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Over the long summer break, yet another new building has popped into existence on the grounds of the University of Sydney. I’m talking about the Charles Perkins Centre, the new education and research facility tucked away behind St John’s College and towards the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

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Transition into uni is a big step. In fact, in the first few weeks of each new year, a lot of the students look for assistance to make the shift to uni life a little bit easier.

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Welcome, first years! Summoning every distant memory of my first year of university, I muster a sum total of: astonishment at the mere magnitude of the campus, pondering why nobody ever seems to be in a rush to be anywhere, rating subjects based on the relative weight of textbooks, timing precisely the walk from Redfern station to arrive at your first lecture at precisely 9:00am (factoring in a coffee detour) and discovering that it’s possible to alter your timetable so that you can routinise sleep-ins for the next few years.

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O-Week. A game for those who seek to find, a way to leave their world behind. The wild and wonderful campus around you is the University of Sydney at its very best – soak it up. Whether you’re fresh on campus or from the returning old guard, our glorious festival will be the most adventurous three days of your year.

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With the new year upon us, the time has come for prospective students to finally make that decision about what path to follow in 2014. Whether it be a gap year, full time work, full time study, or a mix of options, the best way to choose what is right for you is to gather as much information as possible to evaluate alternatives. For me, this is where Info Day was crucial as my last opportunity to ask all my burning questions, learn about enrolment and costs, get one-on-one advice about my options and find out about student life at Sydney. With UAC preferences due midnight this Saturday, explore your options at the University of Sydney this Friday 3rd January 2014 from 9am to 4pm.

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Info Day is a great opportunity to talk to someone before you finalise your course preferences. It's also a great opportunity to have fun. And who doesn't love fun?

The end of school is typically a time of traditions and rites of passages. When I think of my end of high school, I remember a blur of graduations, formals, muck-up days, exams, schoolies and seemingly endless holidays. All these are fun, but without a doubt the most exciting and important summer event on anyone’s calendar should be the University of Sydney Info Day.

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Under the overarching theme of ‘sparking change’, TEDxYouth@Sydney this weekend saw the University of Sydney and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) join forces to showcase young people with fiery passion: youth who light up their communities with ideas that empower and inspire.

As ideas ricocheted around the world to celebrate the global TEDxYouthDay, students from across Sydney broke with the Sunday ritual of sleeping, socialising and studying to brave the looming storm and explore what sparks are ablaze among Australian youth. From comedians, to acapella, to commentary, TEDxYouth@Sydney was bursting with big ideas, big personalities and big ambitions.

There were many original and intriguing entries in the University’s idea share activity, which asked attendees to finish the sentence “I will spark change by…’. Creative ideas included: 'being forever curious', 'loving one's body', 'free ice-cream' and 'eradicating misogyny'.

Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence spoke to an audience of leading educators gathered in a separate wing of the gallery. On a panel discussion with Blair French, Assistant Director of Curatorial and Digital at the MCA, and Chad O’Neill, TEDxYouth@Sydney Visitor Experience Coordinator and University of Sydney graduate, Dr Spence discussed the transformative and transformed role of education in the information age, highlighting that the central thread of university education is critical thinking.

Meanwhile, with a wall of rain falling behind them, five talented Sydney College of the Arts students perched on paint-splattered ladders to create a live mural, translating the speakers’ ideas to art.

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Above: Sydney College of the Arts students with their live mural.

The youth speakers collectively embodied a new breed of young Australians: young people who want to resist the narrative of Generation Y as restless and saturated with social media and instead show the gravity of issues that define the world we're inheriting.

University of Sydney student Katherine Hudson, who was named one of Time Out magazine’s ‘30 under 30’ influential people, was the opening speaker. Katherine spoke about the propensity for young people to be ‘Slacktivists’, arguing that there is no substitute for voicing articulate opinions in powerful ways.

“Why are we drawn in by politics that distract us from our opinions, from our power?” she asked. “We can't afford to be disengaged... Let's stop ignoring the need to act.”

High school student and youth parliamentarian, Theodora Von Arnim is no stranger to action, opinion and debate. Theodora asserted the importance of argument and conflict that “inspires people to do what they think is impossible”.

This notion of pioneering against impossibility resonates deeply with Melanie Tran, the first ever Duke of Edinburgh’s medallist to have Spinal Muscular Atrophy. With a wisdom that defied her 17 years, Melanie spoke at TEDxYouth@Sydney of how the confidence she gained through Duke of Edinburgh brought her to “a wider and brighter world” and fundamentally altered her outlook on life.

“It’s important to have hope and confidence in life, because these two things can take you anywhere,” Melanie said.

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Above: TEDXYouth@Sydney speakers.

A number of speakers shared formative experiences from their youth that kindled passions and questioned their assumptions. Natalie Wadwell and Lucy Meyle discussed the role of art and artists in the community, Aadi Ganesan compelled youth to use communication to fortify against mental illness, Vik Nithy spoke on meditation as a means for overcoming mental health challenges, Genevieve Fricker scrutinised the influence of the media on individuals, and Kimberley Abbott argued that social business can unleash the potential of both others and of ourselves.

Then there was Brendan Maclean’s unparalleled eccentricity, Tom Ballard from Triple J's hysterical exploration of the similarities between seemingly diametrically opposed “heroes” and “wankers”, and University of Sydney student Hannah Ryan’s thought-provoking talk questioning whether self-censorship on social media comes at the expense of courageous ideas.

Inordinately clever and bold in their ideas, the TEDxYouth@Sydney speakers had ideas worth spreading that sparked conversations worth having. Most importantly, the talks prompted questions worth asking for the young people in attendance.

As TEDxYouth@Sydney came to a close, there was palpable excitement among the attendees. With thoughts lingering and ideas stirring, 220 young people left emboldened to become agents of change. I recently blogged about the inimitability of TEDx talks. TEDxYouth@Sydney 2013 exceeded expectations and was the genesis of many extraordinary ideas. If these young people are the future leaders of Generation Y, I can assure you we’re in good hands. In the words of TEDxYouthSydney 2013 speaker Vik Nithy, “what would you do if you could not fail?”

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Above: TEDXYouth@Sydney speakers had ideas worth spreading that sparked conversations worth having.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about uni but were too afraid to ask....
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