In the summer of 2017, astronomers discovered a ‘supermassive’ black hole at the centre of an ultra bright quasar. It had taken 13 billion years for the light of the black hole to reach earth; “a rare relic from the early universe” that made me feel really small, like a tiny ant. On the same day they discovered this supermassive black hole — I discovered I was moving into Stucco, USyd’s Student Cooperative.
The name Stucco really rolls off the tongue, while the supermassive black hole’s name ‘Ulas J1342+0928’ felt very clunky, very unpoetic. When you are moving away from your childhood home, you search for little things to make the journey feel profound. You can listen to Billy Joel’s ‘Vienna’ all you want, but the idea of the most distant supermassive black hole ever discovered being named ‘Journey’ or even ‘Distance’ just felt more significant. I suppose in life we all search for meaning in something, as if a supermassive blackhole being named ‘Bon voyage’ will ever make the journey any less hard. The journey will always be hard. For me, moving to Stucco made it that little bit easier.
Stucco is affordable student housing, cooperatively run by 40 students. It offers many the chance to attend university while living somewhere safe and inclusive. Although, Stucco is not just the eight units that wrap around a canopied courtyard or the abundance of bikes that reside in a carless garage — it’s the people and the community that really make it what it is. While living with 40 people sometimes made me feel like a tiny ant all over again, in Stucco I was a part of something far larger than myself.
Now, what feels like an eternity later, I’m still at Stucco. My housemate Rhayne feeds me tortellini while we study together for our upcoming exams, and she tells me about the quest she went on today just to find a piece of paper. “Leah, we have charity in our hearts, that’s why we would leave paper next to the printer, not all people are like that,” she said.
My housemate Eilish and I spend hours thinking about what costumes to wear on Halloween. We beg everyone to dress as something altogether. “Maybe we do Scooby Doo…or we are all different versions of Drew Barrymore?” We can never manage to agree on anything.
My housemates Marley and Yonah both went as Spiderman last year, and we laughed in the Uber home as Yonah’s mask twisted the entire way around. I have grown fond of every inch of this building, but I have mostly grown fond of the family I have made along the way. Stucco is nothing without its residents, without the wacky, passionate and radical people that live within these walls.
Stucco embraced me in a community that I had never had before. While I feel so lucky, I often feel a deep sense of sadness. Safe housing is still not available to all students and currently the cooperative is the only affordable student accommodation at USyd. Everyone deserves to live somewhere that supports them. With the current rental crisis, we need to push for more radical housing spaces that meet the needs of students so that everyone has the opportunity to study without the fear of being without permanent residence.
Sometimes Stucco feels hidden behind its strong exterior, secretive to those that exist on the outside. Most people who know about the cooperative only heard about it through word-of-mouth. It sometimes feels like a little community, misjudged and misunderstood, hidden behind closed doors and filed away in dusty cabinets. But for the past 30 years, Stucco has existed as a radical space that has defied the rapid rental price increases in Newtown and the pressure of dickhead landlords.
In the end, we all discover quickly that leaving will never be easy, we just become better at it over time. The feeling of saying goodbye to the life you’ve known feels jarring, even more so when you realise you will have to do so over and over again, until one day you stop forever. One day, soon in the future, I will have to once again venture from my home and find somewhere new. Over these past years, Stucco has become my home and I will miss it deeply. Although, I know now Stucco will be there for someone else, who needs it just as much as I did.