All Stations Lead To You
Leaving the campus borders is reminiscent of the intricate architecture of a beehive; a labyrinth of personal pathways, carefully curated by you.
For more than a century and a half, over 430,000 minds have departed The University of Sydney’s various campus borders.
Many exit through the leafy cascade of Victoria Park or along the weathered tiles of Eastern Avenue. Or perhaps the towering silhouette of City Road Bridge, traversing the greyscale walls of the engineering buildings or along the terraced forest of Abercrombie Road. Leaving the campus borders is reminiscent of the intricate architecture of a beehive; a labyrinth of personal pathways, carefully curated by you.
And yet despite our different origins, unique maps, and directional idiosyncrasies, we all reach the same destination.
Every student adopts their personally devised route. More often than not, this embrace is eternal. Regardless of location, time or circumstance, their own specific route will always be a source of comfort in the tempest of campus existence. We use these routes to enter train stations, find bus stops or carve out our walk home. On these routes, we rarely see the same combination of people even if we choose the same time every week. The only constant is our endpoint.
In the moments leading to the end of a day on campus, I find myself securing the route I’ll take to the station. I attach myself to this comfort even if alternative routes save time. I had always wondered if others cling to their routine just as much as I do.
After a midday Tuesday class not too long ago, I recall asking about a new acquaintance’s route to Redfern station. After a brief exchange of niceties, I asked if I could join. Curiously, our walk started down Eastern Avenue, over the bridge and saw a diversion through the Chemical Engineering building. Somehow we found ourselves on the perimeter of Cadigan Green, leading to the back of the Seymour Centre and then to surrounding Redfern terrace streets. We eventually popped out just opposite Beirut Falafel on Abercrombie Road. For context, we started in the Education Building on Manning road…
I was amazed at how they had chosen a route that seemed so out-of-the-way and unnecessarily complicated to me. I couldn’t understand why they made their map to be so. After several exclamatory remarks, and boasting that “my way was better”, I asked what led them to this map. Their simple response was, “It’s quieter this way. And less people. I’ve always liked quiet.”
Then after more probing they finally added, “I also hate Google Maps.”
Despite it all, their map still takes them to Redfern station. For them, a sense of calm and clarity trumps efficiency or convention. I was impressed, intrigued, and a little humbled.
It feels that we aren’t just creatures of habit, but that these habits are the crux of stability, and independence. Some carve their routes just because it breaks away from convention. Others seek the most direct path with no short cuts or diversions. Some look for the most scenic route, one that can soften the ridges of a stifling academic day. Regardless, these paths are one of the only assured and controllable experiences of the day.
I don’t know where I sit. I lack spatial awareness so my route can not be a product of pragmatism. Instead, I exist in a sort of purgatory. I avoid the City Road Bridge like the plague so I choose to walk down and along Abercrombie Road even though it is a longer journey. I like the sameness of the journey; no stairs, awkward turns or accidental collisions. With headphones on, I walk along the asymmetric terrace homes and under the transitioning leaves as they bloom and fall. I still see other students but this way feels like synaesthetic perfection.
I acknowledge that my path is an unexplainable preference that I’ve used for three years now, regardless of which campus or building I descend from. All of our paths, whether they overlap or not, are what unify us. The maps we use range from efficient and well-known to absurd and inventive. Despite this, our individual routes are a thoughtless certainty which never gives up on or betrays us.
Only we can decide which gate we depart from or which person we accompany and yet I will still always choose you.