Bike racks and sheds

13 July 2022

ANU has changed so much since I began my Bachelor of Arts degree in the late summer of 2018. I remember starting my life at uni, eating hot chips at the short-lived ANU pop-up village with friends I had made at college. At the time, campus was foreign and mysterious, the centre of Canberra was very urban compared to my home in the outer suburbs of Newcastle, and there were tall buildings, bike lanes, and bike racks. I don’t really know how to articulate how much bike racks impacted my perception of Canberra, but they were almost everywhere - around work, campus, college, and even around bars and clubs.

I was a cyclist growing up, but my bike had never represented freedom until I was surrounded by places where I could keep it. At home, my bike was to travel around nature, up the Fernleigh track through the forests and tunnels of the Newcastle region. It didn’t really lead anywhere, it was more an opportunity to exercise and cycle through nature. After I moved to Canberra, my bike became my vehicle to discover the city, and more importantly, my place within it. These are the bike racks that were most influential to myself as a person, and my time in Canberra at ANU.

The Fenner Hall Bike Shed

The first bike rack that I encountered in Canberra was the bike sheds outside Old Fenner Hall, what is now the Canberra Accommodation Centre. After battling the thousands of spiders which used to guard the bikes within, I encountered the most advanced form of bike storage I had ever seen. Newcastle had nothing like it – nor had I ever experienced the kind of living style that college had to offer. When I started my time at college, my cousin sat me down and gave me some solid advice.

"Don’t spend too much time studying, your grades matter most after you start second year. Take time to find out what you like, and make some friends, most importantly, have fun!"
                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Mira’s cousin, probably. (Circa Summer 2018)

This turned out to be the best advice that I received before I started (I was given so much!). I said yes to everything in college, I starred in a musical, tried to learn linguistics, joined the college Queer community groups, and boogied on the light-up dance floor of 88mph. I also made friends with so many people, a lot of whom I am still friends with to this day. College gave me the opportunity to build extremely close relationships with people. I was at the beginning of my journey as an outspoken Queer woman and the college atmosphere really fostered connections with other Queer people as well. The Found Family trope that every elder Queer talks about became immediately apparent. I could lean on my newfound friends as we all had our own little identity crises every second week. While this sounds dramatic (and we thought it was), the post-midnight sobbing sessions with my friends in college are now some of my most treasured memories. It was these deeply emotional conversations where I discovered my love of finding, fostering, and creating communities. It was my time in college that made me feel connected to the people around me and allowed me to move beyond the shyness that came with my isolated upbringing in the suburbs of Newcastle.

Bike Racks on Campus

My cycle ride into the city is really pretty, there is a cycle path alongside Sullivans Creek that takes you directly to the centre of ANU. It’s also conveniently downward sloping to campus, enabling me to oversleep and speed into campus to get to my lectures just on time. The first bike rack I really utilised was the one between the ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies and the Baldessin Precinct Building, the heart of linguistics and language learning on campus. This was the space where I fell in love with the languages and culture of the Middle East, and where I started to learn about myself, and my understanding and connection to the community.

I studied Arabic language, where my lecturers put me in touch with people in the Arab world. I learnt about Middle Eastern cultures and how people navigated spaces that were previously unimaginable to me. My studies allowed me to connect with people globally, and in studying something that is so often considered the ‘other’, I began to understand myself. I adopted a very reflexive way of viewing the world. Basically, I no longer sought to simply understand others, but I understand my relation to them, and what it means to be informed by their experiences and my own. My bike spent a lot of time here because this is also where I developed my own little addiction to ’hallway chats’. These chats took up so much of my time studying, but invariably were the most informative and useful discussions I think I ever had on campus. Whether it was with staff or students, it was through these hallway chats that I discovered what I am truly passionate about, and what really drives my research. And, as a little bonus, I made friends with lecturers, students, and PhD students too. These people have since become my mentors, muses, and colleagues, and it all started with talking about some class content after class.

The rack which held my bike long into the frigid Canberran evenings, was just outside of the ANU School of Music. Now I didn’t initially come to Canberra looking to study music, but I was invariably drawn to the subject after I realised I had a few electives to spare. I started out doing introductory composition 1 and 2, where it became clear to me that creativity is an integral part of writing, and of myself. In composition, I learnt how to hone personal expression in a way that develops your own unique voice. My essays became more personal creations after this. I spent long hours banging on pots and pans or fiddling with some rather expensive synthesisers. After learning how to find the source of my own creativity—the feelings of connection with others—I was finally able to find my passion. It was from my friends and the wonderful lecturers at the School of Music that I found my own individual voice with which to speak. From the lecturers in the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, I found out what I needed to say.

Each community I was brought into, formed a space where I could really thrive, developing my ability to communicate, and shaping who I am today. I think this is the fundamental benefit of university; It’s a place for you to find out who you really are. I am so glad, that I came to a city so welcoming, passionate, and everchanging. Without my experience in Canberra, I can confidently say, I would not be the person I am proud to be today.

Bike Racks I frequent today

I’m writing this last part, sitting in one of my favourite cafés in Canberra, thinking about the next stage in my life. I have just completed my Honours thesis, and the terrifying prospect of living in the ’real world’, is really setting in. Frankly, I just want to thank Ngunnawal Country, the city built on top of it, and the people who work tirelessly to make this University, and this city so great. I’m going to miss living here, and hopefully one day I’ll be back!

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Updated:  13 July 2022/Responsible Officer:  CASS Marketing & Communications/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications