Monday, February 23, 2015

It's O-week: what I won't be doing but probably should

Ah, Orientation-week.

From an academic's perspective this is when the relative peace of summer is shattered - gone are the long days of research and grant-writing and here is weird cacophony of a million students in the quad, searching for freebies and friends amidst the noise and haste. It's the week of rushing to get the late subject outlines out, setting up the online class sites, writing and re-writing the first lecture, preparing handouts, double-checking your lecture hall hasn't been double-booked by the Engineering faculty. Again.

From a student's perspective, especially a first year student's perspective, it's the mad slide in a largely unfamiliar world with largely unfamiliar people and largely unfamiliar tasks to perform. It's crazy and fun and scary and overwhelming and holy shitballs somebody pass me a paper bag to breathe into.

It's my first week back in coursework study in a long while. In fact, I haven't done the lecturer-student-assignment relationship from this side of the fence in 10 years. I should probably brush up a little. 

If it's your first time at uni, or your first time back in a loong time, O-week is well worth attending. It's both a week long party and hand-holding session: the academics and administrators run formal welcomes, the student services let you know what they can and can't offer, and the student organisations vie for your membership (or, you know, whatever, only if you want to).

Here's what you're expected to do in O-week from the official point of view:

It's time to get your studentcard
O-week is usually when the student service centres have express lanes to get through the million or so students who need photos taken and student cards processed. Check a mirror before you enter the queue, because you'll be living with that photo for a few years (and it'll also be available to your lecturers on a photo-roll so they can figure out who you are). I had to renew my staff card a few weeks ago so managed to do the student card thing early and avoid the rush.

It's time to buy textbooks
Ideally, you would have had access to your reading list weeks ago, but in reality academics won't post these things till the last possible minute, which will force you to buy your textbooks on campus at huge mark-ups instead of online.

It's time to put together your class schedule and study timetable
Bahahaha... no, really.

It's time to scope out where everything is
Sometimes the maps are unreadable or the thoroughfares newly blocked. Taking a campus tour looks and feels a bit dorky but it's pretty handy for knowing where the cheap eats are and avoiding being late to your first class.

It's time to take a library tour
These are handy not just to know where the books are (books? huh?) but they're also an introduction on how to find things within the virtual library. Never used PubMed or Expanded Academic ASAP,? Get thee on a library tour!

It's time to find out about all the support services
If you know you'll need additional support, this is when all the student services are out flaunting their wares. It's okay to just know what's available in case you need it, but you are usually expected to register with the Disability Liaison Units in O-week to save hassles and delays later. 

It's time to brush up on your study skills or learn how the big boys do it
Think you learned how to write an essay in high school? Yeah... no. Learning and assessment tends to be a different beast at the undergraduate and then again at the postgraduate level. Language is different, standards are different, policies are different. Just trust me that it's different. Most libraries or learning centres have a whole suite of classes and online tutorials to help make the leap in this new learning environment. Having been the big meanie with the red pen for the last 10 years and published academic works in that time, I'm reasonably confident I don't have much to brush up here.

It's time to get to know your Faculty-specific information and expectations
Each faculty tends to have their own unique structure and standard practices. This might be in terms of what phone number you call, where you submit essays, what referencing system you use, how you get special consideration, and so on. This will probably be the only event I'll attend because of work and the fact that it's the only bit that's really new for me - new Faculty, new modes of assessment, eeep!

And the less official stuff? Hoo boy.

It's time to booze it up
Der. It's the first week of university life. Of course, you're meant to spend it pissed and yelling about the current government's poor record on environmental protection (for the record, in my typing haste I left the r off 'poor' in that sentence. Still works).

It's time to join
Clubs! Groups! Societies! There are heaps of them for every flavour of the student rainbow. Nationalities, cultures, sexual orientations, sports, fandoms, study help, games, dressing up, taking it all off... I may or may not have met my Lovely Husband in one of these. Just saying.

It's time to join in
So many events and shows and lunches and protests. 

It's time to explore
Never been to Melbourne Gaol and tried on Ned Kelly's helmet; never paddled boarded on a dead-flat bay; never played chicken with a tram? If you're new to the city or never bothered to look around, most unis organise tourist-type events or trips to show off their home turf.

It's time to talk to strangers and make friends
Mostly O-week is a chance to start finding your tribe. Chances are your old friends aren't on this crazy ride with you and you've forgotten how to make new ones. It's easy: just say 'hi' to the person sitting next to you... if they launch into a drunken tirade about the current government's poo record on environmental protection and that's not your scene, try the next person.

Have you ever survived O-week? Any war stories or recommendations?


  1. I LOVE this! Almost makes me wish I was signing up for uni. Almost.

    1. I'm doing an English specialisation in my teaching Masters and we get to talk about YA books! Yeehaa! I mentioned your facebook book club in one of my forum posts.

  2. Not been there or done that but I love learning so have fun x


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