Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

A quick Google led me here:

The Roman poet Sextus Propertius gave us the earliest form of this saying in Elegies:

"Always toward absent lovers love's tide stronger flows."

The contemporary version appears in The Pocket Magazine of Classic and Polite Literature, 1832, in a piece by a Miss Stickland:

"Tis absense, however, that makes the heart grow fonder."

I like Sextus' words, perhaps more because of his wonderful name than the words themselves. I write of absence for reasons I hope are fairly obvious. But I am inspired to do so more because of the reasons for my absence, which I was asked to write on for my university law society's careers guide. It wasn't that I did anything of any great import, but I had a rather fun year (2012).

I attach it because, while much of it will have no meaning and lack a great deal of context, it is something I enjoyed writing; I enjoyed reminiscing. I purged the recount for hints of real emotion and anything strictly personal. These words are set against a backdrop of (temporarily) moving in with a partner, the many highs and the rare lows of love in a humid climate. Of reconnecting with dear friends. The realities of working with some wonderful people in an exciting and fashionable environment. The very "ness" of life, which has hopefully been severed as subtext.

However it is incredibly flowery. Perhaps that is the thickest plate of the armour? It may cause an editing headache...

One of Notre Dame’s greatest assets and biggest attractions for me was the opportunity to do part of my studies at the Sydney campus. With minimal bureaucratic hurdles to overcome, it was as simple as placing an ‘S’ on my reenrolment form instead of an ‘F’. (Plus a short cross-campus enrolment form.) The stroke of a pen sent the forms criss-crossing the country, in a way that foreshadowed my own travels over the course of the following year. In February 2012 I began a life in temporary exile from the West.

The seamlessness of transition between the campuses went beyond mere penmanship. As if the interiors of our Fremantle buildings had been dissected and then transplanted east, the first day of classes in Sydney felt both familiar and foreign. The identical carpet, desks and chairs were punctuated by Australia's oldest consecrated church at one end of the courtyard. With the noise and bustle of Australia's financial capital a distant background hum, the university is a defiantly tranquil sanctuary.

Within this space I was instantly welcomed, like a weary and, if not exotic at least parochial, traveller. “WA is so far away! What's it like?” was a common conversation starter. All and sundry asked for comparisons: the legal job market, the nature/quality of the education, the cost of living, and the quality of the coffee. While there was rarely consensus, there was always interest. And friendliness.

The legal nuances between our states did involve some circumnavigation of the course structure. For example, where I would have taken Property Law I took the later year subject of Constitutional Law. Being a Western Australian, this unit provided some excellent opportunity for debate. I like to think I was able to represent our oft-overlooked Western perspective on a number of federal issues. I also took Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which is ordinarily a final year unit. The quality and experience of the lecturers made Sydney indistinguishable from Fremantle, however the exciting and global nature of Sydney provided a wealth of guest speakers and elective units to which we in Fremantle can only hope to aspire.

In ADR, our lecturer sourced national and international leaders in their fields, including the pioneer and champion of ADR in Australia, Sir Lawrence Street. This affable octogenarian with his excellent anecdotes alone made the course worthwhile. I also challenged myself to take a unit in lieu of Legal Philosophy run by the eminent Oxford legal philosopher Prof. John Finnis. Although I am highly unlikely ever to attend academically, I can proudly say an essay of mine was marked within that city of Spires. And I didn’t fail.

Because of this minor disruption (reshuffling units is a happy hobby of mine), permission from the Dean was paramount.  Before submitting the aforementioned forms, a brief discussion along the lines of which units could and/or should be studied, alongside any recommendations as to the restructuring of my degree is held. This is hugely beneficial, because it allows one to plan not only for the time in Sydney, but also for all future endeavours and aspirations within the degree.

As wonderful as the time spent studying at the Sydney campus was, my year’s highlights often took place great distances from its hallowed lecture theatres. The greatest highlight occurred in the middle of the year, when we made the trip down to Melbourne for the 2012 ALSA Conference. This was a wonderful opportunity to cement friendships with our new Sydney friends, but also to meet law students from across the country. While attendance is not unique to the Sydney campus (there were more Fremantlers in attendance, such fun), the ease of travel from NSW to the rest of the east coast facilitated many trips to Melbourne. I also skied in the charming Charlotte Pass and did day trips to the Hunter Valley, the Southern Highlands and Canberra.

Sydney itself is such an enormous proposition to the visitor. Where to eat, shop, swim, walk, study, eat, drink, dance, eat, do karaoke, be cultured/a hipster was a daily minefield of merriment. While the weather is not as consistently sunny and warm, nor the beaches endless horizons of white sand, Sydney is a truly breathtaking city that reflects and showcases some of the best aspects of Australia to the world. While it is lovely to be back in Fremantle, it was difficult to overcome my Sydney homesickness. Perhaps I haven’t fully. If you are interested in an exchange without the hassle (and expense) of actually having to go abroad, I highly recommend Sydney. Affixing that ‘S’ will be a long-remembered highlight of my university career.

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