2016 was weird. We all know that. It was occasionally sunlit, but mostly full of political and social storms. At its close, it was infamous for the deaths of so many legends across all forms of media.
Now, I invite you to visit 2016’s tombstone. Next to Harambe’s.
Okay, I’ll stop.
As well as being a generally havoc-filled year on a global scale, 2016 was also the year I was a fresher to the uni and to my residential college. I’m from Melbourne, and can commute to uni very easily, so going to college was about the enrichment and experience for me. This involved embracing college history and culture in equal parts, from the ‘fresher exam’, to the eclectic lingo that brings together interstate slang and phrases from all languages, to discovering the joys of UberEATS and late night Lygon Street hijinks.
I recognise the inherent privilege (another buzzword that 2016 took from feminist literature and catapulted into the mainstream) that I have in even admitting something like that, but being aware of that privilege going in, I was even more determined to make the most of college living and culture. I wanted to see what I could learn, how I could grow, and how I could use these new experiences in the real world that I’d eventually return too.
Of course, I had these good intentions, but sometimes found myself slipping into the hotel-like convenience of college as well as the hive-mind of being around 300 of people my age from sunrise to sundown. I can confirm that things like travel and other little things like essays that are worth 65% of your total subject mark can (and will) slyly sneak up on you, and you will find yourself retreating into the warmth of the bubble occasionally. But hopefully, with the following strategies, you can learn to nourish, pay attention to, stay active with, and give back to the things and people that lie outside this small portion of your life and university career. Here’s how I managed to achieve the best of both worlds：
1. Sign up to all the college clubs you can
Yes, in order to tentatively build yourself a way out of the college bubble, it’s important to establish it first! There’ll come a time in your O-week (and later in the semester) when every college and college-affiliated club will set up a stall, talk to you about what crazy adventures they offer and ask you to join them. They’ll also usually throw in a generous freebie because most club memberships are expensive. Really expensive for the average Melbournian like me. But it’s well worth saving up for before you blow your money on last-minute text books or those uber-hip fairy lights for outside your room. It’s well worth joining the clubs early and receiving those member-subsidised tickets later if you plan to go to every ‘steamer’ at college.
Going to these clubs will help you realise in what ways you do and don’t like to get involved in college and it’ll help you develop precious allies that you can borrow laundry detergent from in the future. You can also get a glimpse of other colleges and their kingdoms…and by that I mean Ormond’s tribute to Hogwarts’s Great Hall.
By building the bubble through increasing exposure to what it means to be in the bubble, you can escape to or from different parts of it when you need to, whether that simply be another college campus that isn’t your own, or that flight you booked for home.
2. Try and combine your college and uni social lives
If you have friends from uni or precious, rare companions from high school that go to your uni, invite them on your college campus. Go for a walk, take them to dinner, sit in your room and let them absorb the college vibes via osmosis. I found this to be a really relaxed way to still engage in college living myself while still socialising and spending quality time one-on-one with non-college friends.
Moreover, your old mates might appreciate expanding their own friendship circles and can give you fresh perspectives on how funky your room actually looks, and how college has ~changed~ you in a just a few short weeks. Basically, you can refer to them to ensure you have enough life and warmth outside the college incubator. They can give you a wake-up call if you need it.
A fine example of that may be when family birthdays, celebrations or gatherings clash with a (usually pricey and/or MUST DO OR ELSE WHY DID YOU ENROL HERE?!) college event. Talking to external friends or even older college mates can help you to figure out whether your Aunt’s birthday or the College Ball should earn the final slot in your calendar.
3. Join uni and external clubs
If you actually need any more incentive or reason to join some of the uni’s 200 clubs, go here.
My advice is that whilst college clubs should be your primary focus while you are in college, joining in uni club can help keep you grounded and remind you that you are still here to study.
For example, I joined MASS (Melbourne Arts Student Society) and MUPA (Melbourne University Psychology Association) so I could access resources such as peer-assisted study sessions, merch, forums and networking opportunities. Through clubs like these you can get the career trifecta: resume boosting opportunities, professional mentoring and advice, and club merch! Even though I was a very chilled member of MUPA, the study sessions they held which were tailored to each subject felt as personalised and as pastoral as an iddy-biddy year 12 classroom. Did I mention the expertly filtered and relevant resume-boosting gold that lands fresh on your FB-feed courtesy of these clubs?
Also, shout out to external clubs! Joining external clubs, say at your local council if you’re a domestic student or maybe a club online at a library or even a different uni around the city, is just as important. This again helps you to expand your social and professional networks as well as helping you to access holistic, social development that is not connected in any way to the college you are staying.
Many of the opportunities at college are advertised and handed to you — and yeah, that’s handy — but it’s also important to seek adventures that appeal to you as an individual, and that push you to sell yourself as your own entity, away from college
4. Let the college bubble melt before you!
So there you have it! Although I decided one year of the college lifestyle was enough for me, I encourage anyone and everyone to give it a go if you’re able and interested. Someone once told me: “You can move out of home anytime, but you can only to college once.” College can be exhausting, demanding and make you routinely pine for the warm glow of home, but it is truly one of the most uniquely riveting journeys you can add to your personal narrative.
You can’t go wrong if you join clubs in a variety of contexts and try to kill two birds with one stone by inviting your external friends and family into the college bubble every now and then, so they can give you fresh perspective on your home whenever you need it most. These small, early investments and first-semester efforts to get organised will save you from straining to pierce the bubble later; instead, you can let it melt in front of you when you reach the border, as all the hard work is done.
Cover meme credit: Leo Dunstan-Potter (Ormond College)
About the author:
Taylor is in her third year of a degree at Melbourne University, studying creative writing and psychology. She loves a good dose of pop culture and would love to be able to tell a story that helps people. You can email her here: firstname.lastname@example.org.