A Second-year’s Guide to Getting Lost on Campus

With a campus as large at UQ St Lucia’s, it’s hardly a surprise when people get lost or can’t find a building. But as a student, by the time you’ve survived a full first year, you’re confident you’ve gotten pretty good at navigating the uni. But as always, you can rely on UQ to prove just how wrong you are.

It’s the Tuesday morning of about week three in my second year. I’ve put off attending class for as long as possible for this semester, but the sweet siren call of an easy 10% beckons. Tutorials are beginning this week, and as tempting as it is to test the limits of non-attendance, I decide I should at the very least make my HECS debt worthwhile.

I leave my college room with 20 minutes to spare—if I’m putting in the effort to attend, I’m going to make sure I’m on time. I walk with a deliberate sort of nonchalance (the kind that comes from a year of trying not to look like a first-year student) with my head held high and at a relaxed pace. As I stroll, I glance at the timetable on my phone, making sure to casually swipe in a number of directions in case someone thinks I’m using the UQnav app because I don’t know where I’m going (I actually don’t know where I’m going, but they don’t know that).

I pause mid-step as I look at the building name. “Hartley Teakle”, where on earth is that? I’ve never even heard of it. I pull up the UQnav app, making sure to be inconspicuous (I doubt that anyone actually cares that I’m using it except me, but I can’t be too careful). I follow the directions on the map, venturing further and further from the safety of the populated areas of UQ into the uncharted territory near the glasshouses.

I glance at the time—I still have 10 minutes to find the room. I stare up at the building. It’s old, probably one of the oldest on campus. There are vines crawling their way up the aging bricks, and it almost looks as though the building should have been brought down years ago. I’m fairly certain there’s asbestos somewhere in there, and I’m not entirely convinced the 10% participation mark is worth the potential poisoning.

There are two doors visible from where I’m standing, but only one that can be opened (this building is already doing my head in, and I’m beginning to regret ever leaving the comfort of my college bed). I use the only working door to enter the building and search for a flight of stairs. If nothing else I’ve figured out I need to be another floor up.

I climb my way to the second level, only slightly conscious of the lack of people in the building. After all, I am here for one of the more obscure International Relations courses. It’s not impossible that the tutorial would be a small class.

I wander along the hallway, glancing at the room numbers as I pass, the number of my room running on a loop in my head. I spot the right room and allow myself a small victorious smile. There’s no one else in the hallway, so I peer through the glass to see if they’ve already gone inside. I pause, the smile dropping into a scowl of confusion. There’s no one inside.

In fact, there’s barely even a room inside. Half of it is taken up by a desk, and I’m not sure even 10 people could fit in the remaining space. It’s okay though, it could be a small class, and I’m still early, and this is only week 3, maybe everyone else is running a little behind schedule.

I lean against the wall and scroll through Facebook on my phone as the minutes tick by slowly. With every second that goes by, I am convinced that something has happened. Maybe the tutor posted something on Blackboard about a change of room? But no, there’s nothing there.

Eventually, the starting time for the class passes, but I’m determined to wait just a little longer before calling it quits—I’ve come this far, and I’m going to lose 1% if I’m not marked as attending. Finally, it’s 10 past the start time and I concede defeat.

I make the long journey back to my college room. Each step takes more effort than the last, my entire body weighed down by the knowledge that I wasted a good half hour on what was clearly a futile exercise. By the time I reach the college, I’ve exhausted my extensive list of obscenities and convinced myself that I deserve a midday nap. I enter my room and chuck my bag at the foot of my bed, not bothering to remove my laptop.

It strikes me very suddenly that this is the perfect opportunity to collect a few easy likes on Facebook. I quickly write up a witty little status about my struggles—something about having a Harry Potter broom closet for a tute room. Satisfied with the quality of my work, I relax and wait for everyone to admire my sense of humour.

It’s not until the next week when I reattempt my journey to that class that I realise I can’t read a timetable to save my life. And I was in the completely wrong wing of Hartley Teakle.

Victoria Lawn is currently studying a Masters in Writing, Editing and Publishing at UQ, and is working with the Alumni Friends of UQ as an intern.

Hartley Teakle Building, UQ St Lucia