Category Archives: Residential Colleges

Life at St. Mary’s College


The Rooms in St. Mary’s are cozy. They aren’t huge but they do give you just the right amount of living area.  In each room items that are provided with a bed, desk, closet, sink and room phone.  The rooms in South Hall are newly renovated and if you can ask, I would try to get into one of those rooms.  If you are an international/study abroad student you will be put into a huge spacious double room.

Here is what a double looks like:


St. Mary’s is known to have the best food on the College Crescent.  The kitchen is staffed with amazingly friendly and accommodating staff, all of whom will cater to all students dietary restrictions.  The desserts are sinfully decadent and served after every dinner (so get your gym membership quickly!)  And if you have a busy schedule the kitchen is open for student’s to access until 8pm.  If you miss lunch of dinner you can still grab left overs from the kitchen.

Usually dinner is buffet style the only exception being High Table dinners.  We have High Table, a sit down dinner with academic gowns and guest speakers, twice a week.  This semester it is on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Mondays are just sit down served dinners.

Residential Life

Despite the name, St. Mary’s is not overly religious.  In fact Sister Liz, the current principal is very realistic about uni student’s social habits.  Sr. Liz is respects the choices her students make as long as we are respecting our college.  This cannot be said for all colleges.  Newman, for example, is known for its strict Catholic rules.  For example, there is a “no sex” rule and they are very strict on alcohol and parties.  It is rumored that there is a rule to help regulate the no sex rule: if a guy and a girl are in a room together their must be three feet on the ground at all times.  I don’t know about you but that just sounds like a challenge for them to get creative.  I have heard a lot of unease from the Newman students because there has been a high number suspensions from the college regarding parties, alcohol, etc.

This is all not to say that St. Mary’s is a crazy party college, in fact, I think we are tamer than most colleges.  I do think the mutual relationship between our principal and the St. Mary’s students has gone a long way in creating a respectful and warm environment for us all to live.   Although she lives in a house on the St. Mary’s College campus she doesn’t interfere in student’s way of life unless absolutely necessary.

Social Life

St. Mary’s kids seem to have the perfect balance of fun and seriousness to them.   A lot of them can and will party pretty hard but when due dates for papers and exams come around they are equally attentive to their work.

The hallways are always bustling in residence wings of college.  When in the room people tend to leave their doors open so that friends can stop in and hang out.  It’s a common occurrence to walk down the hallway and see groups of people hanging out in one bedroom: a few people cuddled on the bed, a few sprawled out on the floor, and a few more perched on the desk and chair.  Upon passing these doorways everyone will always shout a greeting if not an invitation to join them.  Because St. Mary’s is so small I can say with a fair amount of confidence that everyone knows everyone else at college.

Common Areas:

St. Mary’s has a beautiful courtyard which is always occupied, in the warm weather, by lounging students.  Our College dog Honey usually has free reign over the courtyard and will happily greet her many adoring fans with a happy wag of her tail and a gentle lick.  We also have a Junior Common Room, known as the JCR, where we have nice leather couches to chill out on, a radio/speaker system, and a pool table.  We also have a TV lounge with a huge plasma screen TV.  If you get over the musty couch smell that seems to always hang about the room its a pleasant way to enjoy a movie with friends.

The Accie, short for Academic Center, is another place you may find Mary’s students lounging.  This a small but very modern library shared between Newman and St. Mary’s which houses a plethora of academic and general fiction books.  It also provides open study rooms if you need a break from studying in the four walls of your own bedroom.  A music practice room can also be found on the top floors and if you listen carefully when you’re studying there you can usually hear a gentle stream of music coming from those rooms.  The best part about The Accie is that it will save you money on textbooks.  At the start of the semester we are allowed to go to The Accie to make sure they have our textbooks stocked.  If they don’t they will order it for you free of charge.


St. Mary’s had the highest average GPA last semester of which they take immense pride.  The Vice Principal has worked hard to keep up Mary’s high academic standing.  That means that we have live-in academic tutors who run weekly study sessions for specific classes.  Although it is not mandatory that you show up to these tutorials, if you fail you classes and it is known that you did not attend your tutorials your standing at Mary’s could be jeopardized.

Welcome Week vs. O-Week

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.

Welcome Week

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:

  1. 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)
  2. Being bossed around by a group of students who I didn’t know and who were all about two years younger than me
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

The Real World (or as close are you are going to get) of Harry Potter

Harry Potter fans get excited.  If you really want to feel like you are at Hogwarts then living  in a residential college will be right down your alley (especially Ormond or Queens which actually look like castles).

Per British academic tradition, residential colleges at the University of Melbourne have something called “High Table.”  Depending on the college this can happen two to three times a week.  Essentially High Table is a formal dinner held at college in which you must attend wearing your academic robes.  Colleges have different rules about what must be worn underneath the gowns.  St. Mary’s is very relaxed in their rules and only mandate dress clothes under your “accies” if you are sitting at High Table.  Other colleges are not so lucky and have to dress up suit-and-tie at every dinner.  Although I did hear a rumor about a bunch of senior students from one of the other colleges who, to celebrate their last High Table dinner, wore nothing underneath their gowns!  Perhaps they were inspired by the Scottish kilt.

High Table at St. Mary’s is very much like Hogwarts: there is an elevated table at the front of the dinning room where the faculty and General Counsel (Student Counsel) regularly sit.  Every dinner they usually invite a handful of students to join them at High Table so everyone can have a turn to really live out their Harry Potter fantasies.

Unfortunately no amount of clapping will make the food magically appear on the tables but the wonderfully friendly kitchen staff does seem to have a magical talent of making everything taste sublimely delicious.  And although there is no wizened Professor Dumbledore, Sister Liz is probably as close as anyone can get.   She is soft spoken but sharp as a whip with a surprising sense of humor.  She always has something up her sleeve to quietly end dinner, after she leaves us with the usual dinner blessing, and it never fails to make the student body crack up.  I think we laugh as hard as we do only partly from the jokes she tells,  the other part comes from the fact that these astonishing jokes are coming from the quiet nun at the front of the room!

Yes, I am using a pen as a fake wand.  I had to!

Australia- My Room

One of my favorite things about living here is my room.  I literally have one of the best views on campus and a huge room!  And as many friends and family know I like to have a lot of natural light in my room.  Coincidentally, I have the biggest windows in our buildings and my bed and desk are right under it.  I love this room but only wish I had something like this permanently at my home school!

The view from my huge window…

Australia- Living Decisions When Abroad

Whether living in Australia or anywhere else that may be considered ‘foreign’ I recommend, if the opportunity is provided, to live among the people of the country you are in.  It honestly makes such a huge difference in the way you experience the culture around you.  I realized today as I was walked past the open bedroom doors in my residential college that I physically share very little with the people I am living with: for the most part, I do not have classes with them, I am obviously not related to them and I had no previous history with them.  The only thing we do share are the walls in which we live which have trapped individual actions and stories and combined them together into what eventually has become a feeling of family.  All because we co-habit the same building and are constantly bumping into each other as we go about our daily lives I am closer with these people than the people I go to classes with and, to a degree, even those I hang out with outside of the college.  It’s in the little daily things like exchanging niceties when bumping into some one in the bathroom, sharing conversation over dinner and being constrained to abide by the rules of the college that little by little, usually without even noticing it, you create a family away from home.

Australia- What’s Wrong With This Picture (to Americans)

It’s not a trick question. Just think about what you normally see when you go to the bathroom in the States.  Usually there is a sign categorizing you into one of two bathrooms. Notice that distinction is missing here.

I know some colleges in America have co-ed bathrooms but, for the most part, it’s a foreign concept.  After the first week of being here I had an unfortunate experience.  I was singing to myself enjoying a nice quiet steamy shower when I heard a very masculine-sounding cough way too close for comfort.  My heart leaped into my throat as I spun around while trying to cover myself as much as I could with my bare hands.  It took me a second to  remember that 1. I was in a shared bathroom (something I am not entirely used to) and 2. it was a coed bathroom.  Paranoia seemed to overwhelm my relaxed shower mood.  I kept peaking at the one short partition that was the only thing separating his shower area from mine to make sure he couldn’t see me.  At one point I saw his foot under the partition and my blood pressure went into overdrive.  I am not sure what I was worried about because it’s not as if his foot had eye balls.  I was ready to get out at this point but when I heard him turn off his shower tap and step out the shower stall I did not dare move.  The last thing I wanted was to bump into him at the same.  Thankfully, I never figured out who it was (I never identified The Foot) which is probably a good thing because then I really would have felt like I had taken a shower with him!

Now I’m a month and a half in and much more used to this coed bathroom situation.  I even find the rare chance encounters in the bathroom fascinating!  It’s like living with wild animals in their natural habitats.  But then again I never will understand somethings that men do.

The good thing, I should mention though, is that this is not a wide-spread practice in public.  At movie theaters and restaurants and basically any other place that is not a residential college, they give you the privacy of gendered bathrooms.

Australia- I thought frogs in Africa were a problem!

In Africa I had a little incident with an amphibian who got a bit too comfy cuddling on my pillow.  I found him sitting there after a long day out and about in the Gambian markets and had just wanted to pass out.    I was pretty grossed out to find him with his warty clammy little green body just chilling out on the one small place I had so desperately wanted to rest my face on upon returning home.

At the time, I thought that was gross.

Well, just the other night I had woke up to a strange sensation across my face.  Upon partially waking up from this sensation I thought I had merely brushed my face with one of my dangling bracelets.  But just as I was about to close my eyes again I could have sworn I saw something that looked like a cockroach scurry across my chest and into my blankets.  I was instantly and completely awake.  I jumped up on my bed with my heart pounding from the abrupt awakening and tore viciously at my sheets trying to find the disgusting creature who had the gall to try to share my bed.  Strangely, I found nothing.  Because I had been so groggy I started to believe that I had been dreaming.  I woke up the next morning with an itchy head and weird itchy bump on my hand that had, coincidentally, been resting by my head.  I tried not to think about how I got them.

The next night however the little sucker was waiting for me.  As I pulled back the covers and put my legs into my bed it had the nerve to scurry up my legs!  I generally try not to be a wimpy squeamish girl but at the same time the thought that something was in my bed was a bit too much to handle.  I now understand the expression “to swallow your scream” because that is exactly what I did.  My roommate was passed out not too far away from me and I did not want to wake her up.  I felt my throat contract as I held in what would have been a very girlish outcry.  And then I got mad that it had reduced me to such a reaction.

I got out of bed, grabbed the thickest book I could find and ripped off the covers ready to pounce.  It was frantically scurrying to find a hiding spot but I quickly-too quickly- flicked it off my bed.  I immediately looked to the floor to see where I could squash it dead but when I didn’t see it on the floor I started to panic.  I did not want it to end up in my bed again.  Then I felt a sensation on my leg.  I look down to see it brazenly crawling up my leg!  The nerve! In one motion I flicked it off my leg with my book and smashed it into the floor with my book.  I think I put all my body weight onto it just to make sure it was dead.  When I felt confident I had literally flattened it to death I slowly lifted the book.  And it scurried right out. After three attempts I finally killed it.  It was only then I looked at the book I had grabbed.  It was one of my favorites with a graceful ballerina posed on the cover.  The graceful ballerina now had greenish bug guts smeared across her placid face and pristine white tutu. Great.

And that’s when I finally connected the dots.  I was not dreaming that night.  The dumb little book cover wrecker had bit my scalp and hand, then crawled across my face and chest before burrowing into my covers.  Ugh!  The thought was enough to give me goose bumps.

I have yet to identify the bug but then again maybe its better that I do not know!

Australia- Softball Game Number 2

We made a valiant effort but we lost 18-1.  The other team wore matching uniforms down to their shorts and socks and their specially monogrammed shirts that read: Ormond Softball.  We knew we were in trouble.  Then I watch the pitcher warm up and she pulls out the windmill pitch and I give up a silent prayer: please don’t slaughter us.  Maybe I should have yelled.

My team, mismatched in a colorful array of St. Mary’s attire, arrived with our Moose mascot trailing behind.  They got up to bat and made 10 runs on us in 20 minutes.  They had to end the inning in accordance with their rules or they would have easily racked up more runs.  We got up to bat and literally 7 minutes later and the inning was over.  3 plays, 3 outs and we had no runs.  It was painful.  Despite everything though my girls pulled through.  I was overjoyed to watch us get a double play and 2 separate outs by pop up fly catches made by my third baseman and short stop (who caught it with her bare hand because the glove felt too awkward).  It was obvious the girls were really getting the hang of the game.

It was fun to watch their faces as they made a play and got an out and they saw everyone cheer in celebration.  I thought it was pretty cool to look out at the field at see all the girls trying their best at a game I had taught them from scratch.  From the way they hit and base ran, to the way they threw and fielded.  I had taught them all during grueling 2 hour practices in the unforgiving Australian sun and they got it.  A teachers ultimate reward.  Best of all, they had such good spirits.  They did not get negative when the other team scored10 runs on us.  They shook it off and reminded me that “we are just having fun.”  And looking back on it we really did.

Two more games tomorrow and then our mini season is over.  I am hoping that win or lose we go out with a bang.

Australia- Getting Down Under the Australian Lingo

So this post will end up being updated and changed a lot but I definitely wanted to make sure I documented all the “Aussie Lingo.”  I find it fascinating and more than mildly entertaining to hear some one speaking English with words I am familiar with but in a sentence that makes absolutely no sense to me.  These phrases and Aussie terms are a mix of general Australian terms, Melbourne terms, and Australian University terms.  Here is what I have picked up on so far:

“Get around it/Get inside it” – Get excited

“To Gary/Garrying”– Flirting/Trying to pick some one up

“Trakkies”– Track Pants

“Brekkie”– Breakfast

“Sunnies”– Sun glasses

“Bathers”– Bathing suit

“Runners”– Sneakers/ Tennis Shoes

“Good on ya”– Good for you

“I’m rooted”- I’m exhausted. **Be careful how you use this term because this can also be used as the American equivalent of “banging” and yes, I am referring to the sexual meaning and not the literal meaning.  I made this mistake once (as in “Who are you rooting for?”)  and I think the person’s eyes almost popped out of their head.

“Spew, Vom”- (more or less self-explanatory) To vomit

Goon”- Cheap boxed wine used by college students

“The G”- Short MCG, Melbourne Cricket Grounds

“Thongs”- Flip Flops.  “G-string” is the word used for the American equivalent for thongs

“Footy/Aussie Rules”-   Australian Rules Football.  This is a mix between rugby, soccer, volleyball and Gaelic football.  Because they use both words to refer to the same sport I, at first, thought they were talking about two different games.  I made the mistake of saying I wanted to go to a footy game and an Aussie rules game and the person I was talking to looked so confused.

“Sus”-  This one took me a while to figure out and when I was finally told what it meant I felt so dumb.  It is short for suspicious.

“Give it a go”- Give it a try.  This phrase the epitome of Australians.  They down for everything or at least trying it out.  Most of the softball girls on my team said that they wanted to “give it a go.”

“Keen”- Interested.  This is used in a lot of different contexts.  “He is keen on her.”  Means that he likes her.  “I’m keen to give it a go”  Means I am willing/interested in trying.

“Speckie”-  Spectacle

“Turn”-  Party.  We had a toga “turn”  the other night.  Aka. Toga Party

“Rock up”-  Show up

“Nibbles”-  Snacks

“Chicks”-  It means “girls” here as well but they don’t use it with the same negative connotation that Americans do.

“Wanker”–  An idiot.  ** My favorite Australian term so far!

“Arvo”–  Afternoon

“Singlets”–  Guys tank top

“Ass over tits”–  Fall over

Australia, There is NO HITTING in Softball

The big sports in Australia are Aussie Rules Football (which looks to me to be a mix between Rugby and soccer) and Cricket (which seems to be a deranged-looking form of baseball).  They do a bit of netball (kind of like basketball) and dabble with soccer.  They are not, however, familiar with softball.  So I was happily surprised to hear that the residential colleges were holding a small softball competition for the next couple of weeks.  Once they found out that I had played softball for 12 years I was automatically deemed captain of the St. Mary’s softball team.  The two practices I had this week were a lot of fun because it was great to be playing again but it was also fun to teach everyone from scratch how to play the game.  It was also immensely entertaining.  The girls kept trying to associate softball to games and rules they were familiar with.  One girl, a rugby player, raised her hand while we were going over the rules of the game to ask:

“So, when are we allowed to hit our opponents?”

Tom Hanks, you would have been proud.  Crying?  Forget it!  These girls were ready for a smack down.

After two practices we had our first game and I admit I was a bit nervous.  I was still getting questions like, “How many balls and strikes do we get?” and “Where is the strike zone again?”  But we had only been allowed time for two practices.  So when we headed to the softball “pitch” (field) today I think I was praying with every step I took.  And they really impressed me.  I have to give the girls credit, for never having played the sport they picked it up really quickly.  It seems they pass on athleticism in the genes here.  Although we did not win it was obvious they had been able to learn the game in the two practices we had.  We had a good game and it was really close.

They were all laughing at me because the calm, cool collected softball-practice-Ashleigh had gone straight out the window as I manically tried to Captain, Coach and play all at the same time today.  I was screaming to the base runner on third to run home on an over throw while taking practice swings because I was on deck.  When in the field I was throwing to my infielders to warm up before the inning started while also directing my catcher on how to put on her catching equipment properly.  It was hectic and (a tad bit) stressful but over all it was a fun day.


St. Mary’s College- 11

Whitley College- 12

Keep us in your thoughts next Saturday at 1pm (my time) because we will be playing our next opponent, Ormond College, and we are hoping to win this game by a lot more than one point!

I will apologize now because I could not also add photographer to my list of duties for the day.  I unfortunately don’t have that many hands!  One of the girls was able to snap a picture as we were walking over to the game though and for now that is the only one I have to share with you.  I will make sure that I have a team photographer next week though!