions that could not satisfy the entire student body (which we quickly learned for every decision, you can’t). Rather than painting my fellow colleagues in council as martyrs who sacrificed everything from their grades and sanity, MUSA can be more realistically depicted as a group of well-meaning students who learned and tried to cater to the students, while lacking collective spirit. The irregularities in beliefs and conflict-of-interests presented themselves as opportunities for middle grounds, shoulders to lean on and realising that we could all really be dumb bitches at times.
Uni really started off as a glorified tuition centre for me where I could convince myself that wearing an unreasonably thick outerwear to class as a flex was not a dumb move. Growing past the scripts we have initially written ourselves, wanting to appear as cooler, smarter, more attractive versions of ourselves only allowed instances to flourish. So thanks, Monash. Here’s to the layers of safe spaces so many of us got to navigate.
Text and photographs by LingJie Tuang