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My first semester at Uni is done. And, somewhat surprisingly, I am still alive, with a full set of limbs and vital organs still intact. Even more surprisingly, I’m going back for another one in August. The time seems ripe for a good old heart-to-heart, blogger to blogee. And so, despite running the risk of being typecast as some kind of “philosophical list-maker”, I felt it would be appropriate to pass on some of my hard-earned first year wisdom.

1. Make friends
I’m sure this is harder at main campus (what with it being roughly the size of a small country and all), especially if you already know a few people from your high school. From speaking to friends at main campus, it sounds like it can be easy to stick to people you already know. But it would be a wasted opportunity if you didn’t fully exploit the new plethora of eccentrics, fashionistas, bohemians, conservatives, communists, and the general riff-raff that Uni has to offer. Unfortunately I can’t give you a tried and true formula for actually making new friends. But if I was you, and you wanted to be friends with me (which you most definitely do), a bit of your choc-chip muffin (see point 5) would be a sure-fire way to my heart.

2. No-one will chase you up
Some might be surprised to learn that at Uni, teachers don’t really care about your work ethic. You don’t want to hand in some work? No problem, in fact, all it means for them is five more minutes they can spend lovingly on their house of cards/elaborate dominoes chain/analysis of Bach’s five-part fugue. Or, if you believe the words of our illustrious harmony lecturer, lovingly pasting chord charts over Shania Twain posters.

Don’t do a harmony assignment? No-one cares. Never hand in an essay? No-one cares. Don’t show up for sol-fege classes? No-one cares. No-one that is, except YOU, when you’re repeating the subject next year because you failed. Scary? Hardly. Apparently it’s called “independent learning”.

3. A mark of 80 is really very good
Not to sound like a complete intellectual snob, this is especially hard to get used to coming from a selective school. Sort of roughly speaking, 0-50 = Fail, 51-64 = Pass, 65-74 = Credit, 75-84 = Distinction, and 85-100 = High Distinction. Coming from an environment where anything below 90 is practically the same as failing, Uni marks can take some getting used to. But, that being said, if you stay on top of the little assignments and occasionally do the recommended reading and listening for your subjects, you shouldn't have too many problems.

Slightly related to this point - don't be scared to ask for extensions. If you have a half-decent reason, your tutor should be compassionate. They don't want to read a terrible essay any more than you want to hand in one.

4. As you did at school, when all else fails, remember the big Cs. Conceptual and Contemporary.

Worked examples:

“Um, this composition doesn’t sound very nice.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s supposed to represent the post-modern condition of aporia and make you feel uncomfortable and lost and alone… Bye.”

“You’re a bit out of tune…”
”Actually, I’m working on a contemporary Australian work with really tricky microtones, jerk.”

And the following, a direct anecdote from a friend, regarding a prominent Australian composer:

“We had Colin Bright talk to us and he was like "structure can really be mimicked from anything, like when I was writing my double bass concerto I was at Dee Why Beach and I looked at the cliff and decided that the structure should be like the shape of that cliff at Long Reef. Yeah.... no that's the basis to a really great composition.... a musical dyke”.

If Colin Bright can draw structure a piece around a large chunk of sediment, so can you. Allegories for political struggles are always good concepts for compositions or improvisations...

5. There is no situation which cannot be improved with the addition of a choc-chip muffin from the music café

Probably the most important point. I cannot think of a single moment this semester in which I would’ve said “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly eat a choc-chip muffin from the music café. This moment is perfect as it is.” Those muffins ($2.65 with an access card) are heaven-sent instruments of the peace, forging bonds and sparking friendships wherever they roam. Heated in the microwave downstairs or chilled fresh out of the fridge, these muffins must be tasted to be believed.

Hopefully one of these pointers will help someone, somewhere, at some point in time. Meanwhile, I'm off to enjoy the holidays!


Liisa this blog really speaks to me, especially the last point..... hmmmmm... choc chip muffins are the best... I don't think I can make it til next semester for another one lol

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