Our first year at the University of Melbourne

A biomedicine student’s perspective

It all started on Tuesday 26 February when I and around 300 other nervous first year biomedicine students scurried into the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Theatre for our 9:15am welcome lecture during o-week. I should add that it took me three laps of campus to finally find it, with the Lost On Campus app being my saviour. Surprisingly, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be, waking up at what was a horrendously early 7am – I had not fully grasped the fact that I would be having four 8am lectures each week at this point, and my post year 12 sleep schedule had made me nocturnal.

My main fear was that I would never find friends, but within a split second of entering the lecture theatre another student, which automatically made me feel at ease about starting university, approached me. Making friends and meeting people wasn’t so hard after all!

I went on two campus tours, one with the Biomedicine Students’ Society, who gave me plenty of tips and tricks for the year, and another with an UMSU host, which was also super helpful.

Despite being able to converse with many amazing people in my course, I guess I still felt like a fish out of water at university after that first day.

Then clubs day came, and I joined many clubs (side note – I didn’t know o-week would be so expensive!). However, despite the charge to my account, I made plenty of new friends with similar interests and felt much more at home on campus. When semester actually began, my eyes didn’t want to open on the first day, and within 30 seconds of waking I knew I would be living out the entire duration of my degree in a perpetual state of exhaustion.

My commute time to university is about an hour, so I decided to wake up at 5:30am, giving myself an hour to get organised (and not forget my lab coat and goggles!). At 6:30am, armed with a coffee and a 10 minute motivational speech from my mother about how proud she was of me, I set out for my first official day at university. I got there at 7:45am, and calmly walked across campus from the Royal Parade tram stop to the School of Mathematics and Statistics (the other side of campus). Somehow, the lecture theatre was already full, so I timidly kept my head down and found a seat alone. Luckily, a friend I had made in o-week had spotted me, and sat with me for the maths lecture and then the chemistry one straight after.

So, what did I learn after my first two weeks?

Well, here is where the problems started. After our first chemistry lecture, what seemed like a stampede of arts students were trying to get inside the lecture theatre while a stampede of biomedicine students were attempting to leave, and I had my biology tutorial straight after it!

I’ve never run faster in my life, and who would’ve thought I would have been running to the monstrosity that is Redmond Barry!

On top of that, the elevators in that place are almost always full! So I climbed five flights of stairs, and it was at that moment that I realised I would never do cardio at the gym again – I got what I needed from the university. Not to mention, Redmond Barry has more doors than Monsters Inc. I had to enter about five different entrances before I even saw a stairwell or a lift.

When I finally made it to the tutorial, everyone in my tutorial was friendly, and I felt a little less intimidated there than I did in the lectures.

After that, it was a chill three level descent to my first ever-practical class. I was eternally grateful that I had the most patient lab partners as well as demonstrators! I’m hopeless in the lab, and another one of my fears was that people wouldn’t be able to deal with me for long, but just as with everything else I had thought would happen, the worst never eventuated.

Firstly, I never understood why university students complained about 8am lectures as much as they did until I understood what was required from you to actually get to them on time. No, I’m not just talking about one 8am a week – I’m talking about multiple, like a four-out-of-five-days-a-week frequency. It requires an entire lifestyle shift! Your life physically has to shift back two hours or so every day. I really want eight hours of sleep a night, but I don’t think this life is going to permit it.

One upside of that many 8am lectures?

The sunrise each morning.

They are almost more vibrant and beautiful than the sunset! I’d never I noticed that before, because I despise early mornings.

Secondly, the 10 minute walking time between classes are my saviour! Especially when I’m running from the Royal Parade tram to the other side of the university at 8am, because I’m already taking too long to get out of bed in the morning. I already have a never-ending list of things I have to do and more work load gets added to LMS every time I log in. I guess I’m just have to embrace this awkward feeling of always having something to do.

Things aren’t as bad as what some would have you believe.

You’re late to a tutorial? No worries, the tutor will understand. Can’t execute a step in a practical? Your demonstrator won’t execute you. Have no clues what’s going on in a lecture? You’ll find that 90 percent of students you speak to afterwards were in the exact same boat.

You’re not as alone as you think you are, and there are tonnes of support out there for you.

I had this preconceived notion that in biomedicine everyone would be super organised and across every single little thing the degree throws at them, but it turns out that we are all feeling the same about many different situations.

Right now, I’m feeling a little excited and nervous for what’s to come – will the course load get worse? Probably, but hey, I love what I’m studying so far, so I guess that’s a plus!

Chiara Beccia is a unimelb adventures contributor. She is currently studying Bachelor of Biomedicine and Italian at the University of Melbourne. You can follow her on Instagram @chiara.angelica

An arts student’s perspective

A fresh start is the weirdest thing, as if everything that happened to me to this point in time was a prequel to what comes next. University was like a word populated by twenty something year olds. They milled about with rucksacks, mostly in little packs of three or four. Jeans almost ubiquitous, although a few dressed in bright colours, punk or hipster.

One thing that excited me was cultural pluralism within campus, where people of colour were celebrated, encouraged and accepted. Indeed, an environment showcasing the increasing moral and cultural diversity prevalent in Melbourne.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my first week at the University of Melbourne, it’s that every day will gift you with a plethora of freebies and food, whether it be a smashing barbie on the fluorescent south lawn or mouth watering croissants offered by our very own French club. I felt at ease because at UniMelb, there’s no such thing as hunger, as they’ve got you covered.

However, nerves inevitably kicked in as I entered into bustling buildings. I felt isolated. I had been surrounded by mates at school until now, who instilled within me a sense of warmth and comfort. I missed the intimacy and friendliness experienced within the constraints of high school. I was out of my comfort zone, I felt like a scapegoat.  I felt like I had to shy away from my loud and obnoxious persona to construct friendships and bonds. Thankfully, I was wrong.

Students at the University of Melbourne are diverse and unique.

After a week at the university, I can assure future and present students that your kindred spirit is out there. You just have to sift through the good and the bad to find friends who perfectly complement your distinctive character.

As someone who doesn’t mind a bit of a good, old-fashioned small talk, I actually enjoyed chatting to those around me and managed to meet some people in my course whom I’ve become great friends with.

My desire to strengthen my connections within UniMelb led me to the Union House sleepover; ‘twas a mad experience.

The night started with a few cheeky beverages, a bunch of tipsy individuals, and some smashing hits by the millennial hipsters, the chats. The o-week parties and events make good preparation before starting university, as the obligatory drunken night with thousands of other first years will undoubtedly saw the seeds of newfound friendships and romance, if you’re lucky.

Now, let’s get to the gist of things. After a long week of late night benders, consisting of hangovers and binges, the first week of introductory lectures is an immense blow to the system, as three months of stress free tranquility is put to an end.

To maximise your experience in the first week or two, try out some subjects from your course, and if they’re not for you, then it’s best change your electives and breadths before the deadline.

Mini Survival Guide:

Be disciplined: Yes, I know. Why attend lectures when you can watch them online? However, procrastination is the devil: it lurks. So, discipline is key in ensuring one missed lecture is not followed by a trail of stress, tears and sweat.

Be organised: organisation is the key to success. Please, for the love of Jesus, ensure all dates of practicals, assessments and exams are legibly written in either your University of Melbourne diary for 2019, or your personalised study timetable. This tip extends to life in general, such as protecting your room from transforming into a disaster zone throughout the busy semester – one that looks like it’s been hit by a drunken, chaotic cyclone.

Join clubs: I was fortunate enough to make heaps of friends thanks to my commitment to various clubs, spanning from French Club to the Political Interest Club. Students at the University of Melbourne are diverse, so there will undoubtedly be societies and clubs that attract your attention. You will see your friendships blossoming as you greet and meet fellow students who are your kindred.

The first week back will be undeniably daunting. However, making the most of your time at UniMelb will ease you into university life. Maybe join the fellow “yarrrgh sailors” from the Pirates Club and share a jug with ye scurvy crew, or make small talk with your fellow classmates. This will sow the seed of friendship, if it is meant to be. Lastly, be responsible for your learning. A good tip would be to not show up hung-over to your 8am tutorial – not a great look.

Oshini Senanayeke is a unimelb adventures contributor. She is a first-year arts student at the University of Melbourne. You can follow her on Instagram @ Osh_senanay

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