The first week of classes has been full-on from day one. Sleep has become an invaluable product that is easily drained away with nights full of organisation for the next day and 7am morning starts. My first official week as a Commerce student has passed, I am now onto the second, and I must admit, with 3 assignments already, I am feeling slightly overwhelmed. Of course before I came here I had expectations or ideas of what it would be like. Now many of those expectations or ideas have been forced to change, or ignored altogether.
My first expectation of university was that they would ease us into the subjects. I thought we wouldn’t receive any assignments for about 2 weeks. However ‘easing’ new students into their first year at Melbourne consists of about 30 minutes in each subject explaining the outline of the course before having the lecturer direct you to the internet site containing the first assignment!
The actual work itself has also varied in what I thought it would be like. A SHORT essay at uni (within the commerce department at least) is considered to be about 800 words. In year 12, many of the ‘normal’ essays we wrote were 800-1000 words, so you can imagine what I’m now expecting a ‘normal’ essay at Melbourne Uni to consist of! At the same time though, I didn’t expect us to do things like multiple choice tests that contribute to our mark. (One in just a few weeks, to be completed online, contributes to 5% of a subject mark!).
Lectures are exactly like I expected, with at times maybe 500 people in one lecture theatre, scribbling notes on paper while attempting to listen to the lecturer at the same time. Finding the best way to take down the information in lectures is something one must discover for themselves and I am currently switching between printing out the lecturer’s slides or overheads before a lecture, and adding notes to them…or alternatively using just a pen and paper to take down what I believe to be the most important points (saving a tonne of paper and ink in the process!).
I didn’t know what to expect of my actual lecturers but so far all of them have been nothing but top class; all obviously very intelligent and leaders within their respective fields. I already hold a deep respect for all of them. (*prays my lecturers are reading this and take it into consideration when marking my assignments!*)
Tutorials were something of which I had no idea of. It turns out that tutorials (also called ‘tutes’) are probably the one thing at uni that semi-resemble the ‘high school way of life’! It is a good feeling to have a format of learning you are familiar with! Usually a ‘tute’ consists of about 20 students and a Tutor who manages the class. Now the tutor can range from any age, but is always someone who has a deep understanding of the subject they are taking. During tutes the aim is to work in small groups to discuss practical exercise relating to the previous lecture for the subject. It is about participation and formulation of ideas through interactive discussion. Added to this is the fact you have to complete small assignments for your tutors, which they then mark and give back to you. These marks contribute to your final subject score. The best thing about tutes? The fact you get marks JUST FOR TURNING UP!! Imagine if high school was like that?! Part of your ENTER score from just arriving at school each day!
So enough about the academic side to uni, of course one of the most important aspects of attending university is the ability to experience a great social environment and amazing opportunities for extra-curricular activities. Personally it saddens me that so many more students these days seem to be attending university for a simple degree and nothing more.
I see this as a direct response to the Howard Government making it harder for those on low incomes to survive in our society. In particular with what seems to be regularly increasing HECS fees, the removal of worker’s rights and the toughening up of the welfare system….so many more students facing university on low incomes are now forced to ignore anything but necessary degree requirements in favour of what can be up to, or more, than 30 hours a week of part time work.
Universities are the intellectual underpinning for the economic, social and cultural development of our society. Through their teaching, research and community service, universities make a vibrant and energetic contribution to the current and future success of Australia. It is here where the youth of today have the best opportunity to develop and expand their horizons with the aim of contributing to not only their own lives, but the lives of others.
With that in mind, I know I am one of the lucky ones as I do not have to face the rigorous part time work schedules many students have to. Hence, I have taken it upon myself to throw myself into the extra-curricular environment of university. I have strong hopes and the goal of broadening my own perspectives, growing as an individual and making myself the best person I can be in order to be a future leader and great contributor to not only Australian society, but the global society we now live in.
So from this perspective, so far I have become a member of: Melbourne University Debating Association (MUDS), The Political Interest Society, The Womyn’s Club, Melbourne University Tennis Club (MUTC), Melbourne University Greens, The Commerce Students Society, The Financial Management Association Australia (FMAA)…and I have been dodging between which political party club to affiliate myself with! The Liberals have been MOST hospitable and I have appreciated it greatly. A particular shout-out of thanks to B.R of the Liberal Club for always being one of The Most Friendly People I Have Ever Met! So far the Liberals have tried to ply me with free alcohol, invites to play paintball, free lollies, and enough compliments/charm to fill a wheel-barrow! And someone tell me please…who can resist the cute little Ralph Lauren polo-shirt that by now has become mainstream fashion culture (I CAN!).
Now I admit that I am fully aware I do not have the time (or energy) to commit myself in full to all these clubs, however I feel I will go along to meetings/events and soon decide which clubs I feel most comfortable in and most willing to focus the majority of my time in. The others I will remain more of a peripheral member, attending meetings and events when I can.
So far I know I will definitely have an active membership of the tennis club as I am joining their Sunday afternoon social competition. I also went to a Political Interest Society meeting the other day and was immediately impressed by the intellectual quality of the other members! I can’t wait to debate and discuss political issues with them! Even in the introductory meeting a group of us started an interesting discussion (not on politics!) about the current VCE ENTER system, questioning its value and the positives and negatives of such high scores being required for degrees such as Law.
Another group I did consider joining was the Archon Leadership Program. I was very interested in the program after talking to one of the Directors by the name of J. After making the effort to attend their intoductory/information session I was very disappointed. I felt they lacked the ability to clearly set out what their program was about and how they planned to practically:
“unlock the secrets to ultimate success”
“develop quality character that will attract followers”
“maximise your personal productivity”
“positively influence those around you”
“build your resume”.
*source: Their website
All in all they came across sounding like a positive thinking cult with a whole lot to say and not much to do about it. Their first meeting featured a Really Nice Aussie Guy who was the life coach of some random sports club on the peripherals of Melbourne (You can probably tell I’m not a big sports fan!). For at least half an hour he talked about how he rose from being nothing to something. I think it was meant to be inspiring. Or maybe I was just impatient at the time?
To me, and I must ascertain that this is my Personal Opinion Only…I felt attending was a waste of my time. Listening to motivational speakers may be somewhat motivating, but building leadership requires more than just hearing what other people have done with their lives. I wanted to hear the pragmatic vision of the club, what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it- and I wanted to hear this from the second I walked in the door.
I must admit I left the meeting half way through (to find like-minded people in the Political Interest Society meeting!), so I hope that the guy soon quit talking and the Directors soon started explaining something more practical….
Something tells me that didn’t happen however, as I approached one of the Directors before the start explaining I was very interested in being involved but I had to be at two places at once during the allocated time period, and was it ok if I left early? I would have thought he’d tell me anything important before I left. He didn’t.
Right now I am also considering joining AIESEC – a youth leadership program on campus. It sounds like a great opportunity to challenge yourself and benefit society. I was massively impressed with the information session I attended last Thursday. Everywhere Archon Leadership went wrong, they went right! I personally approached the President, Alex Lobov, to congratulate him on a fantastic effort after the presentation. I very much want to join, though right now I am wondering if I want to join something that is a minimum time commitment of 1-2 hours a week. I am just a bit unsure at this point if this could become a future problem with my expected workload. I think I will email them and ask if it is a big problem to reduce your level of commitment if need be.
Already I am understanding that time management skills at uni are a must. In some ways I wish that I had more time to come to terms with everything first, (it is all so much to take in and understand) but then I feel that perhaps this way is best as it is forcing me to immediately face the realities of uni life -that one must be independent, focussed and self-motivated. Anyone can get a degree, but getting a degree with top marks (one of my goals) is something that requires effort and dedication.
Despite feeling uncertain of where I stand in relation to the workload expectations and the abilities of other students in my subjects, I know if it gets too much help IS available to me.
During O-Week one of the things that surprised me the most was the amount of services available on campus for students to use (95% being completely FREE!). The difference is that if you are having problems, the onus is on YOU to find and access the help yourself. No one will magically appear and ask “Are you ok?” or “This is where you go to get help and this is who to ask for.”
Getting help requires taking responsibility for yourself. To some students straight out of high school, this task may appear foreign and overwhelming, but I would ask those people to remember that most of them are by now 18, and holding the responsibility of voting, drinking and driving a car – is taking responsibility for your own learning too much to ask?
For added thought, if we look back 100 years ago, people of our age were more often than not out working or married with a child on the way. Looking after our own self seems a minimal responsibility compared to what our forefathers and foremothers had to do!
In the coming weeks I will do my best to provide online links to places at uni that can provide useful services, but at this point I will provide a link to the alphabetically ordered directory of everything on campus.
So far I have found this index most useful for finding specific things or simply just exploring what is available for us to access.
If worst come to worst, risk embarrassment and just ASK SOMEONE AT UNI!
The other day I couldn’t deal with the prospect of waiting around campus for 4 hours until a management tutorial. I had no idea who to approach to get this changed, as the Alloc8 program continued to tell me that every other suitable tute time was full. I went to the general faculty office, approached the most friendly looking woman at the desk (key point, someone with smiles lines is most likely going to be the best bet), asked politely and concisely “Excuse me but who would I go and speak to in order to change my management tutorial time?” This lady was very kind and directed me to the 5th floor of the Babel Building. On the 5th floor I approached the department desk to see a sign directing me to a certain room between the hours of about 10:30am and 12:30pm if I wanted to change my tute time! With 15 minutes to spare, I hurried down to the room, knocked at the door, explained what I wanted and within TWO MINUTES was in my ideal tutorial time!!!!
Now of course, it might not always be this easy (my friend D had trouble changing an economics tute time as sometimes classes are filled to the limit, and technically you are meant to be available from 9-5pm every week day for uni ), however he did eventually get it changed through persistent emails asking if anyone wanted to swap times with him.
My point is though, with a bit of forced confidence and not being afraid to ask, you can get what you need done quickly and efficiently, alleviating possible stress from a problem.
So with everything said so far,
I must finish this entry for now, saying a big GOOD LUCK to all my fellow first years, and a warm welcome to all my other readers!