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Settling in

Written by Catlin Harvey

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As the beginning of classes for Semester One looms ever closer, here are a few things I wish I had known going into Orientation Week.

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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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Joining the stampede of uni students on eastern avenue for a mid-year start can be a profoundly daunting prospect. However, if you apply critical thinking (which you'll be doing for the next 3 to 5 bliss-filled years of your degree, so you might as well start on Re-O Day), uni is essentially a revolving door. Each semester is a refresh. A clean slate with new subjects, new teachers and new classmates. The nature of the beast means that you probably won't feel as new as you anticipate, but instead you'll have a pretty seamless transition granted you keep a few things in mind...

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It has been a while since I was in Year 10, but something I'll never forget was how stressful it was deciding what subjects I'd pick for the impending HSC. Not only was it time to actually start thinking about what I wanted to do with myself*, but it seemed like there was a new language to become fluent in too. Words like “ATAR” and “scaling” were casually tossed around, yet seemed key to being able to do what I wanted. All of a sudden I had to start making some big steps, but was scared to step anywhere for fear of jeopardising it all. So what should you do?

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Journalist. Politician. Lawyer. As professions go, these are some of the least trusted and most hated of all in society – and I happen to study all three! So why pick these subjects, and why study a combined degree?

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Week 13 just rolled past and suddenly STUVAC (the study vacation) has come knocking. If it's your first semester at Uni, you might find yourself facing final exams with scarily high percentage values, a few less-battered-than-they-should-be textbooks, and the classic "how did this happen?" moment. If you're a seasoned second or third year (or even fifth, like me), chances are you've just been hit by that horrible "how did I let this happen again?" crisis.

But by using the STUVAC burst of adrenalin, one week of intensive study can actually be incredibly productive. As Leonard Bernstein said: “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” so here's my tip for surviving STUVAC:

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Thinking about studying at Sydney, but not sure if you'll get a high enough ATAR for your chosen course? Come to our Revesby event to find your path to Sydney...

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Being a law student at Sydney Uni is not just about avoiding the pretentious people.

I’m a third-year Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Law student (although I once told a health science student that I study a Bachelor of Manning Bar, to which they just looked confused). Basically, being a law student means that while I drink coffee all day and make the most of having only 12 hours of classes a week, I get to complain about how hard my life is that I have to carry heavy textbooks around. So why did I choose this degree?

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I’m Megan. I’m a third-year Commerce (Liberal Studies) student and intern at IBM and I enjoy living life at an unsustainable pace. I micromanage to do lists, I’m a coffee aficionado and I’m strongly opposed to grammatical incorrectness.

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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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Week Four: the time when you start to think perhaps this whole Uni thing isn’t for you. You have a weird tutor that trails off at the end of her sentences, you can never keep up in lectures and you don’t really understand this whole ‘eLearning’ thing people keep talking about.

It seems at this point – whether you’re completely behind on readings, struggling to understand the basic concepts of your subjects, or haven’t made a single friend – that a lot of students just jump ship entirely.

But that's not the only solution. The HECS Census date is this Sunday, 31 March – your last chance to withdraw from subjects you no longer wish to take without attracting fees or fail marks on your academic record.

Here’s some ways to make this deadline work for you…

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As a new semester begins, all seems like it does every year. On the first day we arrive, confident of being perfect students with neatly ruled pages and sharpened pencils. We catch up with friends we only see during class time and sit in lecture theatres that are more full then they'll be for the rest of semester. However, the atmosphere is odd and slightly twinges at the skin. Something is different for me, even though most seems so familiar. This year I am a postgraduate student, working towards a Masters in Physiotherapy. What will it feel like to be a postgrad student?

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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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Every day I get up in the morning, get ready and walk to university. I go to classes, write essays and drink coffee. I cook meals, go shopping and live a life no different to the one I would be living at home. Yet somehow, nothing is the same at all.

Where I am right now – Bristol, in the United Kingdom – people don't use stoves, they use 'the hob'. They don't use White-Out, they use 'Tipex'. They don't eat Weet-Bix, they eat 'Weet-a-bix'. They don't eat chips, they eat crisps. If you cut yourself, you apply a 'plaster', not a band-aid. Snow Peas are called 'Mange Tout', Zuchinni is called 'Courgette' and Capsicums are called 'Peppers'. Cars drive at 70 miles/h and not at 110km/h. Things that are good can be described as “lush” or “mint”. Football matches are hostile, and Rugby matches are family-friendly. You don't go to ‘tutorials’, you go to ‘seminars’. It's not 6.30, it's 'half six'. There are no ATMs, rather, there are 'Cash Machines'. If you say 'bludge' nobody knows what you're on about. Milk comes in pints, and not litres. They don’t use a vacuum cleaner, they use a Hoover. They think Australians use the word 'Huroo' and drink Fosters beer. AND to top it all off, TIM TAMS AND TWISTIES DO NOT EXIST.

How is everything the same, yet so different?

See more of Sidd's posts.

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Enrolment for me was a painful experience when it needn’t have been. At the end of 2010 I was offered a place to study Arts at the University of Sydney. It was so exciting to me. After 6 months working as a receptionist after school and saving all my money, and 6 months touring Europe alone spending all my money, I was ready to study and ready to learn.

I opened the Arts Handbook to choose my subjects and the sheer number available overwhelmed me. I was meant to choose eight junior subjects, four for each semester and these junior subjects needed to lead to the major I wanted to do. I felt like then and there, in the summer after a very long holiday and time off studying I had to plan the entire course of my next three years. I was sufficiently whelmed.
I asked my friends for help choosing and they offered the following pearls of wisdom “do one about aliens, or gender stuff,” “do what you want” and my favourite, “follow your dreams.”

In the end I decided to just wing it, to rock up at enrolment, burst through the doors of MacLaurin Hall, and just choose then and there.

However when I got there, I was nowhere near as bold and confident as I had hoped to be. I received my forms, attempted to fill out a few boxes and then when it came time to choose subjects I froze. I couldn’t decide. Should I do Music? French? Biology? English? The possibilities buzzed around in my brain and I suddenly burst into tears. I looked around through tear-filed eyes. Other people had brought their parents. I should have brought my parents. Or my mum at least. Mum would have known what to do. I franticly scribbled that I would do Music, Biblical Studies, Australian Politics and Sociology and shoved it at the enrolment officer before I could change my mind.

I’ve now just finished my second year and see that my enrolment experience could have been entirely different. You can change your subjects very easily until the HECS census date, which is usually a few weeks into semester. And I only needed to nominate some subjects for the second semester, but could change them very easily too! Uni is much more flexible that school, there is greater choice and thanks to the online admin systems you can do a lot of it yourself at home. If you have any questions about enrolling to study at Sydney in 2013, jump on here and have a read.

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I can distinctly remember the first 20 minutes or so of my very first official day of University. I can't remember the date, but the month was March, and the Year 2001. Phowa. Yep - absolutely ages ago. ipods didn't exist and Noika phones were still way cool.

As is the case now, back then I was quite partial to parental moral support (I was only 17. I'm 20 Holy-Cow 9 now, but feel nearly exactly as I did when I was 17, which may not be a good thing), so I organised for my mum (who is a legend) to walk up from Central Station with me and to drop me off outside the little Gate-House thing next to Parramatta Road. You know the one. We always try and cross the road there against the red-light and risk getting squashed by west-bound cars turning left off Broadway. It's currently the home of the Compass Outreach Programme. Anyway...

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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.

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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We are now post mid semester break, and I’ve noticed that the ‘Yay! I can feel my mind working, I love learning new things!’ has turned into: ‘This is giving me a headache.’ This may be brought on by the realisation that I have to actually do work to pass. The next few weeks are chock full for assignments. As I’m writing this, I’m actually sitting in the Sci-Tech Library. It’s loud. I came here to write an essay and am beginning to realise that I may be one of the very few people actually trying to do work here.

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With all the facilities around campus at Cornell you would be easily forgiven for thinking you were on holiday at a five star resort instead of at one of the most prestigous and challenging universities in the country. The college is absolutely stunning during Summer and Autumn, with weather quite similar to Sydney, but apparently it makes New York City feel like a heatwave compared to how cold it gets in the Winter here.

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To continue for a bit on my theme from last entry - the joys of living out of home - I would like to recount the saga of the mouse.

When I moved in to Maison d'Erskineville, the guy whose room I was moving in to while he jetted around the world for six months hadn't quite left yet, despite the fact that he was no longer paying rent and I was living in his room. That is, his stuff was in our dining room in boxes and he was sleeping on the floor. He was having trouble with visas and stuff like that so we were cutting him a lot of slack, but despite all of this, it was becoming increasingly annoying having boxes of clothes, food and other things (?) in our eating space, looking ugly.

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There comes a time in everyone's life that we realise the full extent of a situation we've placed ourselves in. As a person, we are gifted with a sudden, overwhelming sensation of vision- like the shroud covering the days and weeks ahead has suddenly been torn away, and all you are left with, is *assumes full lotus position* a feeling of serenity.

Or so they keep telling me.

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Hey guys, so your first week of uni is over.

It’s getting a bit difficult for us bloggers to figure out who’s reading this anymore, and whether we should target this to year 12s or you first years, but if you recent high school graduates / current first years are still out there, listen up...

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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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Throughout the past year, nearly every person I meet who had been through the university system told me that “first year is the worst year, and it only gets better”. I had been dubious I have to say. Unfortunately, I wasn’t dubious because I thought “how could it possibly get any better than this?” (which would have been nice), but because I thought “how could one year make such a difference?”. Well, lo and behold, I was wrong.

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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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Get to know Newtown when you come to Sydney Uni. I’ve been living in and around Newtown for a few years now — here are some of the things which make it feel like home.

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I signed my first contract this week: I put my name on a lease. You’d think as a law student, I would actually be able to read and understand a contract. Haha, don’t be silly! Thankfully, the SRC was there to help…

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I’m a city girl born and bred. Hate the traffic, but love watching buskers at Darling Harbour, going for runs without being spotted by the whole community and being able to have a good boogie on more than one dance floor. But last weekend I had my first country girl experience. And I didn’t even spot a cow!

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Powers that be suggest that, rather than writing the blogs I enjoy most (you know the type, raving, political, or just plain unusual) I must once again return to the land of “my life as a first year student”. Well, let me give you a cheerful little examination of that other life - the life of the uni student who does not *drum roll please* LIVE ON CAMPUS OR IN A SHARED HOUSE! I LIVE AT HOME WITH MY FAMILY!

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Home & Away

4 Apr

For many high school kids thinking about going to uni, a big consideration is moving out of home. Whether it be into a college, the Sydney Uni Village (SUV), Unilodge or into a share house, there’s no disputing that the move from home can be a difficult, and for some, an emotional one. And that’s just the beginning…

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My cousin and I went to stay at our grandfather’s place in the holidays last year, and every morning was the same ordeal. After about twenty “five more minutes”s, she yanked my doona off and promptly walked out of the room with it in tow, to which I responded by curling up in her bed. Apparently. I don’t actually remember most of this happening.

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“The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and the bees, I want money! That’s what I want!” Or so the song goes. Although it may not be strictly true, I certainly am strapped for cash.

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For however long you’ll be at Sydney Uni, you’re bound to become tangled in the finicky world of student administration. Here are some tips on making sure you get the right answers from the right people

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Ok, so it's not exactly the most glamourous of subjects, but let's face it, actually getting to uni - safely, cheaply and quickly - is important. 3 years on campus has taught me...

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Remember that feeling of exclusion and rejection you felt when you weren't picked immediately for the netball team at school? (For those vertically-blessed and athletically capable people reading, spare a thought for the rest of the world.) Remember the sinking feeling you experienced when you knew that everyone else had been invited to a birthday party, and it seemed like you were the only one who hadn't been?

That's just how I felt when I sat down for my first Media lecture at uni, and began chatting to a girl named Claire...

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So you have just left school, complete with Careers Advisor and Counsellor, so who can you go to at Uni? We also offer these services, and a whole heap more. Part 1 or 1

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Look I know that you know that I know you know how to talk to people, but we might as well put it down in Blog form. That and its Sunday and I cant think of other things to write.

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Some people get excited about the huge amounts of sandstone available for your perusal at Sydney Uni. Here is the conversation i would have with the sandstone block five from the bottom (around head height) if it could speak and i was a crazy person.

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There has been lots of talk about what the University of Sydney Union (USU), but what is it all about? Well, its well tops, Ill tell you some more.

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The first few weeks of Uni are going to be great, but they’re a tad scary too. Here are some tips that I think will help you settle in to the grand old place

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For those of you considering studying Arts at Sydney next year (or Liberal Studies, or Media and Communications, or Education, or anything else Artsy) I recommend signing up to the Arts Network Transitioning and Mentoring
Program.

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