Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oh! Week

If you are a university person, you may well be in the thick of O week, or hovering around the edges of it. (O stands for Orientation and not Orsm! Free Beer!)

I attended six universities and all in all scored: one degree, one husband, one diploma, and a Masters (roughly in that order). I had a dual enrolment at Flinders Uni and Adelaide Uni doing english and classics. I dropped out just before the end of first semester because I had to break up with Adelaide, we were no good for each other. 'It's not me,' I told Adelaide. 'It's you.' But perhaps it was a little bit me. Then I went back to Tassie and did my first year there. During that year I fell in love, had my heart broken and surfed a wave of departure and ended up in Melbourne. Melbourne and I fell in love and stayed in love. I married Melbourne. I finished my BA at Monash, did the Diploma in prof writing and editing at RMIT (okay, technically Tafe not uni, and also where I met my other lifelong partner, Martin) and then, some years and children later, I did a Masters at Melbourne Uni.

In all that time, I don't recall ever "doing" O Week. I do remember walking past stalls as I nutted out paperwork and recognition of prior learning and the like, which generally involves sprinting from one end of the campus and back again while admin stands in the tallest buildings tracking your progress and laughing and rubbing their hands together and occasionally rewarding you with crumbs of cheese or electrocuting you. But no signing up to clubs or drinking out of barrels or other such mysterious O week shenanigans.

However once, at Monash, I did go to a wine and cheese in the archaeology department the week before classes began (so perhaps this counts as mysterious shenanigans). I made myself go because Adelaide and I had so disappointed each other, and I was determined not to rely solely on the 4 friends that I had moved to Melbourne with. I would win friends. I would influence people. I would be stunning social success.

I gave myself a pep talk on the train consisting of something along the lines of: it is your mission and duty to talk to people, no one will be rude, people are never really rude, people are nice, you are nice, you and people could be friends. So at the wine and cheese I took a breath, turned to the girl sitting next to me and she was totally totally rude. Sneer. One word answers. Shrinking away from me. (On reflection, this may have been a cultural misunderstanding. I have observed many female young adults from the eastern suburbs of Melbourne wear a permanent sneer, without actually being sneery).

I cracked up. I actually laughed because she was so rude. There was me, on my own at the wine and cheese. Having travelled to be there on a train and a bus and actually realising how ridiculously far away Monash is from the known universe. Having assured myself that no one could possibly be rude. I didn't just laugh. I got the giggles and had to beat a hasty retreat.

Still in the first week of uni a different girl recognised me on the train (oh look it's the strange laughing creature) and Sam and I were to become friends. Good friends. She slipped away at the end of uni, as happens, sadly. In fact I'm no longer in touch with anyone I went to Monash with. Not because I didn't go to O week, but because things happened that were sadder than Adelaide, and in the aftermath of this, I lost my way to be with these people and we all drifted apart. A post for another day, maybe.

I will tell you something about uni life though, some sage advice if that's you out there in the thick of O week. I have never looked back on my uni years and thought, I wish I'd slept more, or drunk more beer. But I do sometimes think 'I wish I'd gone to more lectures.'

And go on, sign up for something. You know you want to.


  1. I actually wish I'd skipped more lectures and been a bit less serious about study in my first year.

    I realise I am completely alone in this...but it wasn't healthy!

    But I am still best friends with the two best friends I made in 1st year uni. Which is the most I could ever want out of uni (apart from, you know, the degrees).

  2. I did many dumb things in O Week of my first year. Because I was at a residential college, they took the responsibility of humiliating the "freshers" very seriously. I was persuaded to swim across the Yarra and almost drowned. I drank far too much beer. I dropped water balloons on the heads of unsuspecting passersby (other college students, so it doesn't really count). I stole a towel from a pub. I did other even dumber things which I won't discuss here! However, I did make friends with other students.
    Unfortunately, because the students who were destined to become my tribe were hiding in their rooms and scoffing at how rubbish O week was, I didn't meet them, and it took another six months for us to suss each other out.
    I rolled up to my second year at college ready to enjoy (!) O Week again, with the benefit of experience (ie having a rough idea how much I could drink before making myself sick), only to discover that as a second year chick, I was rendered utterly invisible by the presence of first year chicks (fresh meat). Hm. Not unlike life, really.
    You didn't miss much.

  3. Anonymous7:47 PM

    I wish it had occurred to me that all the other first years were also just waiting for someone else to suggest we go for a coffee after a lecture. Making friends happened a lot faster when I figured out that the other kids weren't any more confident than I was.

    When we were in first year a friend of mine struck up a conversation with a fellow student who asked where my friend had gone to school. My friend replied "Collingwood College", the eastern suburban sneery girl replied "I'm sure that exists" and her mate simultaenously chipped in "where's that?".

  4. Molly is in the throes of Melbourne Uni O-Week now. She went on a 'camp' on the weekend organised by the Science Society - it's apparently the best one to attend or so she was told. I warned her having been on one during my Deakin days "Molly it is one three day long piss up. You will do nothing but drink, all day and all night. And there will be boys/young men waiting to pounce". I spoke to her husky voice on Sunday evening and all she could muster was "Mum you were right".
    I hope she embraces the social side of Uni life, but not so much it impacts on her study as it did for me.

  5. Daughter's boyfriend went to O week stuff at RMIT yesterday - everyone v. friendly - he was stunned by all the free beer, condoms and all the smokers!

  6. Anonymous9:16 PM

    hello my love. I love beer ;) I wish I went to more lectures too. But I have happy memories of drinking beer from a keg beside a dam in Armidale. I wish you were at O week with me, a hundred years ago. love to you and your darlings, kath xxxx