By Joseph Barker (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)
My first few days in Perth proved equally as hectic as my final weeks in England. Having checked into the Ocean Beach Backpackers Hostel in Cottesloe, I was awestruck by the incredible views the beaches of East Perth offered. Following three days of recovering from jet lag (or relaxing with my fellow backpackers in paradise, to give a more honest appraisal), I had yet more issues to attend to. Setting up a bank account and buying an Australian phone proved simple tasks. Following several unsuccessful house viewings in a variety of Perth’s less desirable suburbs, however, I realized that finding accommodation would be more difficult than I first anticipated. In desperation, I attended a housing advice lecture hosted in UWA: to my surprise, there were still some spaces available in university halls. Following several frantic phone calls, Beck, a lady who worked as part of the college staff, kindly picked me up from my hostel, gave me a personal tour of the hall and after a few minutes signing paper work I was officially part of St Thomas More College!
I had arrived slightly late for O-Week (the Aussie equivalent of Fresher’s), but was still able to get the most out of my first few days in Tommy. The variety of organized activities ranged from laser tag to casino nights, ensuring all the freshers were able to make friends easily, which truly helped to promote Tommy’s motto ‘Smallest College, Biggest Spirit’. Throughout the week we also practiced a college dance routine to Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it off’ which was, to my surprise, suggested by the guys on college committee. The final day of our first week culminated in a college dance-off, where we pitted our moves against the other four UWA colleges on the stunning beaches of Perth city. The bay was a sea of blue and yellow as our 150-strong flash-mob got down to ‘This, sick, beat’, although our efforts were only rewarded with second place in the competition and the following Aussie beach ‘barby’. The competitive nature of our dance-off highlighted the hugely intense and simultaneously positive college rivalry within UWA, which is continued throughout the year by a plethora of inter-college sporting competitions, ranging from football (or soccer, as the Aussies incorrectly name it), to the slightly less serious ‘ultimate frisbee’ contest.
The nature of college also created a strong impression upon me in my first few weeks, as it differed greatly to my experience of halls in first year. Firstly, several of my peers already knew each other from before college either because they had come to university with friends from their home town or had stayed in college in previous years. These older students mostly occupied positions on either the student committee or were residential advisors who ensured the well-being of students. Additionally, a large proportion of students were not at UWA, but attended other universities in Perth such as Notre Dame or Curtin University, further adding to the diversity within our college. Furthermore, a large proportion of my fellow collegians were also completing international exchange programs, meaning there were fellow British international students, as well as European and American students. Although the induction week in college and make-up of the student body differed to what I expected based upon my experiences of the British university system, my first few weeks in college flew by in a blur of socializing and studying, as college life provided an unforgettable introduction to Australia.