Just Like This: In Which Uni is Just Like ‘Stranger Things’


Caitlin is a third year Arts student, majoring in Creative Writing and English & Theatre Studies. “Just Like This” is a fortnightly-in-theory, erratic-in-practice column where she compares university to things that aren’t university.


I spent the last little while binge watching Stranger Things. There was definitely a point (okay, multiple points) during the eight-part season when I was crying on my balcony and hating on everyone who recommended the show to me because feels, but I’m also just as obsessed as anyone else so here we go.

There are mild spoilers in this piece, but TBH if you haven’t watched the show, what are you doing? Pause here, and pick back up in eight hours once you’ve changed your life.

Hey! Welcome back. Here’s how that show you just watched is just! like! uni!


1. That game that unexpectedly went for ten hours 

In the first episode of Stranger Things, Mike and Will and Lucas and Dustin are playing a very intricate and complicated game, when Mike’s mum says it’s time for his friends to go home.

The 10 hour game (Netflix)

“Mum! No! Just twenty more minutes! I’m serious, Mum, the campaign took two weeks to plan.” And then, sheepishly: “How was I supposed to know it was going to take ten hours?”

For me there are two types of essay-writing experiences: the first one is when I have a fairly simple contention and write a fairly simple argument and put it in the slot and maybe Bob’s your uncle and maybe he isn’t, but my essay is done and dusted with relatively little effort or stress.

The second: it takes weeks to research because I get pulled into a research hole, and I forget that I’m writing a mid-sem essay and not a PhD because I’m so interested in what Baldwin thought of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the things someone wrote in an obscure newspaper review early in the 19th Century. And then, more often than not, my essay is perhaps a little late. How was I supposed to know it was going to take ten hours?


2. Eleven’s nook

El’s nook (Netflix)

This sort of brings me to the next link: Eleven’s little nook in the basement, where she hides from the world and eats a whole lot of junk food. My version of El’s nook is in the library basement, and I hide between bookshelves where no one can see me and I eat a lot of chocolate and spread all my books and notes over the floor. It’s the best study space at uni, not least because there are sockets everywhere for charging your various devices, and also not least because you can get chocolate on your face and it doesn’t matter, because no one can see you. You can use this little study hack until there is no room for me anymore, in which case I will pull rank as the person who told you about it, and you’re going to have to leave (sorry).


3. References I didn’t get

Sigourney Weaver in Alien (1979)

If you follow this column on a semi-regular basis, maybe you’re starting to gather that not picking up on literary references is a little insecurity of mine. How many books do I have to read to feel like I’m ‘well-read’??

I feel the same with films. The kind of person I would very much like to be is the kind of person who would pick up all the film references while watching Stranger Things. I also want to sit in my Poetry lecture and have my brain whizzing through its own library-like archival system of art and poetry references every time a new poet is discussed. But in the end maybe I’m just here for the way poetry gives me ~feelings~, in the same way I’m really watching Stranger Things to weep with Winona and not because I’m a film buff.


4. Friends who disappear into the Upside-Down

So the Upside-Down looks like our world but is sort of gross and slimy and “cold and empty”, and sometimes it steals your friends for a little bit and sucks their life out of their faces. Right?

The Upside-Down :( (Netflix)

Ever had a lunch date with someone who can’t make it because they’ve been trapped in the Upside-Down of a heavy assessment period (hi, Abe)? Thought so.


5. The cold wet aesthetic and the surprise gate

The University of Melbourne

So I’ve been walking past this spectacular car park entrance for the four-ish years I’ve been plugging away at my undergrad degree, and I actually went through it for the first time the other day. I was in a bad mood, and wanted to be somewhere that looked as moody as I felt, and where people wouldn’t be sticking their umbrellas in my face (PSA: watch where you’re putting your umbrellas, please please please). It was raining and everything was eerie and dripping. I walked through the car park feeling deliciously cut off from the actual world, and equally deliciously like I was visiting the world of Stranger Things.

Is it Nancy in the Upside-Down or is it me in the carpark, you will never know (Netflix)

Also—I came out the other side through a gate that I never realized was connected to the same underground car park as the gate with the muscly torsos. The further I get into this column the more I’m becoming convinced that uni actually is Stranger Things, so now I’m unnerved and I think that’s it from me for another fortnight.


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