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Making friends

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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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We’ve all been told that when it comes to securing an internship or job, often it’s not what, but who we know that makes the difference. For those of us who are a little shy or self-conscious though, the task of networking can feel intimidating, if not somewhat contrived. But it doesn’t have to be...

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Normally university education and fortune-telling don’t go together, but if you’re interested in finding out what studying at Sydney Uni will be like, then you should definitely be coming to Open Day!

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Extreme Theatresports. The one night of the year when the Project 52 comedians turn Hermanns Bar into a mess of honey, silly string and sherbet; and somehow get away with it. The annual event, now in it’s second year, attracted the usual Sydney University comedy crowd and a few extras to fill the room to capacity.

Hosted by Steen Raskopoulos and Michael Hing, the event was a one not to be forgotten.

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It’s not everyday you’re given the opportunity to present your findings in an international conference – especially as an undergrad student – but I’ve just returned from presenting at one in New Zealand about improving the experience of first-year uni students.

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Exams are over! Time to hit the beach and enjoy the great weather Sydney is having! Or, even better, to jet off to Italy!

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Twelve days, five of the top universities in China: this is the Go8’s Student Leadership in International Cooperation Project 2013.

In Shanghai, we had a one-day visit to Fudan University. We spent the morning getting to know a group of students while touring the main campus to experience, for a brief period of time, student life at Fudan. Our afternoon itinerary consisted of a volleyball game with students – what we didn't know was that we'd be playing the Fudan men’s volleyball team, the number one men’s university team in China. They were very kind to us though – a group of PhD candidates, most of who had not played volleyball since high school!

Read more about Erin's trip.

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So it’s that time of semester when you really start to dislike 'past you' – who took so long to open up those textbooks, didn't take enough notes in lectures and misspent the entire mid-semester break indulging in chocolate and TV. Fortunately, all hope is not lost when it comes to preparing for mid-semester exams and assignments: Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) are available in the Business and Law Schools.

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Youth – it’s that time between being a child and an adult. And, as a generation told both to “act our age” and to “never grow old” it’s a little hard to work out who we’re supposed to be or how we’re meant to act at any time. This week, however, is National Youth Week. A time for those aged 15-24 to reflect on the power of this odd period between the freedom of childhood and the responsibilities of a mortgage.

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Starting University is a pretty damn exciting time in one’s life. For me it was such a mix of emotions. I cried at enrolment and nearly exploded with excitement at 0-Week. At the time, I had spent a year off from study, travelling and working so I was very ready to learn.

If I could go back and tell 19-year-old me a few things, what would I say?

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Walking through uni the other day I saw people setting up a multitude of stalls along Eastern Avenue. A giddy sense of excitement welled up inside of me as I braced myself for the fun ball of happiness that’s about to explode on campus: O-Week!

Speed dating in Manning Bar isn't the only way to meet new people during O-Week; you can also get an Access card and join a million clubs and societies. But what exactly are clubs and societies?

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(Left: Victoria Baldwin and Christopher Hay mid-performance, Right: Esther Rolfe, student volunteer at the gallery Photos: Esther Rolfe)

As a student at Sydney University, I’ve had a lot of wonderful opportunities thrown at me. Whether it is space and money to rehearse and put on a comedy show, or exhibit some photographs, there just seems to be endless opportunities for students to express themselves.

Over the summer, classes take a break and Uni students kick back, relax, travel or get creative. I’ve been working fulltime over the summer and working on some challenging creative projects to make sure I don’t go insane.

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(Left: Team Johnson & Friends receiving 5/5 for their performance. Right: 'best new improviser' Rubee McManus)

Thursday 25 October was the culmination of months of improvisational practice and wit, coming together to produce the Sydney University Theatresports grand final. It was an epic night. Manning bar was packed out an hour early and the bar was running low on jugs and glasses. If those two factors were anything to go by, it can be deemed an instant success, yet the actual content of the night far exceeded this initial hint of greatness.

For the past two months, the lovely Bridie Connell and prolific Tom Walker have been hosting weekly Theatresports competitions between 12 teams. It was fierce. Apparently there are a lot of funny people at Usyd. Funny people that can be funny on the spot.

The night saw a furious comedic battle between the 6 qualifying teams; Choose Your Own Adventure Time, Fireman Spam, Doppelgangers of New York, Johnson & Friends, First World Solutions and S Club 3.

Teams were easily distinguished by elaborate costumes, which also provided comedic relief when they malfunctioned.

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Verge Festival is in full swing. Opening Night last night (with the help of some beautifully warm weather) went off with a bang! The Halloween themed opening party was host to many bands making wonderfully loud noises, some SURCAS kids twirling fire and even a tiny dog that wandered about in the Verge Dome who was quite open to affection from strangers!

I was lucky enough to be part of a piece of Headphone Verbatim Theatre called “A Tree Ascending” that opened last night. This piece is inspired by the light installation, “Palettes of Urban Green” on the Law Lawns (you may recognise it from the Sydney Vivid Festival).

The piece was devised by a group of student performers, who are all from the Sydney University Dramatic Society (SUDS). It is centred on the theme of sacrifice.

Headphone Verbatim is a contemporary performance technique where interviews are recorded with audio devices; the audio is then edited and played back through an IPod into the performer’s ears. The performer then repeats the words they hear, a moment after them, attempting to tease out the nuance in the interviewee’s voice.

The piece works as a guided tour. It begins on the Cellar Lawns (home of SUDS) and small groups of audience (of 3 or 4) are guided on foot through the most beautiful parts of the University, whilst listening to the performers recount these interviews.

These are intimate performances, with interviews of real people speaking honestly and profoundly on the subject of sacrifice.

There are only two nights left of this show, so if you would like to come, check out the Facebook eventand prepare yourself for a night of insightful entertainment.


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The 2012 Masters of Human Rights and Democratisation (MHRD) course in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is halfway through its first semester.

31 students from 20 countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Sweden, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Nepal, Taiwan, Pakistan, Philippines, Peru, Greece, Iran, Tibet and Mongolia make up the 2012 cohort.

Highlights of the semester so far include drama specialist Peter Harris from Tel Aviv University, who flew into Sydney to facilitate a three-day human rights drama workshop. Peter carefully forged a hugely diverse bunch into a tightly knit group that in fact had some very real talent.

Complementing our dedicated faculty staff led by Dr Susan Banki, we’ve also been fortunate to have highly regarded guest speakers including:

- Professor Jay Winter from Yale University on ‘Human Rights from the Bottom Up’;

- Associate Professor Danielle Celermajer lectured to us on indigenous peoples rights;

- Dr Devorah Wainer on the Midrash Social Research Methodology;

- Dr Nicola Piper on migrant workers rights;

- Dr Wendy Landbourne on transitional justice;

- Professor John Keane (author of ‘Life and Death of Democracy’) on democracy; and

- from the US, Professor Darius Rejali (author of ‘Torture and Democracy’ and Winner of 2009 Lemkin Award) on yes, torture and many other subjects relevant to our program.

Notwithstanding the gravitas of our studies, the 2012 MHRD cohort is a lively (a little kooky sometimes), garrulous gang (outside of class) and most importantly, a bunch of optimists.

Quite a few are already lamenting that our first semester will be coming to a close soon and we’ll be splitting off to our partner universities for our second semester in January 2013.

For more information on the course, visit the website.


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I’m back at uni for the beginning of another semester.

For the past week, I have to be honest, I was dreading it. The memories of study stress and exams have haunted me, but the holidays have worked their magic and I arrived today fresh and surprisingly happy.

Another thing about returning, throughout the day, I saw about a million people I knew. It was like a line of people waiting for me at the gates, just to smile and say hi, and give really good hugs. Even when it was people I don’t talk to and only see, I saw them smiling and walking past with friends. It just made me really happy.

When I think back to this time last year, of course it felt good coming back then too, but there was definitely more walking around alone. I’ve just met so many wonderful people recently, and I’m so glad that we’ve grown closer. Last year they were “these people I know from uni” and now they’re friends.

This has been really cheesy I know, but happy blog posts will hopefully pass on some of my immediate happiness. Talk to me in about five weeks and see how I’m doing. I might be a little more stressed, but I’m pretty sure this remnant joy will buffer it.

Oh yeah, and there’s that resuming learning thing about uni, of course… expanding knowledge, etc. I am very excited about that too. Really.

Everyone has people they know of, but don’t really know. These people are the less-than-acquaintances. You’ve possibly been introduced, but will never really learn their name. I have many of these relationships, thanks to my almost complete first year at university. (AHH) I realize now that I have given each of them a nickname in order to remember them. Now, instead of remembering their name, I can only remember the nickname.

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Mondays, for most people, are absolutely horrific. This day usually involves minimal to no breaks, running from one side of campus to the other in the tiny ten minute gap we have (if the lecture hasn’t run late) and attempting to retain concentration after seven hours worth of information has been shoved into your brain. This is not what Mondays are like for me.

I arrive at uni a comfortable 11:30 and casually walk to my English lecture. After that I have my English tutorial. Then a gap. Lovely right? NOT SO.

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Apologies firstly for the low word count of this blog. I have exams coming up, the stress of which renders me incapable of pretty much everything - including studying for exams.
Secondly, it has recently come to my attention that an alarming number of people aren't releasing the full potential of their calculators. I have a trick, taught to me at the tender and impressionable age of 7, that will make you and your CASIO the talk of the town.

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At this time of the year, the going gets tough. Lots of study to do, lots of essays, lots of research. It’s also the time of semester where you receive results from your earlier endeavours, which will bring you to the horrible realisation that: the semester will be over very soon, and you haven’t learned anything.

However, this is no cause for stress. Grab a textbook, hit the library or any of those great online databases (JSTOR is really popular among the English nerds), get under the covers and construct a cubby house from books, your laptop, a teapot, biscuits and a torch. You can learn anything you need to if you’ve got a couple of free days.

What really sucks about this period of uni is that you start to miss your peeps, compadres, komrads, chums, dawgs, bras, hombres, war-buddies and what have you. To paraphrase David Byrne: “You may ask yourself / where are my beautiful friends?

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The pie machine’s making another guest appearance. While I was sitting up in Manning with a friend, I watched as the line for the mystic pie machine grew from zero, to one, to two, to three. Amazing, I thought, people actually use the thing. Shrapnel’s slotted in and the patron watches on bewildered at the black magic; two minutes later, a steaming hot pie (some say the origin of the pies are divine) drops down, and one’s suspension of disbelief is broken. Having a mind that doesn’t tend to stay on topic for long, my thoughts give way to something of greater importance.

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The lights on the porch were just right, enough to see the glass you are drinking from but not the pores of the person you are talking to. There was a bunch of relaxed looking students enjoying their weekend in the best way possible, with a crispy snag rolled in a fluffy piece of bread. I sidled up to the evening’s host to get some clarification about the guests that I didn’t know.

D: “So who’s that guy?”
H: “Oh he’s the neo-realist.”

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If you had told me in second year that there would be a time in my university life that I would make it through four weeks of semester having only visited Manning Bar twice, I would have laughed in the face of your naivety. Manning was my second home, for lazy lunches in the sunshine, afternoons that drift into evenings on the balcony, or concerts & club events that rock the stage. I knew the tech guys, the bar manager, the Access office crew, and the guy who booked the gigs. You could go alone and know there’d be someone there to talk to. We’d catch up and joke about our growing qualification… a Masters in Manning.

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Le français, they say that you can seduce any girl with a cleverly crafted smattering of this language of love. I have to admit, that's one reason why I'm studying it. But what's the use of studying Old English if there aren't any medieval women to whom I can profess 'thou hath ankles most shapely and pale'?! No, Old English isn't the best language to pick up with on campus. But as a fresher, I might as well be speaking it when I try to navigate the sandstone mazes of Sydney Uni.

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If you’re reading this, you need to get a life.

JUST KIDDING.

Making friends at uni is harder than at high school, because there are so many people bustling around doing their own little thing. Then again, the fact that there is a bar on campus can, on occasion, lubricate the situation.

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One thing I was always curious about was what kind of bag I should bring to uni every day, and what people filled it with. So here goes:

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