First weeks at university

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University can provoke fear and excitement. Roving reporter Jess G shares her university firsts to prove you can survive it all.

University. It's a concept that for us high school leavers can provoke a mixture of fear and excitement. The prospect of free food and massive parties contrasted with the scary thought of going it alone. But what really happens when you finally make that transition you've read so much about? Is the advice everyone seems to have really useful?

Well, I am here to tell you about what really goes on. After three months of travelling, working and sufficiently putting Year 12 behind me (in other words watching WAY too much TV) I faced the terrifying journey that is the first weeks of uni early this year. Sure I'd read the information packs, I'd been to the open days, heck I'd even sent someone an email about something! But would any of this actually help me?

Here are some of my firsts to demonstrate that just about anyone can survive university.

First day as a uni student

I'd been to the university of Melbourne countless times before for school functions and music exams, but the first day I walked onto the South Lawn as a real life uni student was on Academic Advice Day. This is a Melbourne concept but each uni tends to have one. It's kind of a 'welcome to uni, this is what subjects you need to choose from' type day.

It was quite a surreal feeling seeing all these seemingly knowledgeable people and thinking 'I'm one of them'. Of course, they were all first-years too and in reality none of us knew where we were meant to be or what we were meant to be doing. But it felt nice.

I spent the day going to mini-lectures about my degree (I'm doing Media and Communications), eating free sausages (the best part about uni - free lunches around every corner) and meeting up with some of my friends who are also at Melbourne. The scariest part of the day was my appointment with the course guide counsellor who was supposed to help me choose my subjects. I went in there oozing with confidence. I didn't know exactly what subjects I wanted to do but I had some idea and after all, the counsellor was supposed to help me, right?

Apparently not. I spent five minutes with this man and honestly I understood about five of the five hundred words he said. Obviously that wasn't his fault - he was giving me great advice about which subjects I should do and when. It's just I was yet to become fluent in the language I like to call 'uni-Speak'. Basically it's the English we all know and love, combined with the most complicated jargon I have ever heard. By the time I'd even worked out what an IDF was I was halfway out the door (by the way an IDF subject is an 'Interdisciplinary Foundation Subject' - just in case you wanted to know).

All in all it was a really fun day. Just watch out for that uni-Speak.

First O-Week

I was extremely excited at the prospect of O-Week. Endless ambiguous rumours had left me curious as to what O-Week really was. Turns out, it's quite an awesome week.

I started the week with a guided tour of the uni, although most of the allocated two hours was spent chatting with some of the girls in my group since our guide finished our tour in twenty minutes. And that was about as serious as it got.

The rest of the week was spent attending 'Student Services Carnivals' (which turned out to be a smorgasbord of free popcorn and iced tea samples), obtaining free T-shirts from the Student union Computing Centre, joining some hilarious clubs and of course the inaugural O-Week pub crawl.

My friends and I decided to tag along with the Science crew, as it was rumoured to be the biggest and the best. In there were about 500 in attendance and it was by far my favourite afternoon; not for the alcoholic benefits as such, rather the fun and interesting people I met. One image I will never be able to erase from my memory is the gigantic conga line surrounding an eight-lane roundabout.

Despite all the fun and frivolity, there was also a wide range of information readily available for us first-years. Questions regarding referencing, lecture locations and etiquette, and even using the library were all answered in various ways, and there was always someone floating around to help if you got lost. By the end of the week I was feeling ready to get started, although secretly I was hoping it wasn't too good to be true.

First lecture

My first lecture experience came in the form of Creative Writing at 9am on the Monday morning. That was a shock to the system. After months of not waking until at least 9.30, my 6.30 alarm was not welcome to say the least. I was not alone in this predicament. The entire lecture theatre was packed with bleary eyed first-years hating the fact that there was only one allocated lecture time for this subject. Even the lecturer himself was yawning (apparently poets are much the same as uni students - we like our sleep).

I was also extremely nervous at the prospect of entering a lecture theatre full of people I didn't know. All of my friends had chosen to do Commerce instead of my beloved Arts. Luckily for me I managed to meet up with one of the girls in my host group on O-Week as I was attempting to wake myself up with some hardcore caffeine. While this was a great softener to a pretty scary sounding prospect, it's a good idea to remember that most people are feeling just the same as you, and often you can meet some really amazing people by sitting down next to them at a lecture.

The lecture itself wasn't bad, basically just an introduction to the course, and I came out of the theatre feeling fairly confident. I had made it through the first lecture, I hadn't gotten lost and I'd even found someone to sit next to. That was only one lecture though.

My first tute

I was feeling quite pumped for my first tutorial, as it was something a bit similar to what I was used to. After arriving at uni from one of the smallest schools in Victoria, I had been finding lectures extremely intense and isolating, and I was really looking forward to some greater interaction.

My first tute turned out to be Creative Writing again, and my lecturer turned out to be my tutor as well so my confidence levels were rising. The tute was quite an experience.

We spent the first half hour just taking the role; my tutor had trouble working out why there were 17 people in the room and 18 people on the list. We counted the room over and over, read the role out infinite times, and in the end put it down to the annoying quirks of mathematics.

However my favourite moment came after we had been doing some writing exercises and we decided to do one specifically for a poem. Our tutor asked us to, 'look out the window... reflect on what you see and... if you feel like writing something down then write it.' It was the most entertaining twenty minutes of my life. Our tutor occasionally would comment on something he could see, such as a girl walking at our height level (my classroom was slightly lower then ground level) 'what is that girl doing? Where is she going?' One latecomer arrived to find his fellow classmates all staring out the window. He must have thought he'd hit the jackpot.

My overall thoughts

I've had a ball settling into uni. There are so many fun things going on all the time, and there are so many incredible people that you meet everyday. I did struggle with the size and grandeur of it all at first, and there were some awfully lonely moments where I found myself eating lunch alone because all my friends were in lectures, but overall uni life is just amazing. Completely different from anything I'd experienced before, and so much better then I was expecting! :)

5 tips for starting uni from a complete rookie

  • Allow for delays in getting to uni. Don't expect every train to run on time just so you can get that extra bit of sleep. Public transport will let you down occasionally but don't panic when it does.
  • A good idea to avoid this panic is to find out where the back entrances are for all your lectures theatres so you can slip in the back without disturbing anyone or humiliating yourself.
  • A note particularly for fellow left-handers: there are generally 'swing out desks' for lefties on the left hand end of rows which makes life SO much easier. Alternatively find a seat where there's no one sitting to your left and steal their desk.
  • Join every obscure club that sounds of any interest to you. They may have benefits such as free lunches, movie nights or even trivia nights! Also it just sounds cool to say you're in the Pirates Society. I mean come on now.
  • DON'T FREAK OUT. No matter what happens you will live through it, and you will sort it out. There are plenty of places you can go for help if you need it, just remember to go looking. Don't feel silly asking questions, it's so much better then taking a stab in the dark and failing because of it.

So to all my fellow uni-rookies have fun and good luck! :)