David Xu, 18 is currently studying the first year of his Commerce & Law degree at the University of Sydney, despite living in Wollongong. He spends 12 hours commuting to and from Redfern each week, with each trip lasting roughly two hours.
The second person in this multimedia piece is Alex Chung, my father, who spent four days traveling from his part-time job at Sydney Airport Mcdonalds to Kingsford during his high school years.
The aim of this narrative was to explore the lives of students such as David, who travel incredibly long distances in the pursuit of education.
What is hidden in this piece are the silent hardships of students that we may never find out about.
For David, waking up at 6 AM in the morning, fighting with other passengers during peak times for spare seats, and coming back late at night is a way of life. While other local students at universities in Sydney have the privilege of short commute times, if not walking distance then a short bus ride away, David cannot take such time for granted.
Each hour of every day in every year adds up, and the time wasted commuting will continue to accumulate over his five year degree. And with the South Coast Line only arriving once every hour, issues such as missing a train or unexpected trackwork could easily lead to missed attendance and possibly further repercussions.
To encapsulate the idea of wasted time, I traveled up to Sydney three times in a week with David. I took photographs of Central, Redfern and Town Hall stations alongside local stations such as Wollongong and Dapto.
Coming from the Illawarra to the bustling metropolis of Sydney, it was a feeling I can only describe as being on borrowed time.
Each trip was traversing stairs and escalators, swiping Opal cards through ticket barriers and racing towards train stations, not daring to suffer another hour’s wait.
Being forced to take a 9 PM train back to Wollongong, arriving at 11 PM to a pitch-black station was in the back of both our minds.
So why would David waste so much time commuting to and from Sydney each week?
A single child from a small family, living in a tiny apartment complex it was not a choice he could make. While he can live comfortably in Wollongong, affording weekly rent of two hundred and upwards in Sydney for world-class education right now is next to impossible.