Garden Tartan

23 May 2016

I am an online student studying at university. I’ve almost finished my degree, and while that feels like a great achievement, I can’t help but feel I’ve missed out on a few things. Students that study on campus get a really different experience and I’m beginning to become really aware of those things.

For a start, you probably associate your study and that particular time in your life with a location. It helps you later on when you’re looking back at university nostalgically. I don’t have that. I can remember all the different homes I’ve sat in and studies. I can recall the jobs I’ve juggled. It doesn’t have it’s own space in my memory because it’s tied to a juggling of jobs and homes, not to a campus.

I still don’t feel like my university knows I exist. I’m never visible to anyone else. While I’m proud of the university that I go to, there isn’t really a way for them to be proud of me. Even if I am doing clever things, I’m not visible enough for them to see in order to share it in the university community.

If I visit any of the campuses, I feel like I don’t belong. I’m unfamiliar with how things work. It’s that feeling you might get in o-week, but I get it anytime I go on campus. Everyone else seems to know where they are meant to be and how things work, I’m wandering wistfully around trying to figure it out. This one might be alleviated if I got to visit the campuses more. I don’t live in the same city, though.

I’ve been pondering all of this since I had a meeting on campus with a faculty advisor, which was really lovely. I got to stroll around and find special things on campus that I’d only seen photos of on the internet. I got to eat in a campus café, stroll through the library, walk up the staircase made of books, and see the campus ducks. It felt amazing. It made me feel like I wished I could have studied on campus and actually been able to focus on what I was studying instead of study being the sub-plot in my narrative. I wish I could look back at the years of study and have a sense of place, of belonging and of nostalgia. I feel like that would add to my sense of self and my understanding of who I am.

Dress: vintage
Hat: David Jones
Shoes: Forever New (Check out their full range of shoes at
Photos: Goldfields Girl
Location: Ballarat Botanic Gardens

So if I could give advice to my past self, it would be to make time at least once per study period to go on campus for a day. To spend time in the library, speak to lecturers about assignments. I’d scribble thank you notes on post-its and put them on Library books I returned. I’d thank lecturers for teaching me after the end of a study period, so they might remember me. I’d try and take part in clubs or societies in order to get more involved. I’m really happy, don’t get me wrong. I have no regrets! But if you’re involved with online learning, as a student or a teacher or as a professional staff member, maybe these thoughts will help you think about the university experience for online students.

Anyway, back to my storytelling. I had a wonderful day at the campus. I went into the city afterwards and sat on a street corner listening to a jazz trumpeter whilst playing chess with some teenagers. The game was really fast paced which was great. As they made moves they told me what they were doing to help me learn. I munched on a Krispy Kreme doughnut while they played. It was sunny and you could smell the sea air.

- L

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