For a lot of international students preparing to study abroad at the University of Melbourne there is the question of participating in Welcome Week or (saving $565 AUD) and participating in O-week. Before I came here I thought that the two programs were both orientation programs with the only difference being that the welcome week catered solely to international students. I almost did not sign up for the Welcome Week and I will now be eternally grateful that I did. When making the initial decision it seemed like so much money for a 4 day orientation that I was going to get a few days later from my residential college. When I looked into it, though, I found out that my school-and apparently most universities would reimburse the money paid out-of-pocket to the program. And this one little fact influenced my decision to participate in the program.
I cannot say enough about how much fun I had in the four days of Melbourne Welcome. I came to Melbourne not knowing anyone and was very fearful I would not make close friends because my stay here was so temporary. After the first day of the orientation program I realized I sorely mistaken. This program is funded by Melbourne University but is completely student lead, which I think was a smart decision on Melbourne Uni’s part. Who would be better to orient a bunch of exchange Uni students then local Uni students themselves. They were obviously chosen very particularly because the Welcome Program group seemed to the perfect group for the job. They were the perfect amount of fun and responsible as to abide by the Uni’s guidelines while making sure we had a blast. They showed us all around the city by day and introduced us to most frequented Uni clubs and bars by night. The four days flew by and by the end of it I had made so many friends it only bolstered my open-mindedness to continue to meet more people. Now the people I met during Welcome Week have become my very good friends and a welcome retreat from when College life becomes to repetitive.
I want to be fair to both programs. So first some disclaimers: 1. I can only speak about my experience at St. Mary’s. All colleges have different anti-hazing policies in regards to O-Week, some more lax than others. Janet Clark, for example, has a strict no-hazing policy while St. Mary’s tends to let a little more fly under the radar. 2. You only live once, there will be no harm in trying O-week one way or another. Your experience my be very different from mine. 3. A lot of O-week also depends on personality type, if you are super laid back then a lot of what I had a problem with probably won’t bother you.
I think my two previous posts about O-week sums up my experience fairly well. Although to be fair the first two days were the worst of the week after that everything else was moderately tame, except for waking up at 7am every morning. I think my biggest issue with O-Week was simply a matter of age difference. I have already lived through the harass-the-freshman phase of my life when I was real freshman three years ago. Then you move up the hierarchy. Perhaps if I had been warned that O-week would be a tamer version of the American Greek life pledging process I would have been mentally prepared. As it was, I was running off the assumption that O-week was going to be just like the Melbourne Welcome Week. My disappointment in realizing that it wouldn’t be the same was probably the biggest contributing factor for cranky mood during O-week. Here is what I didn’t like about O-week:
- Being crudely, loudly, and annoying awoken every morning at 7am (after a crazy Melbourne Welcome Week I was hoping to catch up on some sleep. I also ended up catching a cold from lack of sleep)
- Being bossed around by a group of students who I didn’t know and who were all about two years younger than me
- I did not have much in common with the “freshers” I was grouped into because they were all three to four years younger than me. All of them had just left home for the first time and had just graduated high school. I actually found it hard to relate to a lot of them.
- Having a strict 12pm curfew. And when I opted out of one of the evening’s events thinking I could use a break from O-week by going out with Melbourne Welcome friends, I was told that if I do not go out with the college I cannot go out at all and I also could not have my friends over either.
- Number 4 branches into Number 5- Being treated as an actual freshman all over again in all senses. A curfew? Being told by random strangers who were my peers and mostly younger than me, that I could not go out and see my friends or if I went out with my college I had to be home by midnight? I have never had a curfew in my life before and I figured at 21 I would never have one. I was not happy to have all these rules strapped on to me because the other “freshers” had never lived on their own before.
Despite all of this though, its hard to look back at O-week and be mad about it. That’s because all of the nameless, faceless students who bossed me around eventually became my friends. I learned their names and recognized their faces after sitting down with them every night at dinner, after playing grueling rounds of softball with them and loosing every game, after attending rowing day as a college decked out in red and blue and cheering until we lost our voices for our boats, after all the little things and silly stories that happen in the hallways everyday. I wasn’t happy during the O-week and was pretty grumpy about the whole thing but then again it was in that shared experience that was the first step in creating memories with everyone else. This is a very Australian experience. You have to earn your place in the group. This much I knew and, as much as I did not like it, I kept my mouth shut and tried not to complain; in so doing I earned my place at college just like everyone else.