By Jessica Ball
Almost three years ago I made the seven-hour car trip from the farm I called home in Gerrigerrup, Victoria to the halls of an Adelaide University Residential College to make my new beginning.
At 19, no gap year and no life experience outside a boarding house, the farm and the town’s one and only night club, I quickly found myself in completely new surroundings.
Gone were the days of riding a motorbike to the mailbox. Gone were the pet calves, and the lamb roast dinners—dinners that Dad had raised and killed himself. Along came the days when uni assignments took a back seat to pub nights, when goon was considered an acceptable drink, and when no one told me off if I didn’t make my bed—or get out of it.
The risks—deadly snake bites or destructive bushfires—were quickly replaced by the human threats of city life: lonely walks home from Hindley Street, and frightening sexual assaults in my new backyard, North Adelaide.
My first week in Adelaide was an O-week blur. From what I’m told there were pub crawls, half-made togas, unanswered quiz night sheets, and a formal dinner I didn’t quite see the end of. Cruisers were quickly replaced as my drink of choice by any cheaper alternative—vodka raspberry, goon straight from the box, cider, passion pop, beer and even red wine. Not only because Cruisers doubled in price as soon as I exited my last country bumpkin pub, but I was also promptly told by the girl down the hall that they were not the drink of a uni student. But no matter what, these many drinks were followed by water and some unfortunate person given the task of putting me to bed when my pathetic drinking ability failed me. Week one: vomit-filled nights followed by hung-over days, a burst blood vessel, visits to the doctor, suspected fractured facial bones and x-rays.
I quickly realised that new experiences and firsts were not going to few and far between.
My first tests of Adelaide’s public transport left much to be desired. After consuming a lethal mix of goon for breakfast after a late night exploring the Torrens, I sat at what I thought was the bus stop that would take me to Magill. After waiting for an hour, I gave up, walked home, crawled into bed, slept off my hangover and told myself I would attempt it again another day. I will never know what was taught in Orientation Week, but I hope it wasn’t as important as the Sex Ed class Cady Heron missed in Mean Girls.
After getting some better travel advice, and leaving a few hours early, I managed to make it to my first day of uni the following week. Despite my lack of student ID the bus driver showed me some old-fashioned country hospitality and let me pay the concession fair.
The photo for said ID would later be taken, burst blood vessel in the eye and all.
Growing up in a small country town, kids who weren’t born and bred in our area were a novelty. Students from other cultural backgrounds? They were basically non-existent. The lone South Australian who decided to venture over the border was eternally dubbed “Lay-go” after we discovered his mispronunciation of the beloved “Leg-o”. Sitting in my first International Relations class and even just walking down Rundle Mall was an eye-opener.
Beach trips swiftly replaced motorbike rides around the farm. Rundle Mall, Marion, and Harbour Town far outweighed Hamilton’s lonely dress shop, and the choice of night clubs can only be compared to lollies laid out in front of an eager child. As can be expected, The Woolshed and its mechanical bull became repetitive bad life choices that seemed like a good idea at the time.
Adelaide Metro may continue to make me late to uni, particularly for 9am French tutorials, but then the bright orange school bus I took from prep to Year 12 also had a knack of breaking down and leaving us to the mercy of the very bus my 50-year-old mother used to take. The Torrens will never match the picturesque landscapes of the area I will always call home—if only because I flatly refuse to identify as a South Australian or lose my shiny Victorian drivers license—but the ten minute walk to Australian Pizza House will always beat the 15 minute drive to the nearest milk bar.