This was a very tricky one. After my first night at the backpackers, I didn’t feel as jet-lagged as most people would feel after such a long journey. Since I arrived at midnight, I had a couple of hours of sleep and then set out to explore; mainly to find my school, University of New South Wales, in the morning. At this point, I hadn’t quite figured out the transportation system and I am quite geographically challenged so I had a very long day of wandering about.
Before I left Nigeria, I had attended the briefing for new UNSW students held at Sheraton Hotel, Lagos. We were given a map of Sydney highlighting suburbs near UNSW. My memory is a bit photographic in that I can remember most of what I see. With the memory of the suburbs from the map and little road signals pointing out the directions to UNSW due to the major road constructions around, I set out to find my uni.
Woollomooloo is very close to the city and I decided to see how far I could go by walking. After a few minutes, I was in the city area and I continued following the road signs to UNSW. Unfortunately, a couple of hours later, I was hopelessly lost. I looked around store fronts to get an idea of where I was which was how I found out I was in Paddington. I knew Paddington wasn’t very far from UNSW in fact, UNSW had a campus in the area. However, I was looking for the Kensington campus. I walked around Paddington a bit more and happened to pass by a bank. I still had a few US dollars with me that I needed to change and I knew I needed to open a bank account as well. So I walked into the bank. As a new migrant, the bank’s name put me at ease and I figured Commonwealth Bank was primarily for migrants. The customer service lady in the bank was nice and after opening an account I asked her how to get to UNSW. She showed me on google maps what bus to take and I thanked her. Although,I was even more confused because I didn’t know what side of the road to take the bus from. I decided to keep walking till I got to where I now know to be Centennial Parklands in Sydney.
The Centennial Parkland is not a secluded park. It is very close to main roads and has a lot of spaces for recreational activities. I remember walking by a golf course a couple of times, this was probably a part of the Moore Park but both Parks are in close proximity to the other. From the map I had seen, I knew UNSW was close by I just couldn’t find it. I was now on Anzac Parade and was quite frustrated. As a proper Nigerian, I began to think I had been scammed. I walked further down and met a man on the sidewalk. He looked like he had been running for a while and decided to take a break to stretch his muscles. I stopped walking and approached him to asked if he knew which way to UNSW. He told me he really didn’t know what or where UNSW was. This fuelled my panic. I had told him I was new in Australia after which he asked me what I came to study. I replied, “Journalism and Communications”. With no hesitation and no words minced, he basically told me I was wasting my time. He said, “the greatest writers did not need to learn how to write.” In fact he said writing is an art you cannot learn. He was probably right and though I was livid, I tried to tell him I wasn’t here to learn how to write, I was here to learn the art of being a journalist especially now that the world has gone digital or so I thought at the time. I thanked him for his time and walked as fast as I could away from him because I had no business arguing with a stranger who was questioning my life’s choices especially when it seemed like I was lost.
I walked further away from him and arrived at a T-junction. One had a small sign indicating UNSW was at the end but I had been down this road and knew it was a dead end while the other led to Bondi. I decided to stop for a minute and look around for more clues. In exasperation, I lifted my head up towards the sky and a very tall building caught my eye. It had the words UNSW inscribed in bold white prints. I felt a sense of relief and anger at the same time. Relief because I didn’t have to explain to my parents how they had been duped of almost $15,000 AUD and anger because I was just a couple of metres away from where the man had told me he had no idea where UNSW was. I navigated my way back with the building in sight and when I got to Wansey rd, I met some guys doing construction work in the area. I asked one of them where UNSW was and he said “just go straight down the road”.
As I approached UNSW, I was giddy with excitement but my legs were screaming out in pain. My first impression was it was a gigantic school. There were lots of students scattered around some wearing bold coloured t-shirts welcoming new students and directing them on what steps needed to be taken. I walked down the stairs towards the Welcome Centre. There are a couple of built in chairs shaded by trees around so I sat on one of them to catch my breath for some time. After a few minutes, I met a Nigerian guy who was also new student and we got talking. The rest they say is history.
My major accomplishment on this day was that I had found my school. I hung around campus for as while, started my enrolment process so I could get my ID. It was now evening and I finally decided it was time to return to my backpackers. It was as much of a disaster as when I was coming in the morning and after a walking through a couple of bars and drunken fellows, I was certifiably lost again and it was getting really dark so I called a taxi and made it back to my abode in one piece.