By Rainjan Blakers
Moving interstate is, in itself, a daunting experience, so when I decided on moving to Melbourne as a student for uni, it was especially nerve racking. Born and raised in Hobart, Tasmania, I moved to Melbourne to study a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne after a gap year. With this move, one of the first issues I faced was accommodation. Many students, especially those from interstate, will realise that when it comes to accommodation there are a host of options in Melbourne – from student rooms and shared houses through to my personal favourite and final choice, residential colleges. I was lucky enough to be accepted into University College (UC), my first residential college preference. While leaving home was a scary prospect, the idea of entering a completely new environment with a bunch of other university students made me excited about the new opportunities that awaited me.
In the past I had only been to Melbourne on short holidays, but I had never stayed for more than a week or so and therefore had quite a limited understanding of the geographical layout and transport options in the city. However, from the moment I arrived at UC my fears and nerves were immediately put to rest by the friendly cohort of O-Week leaders and staff. To put this into context, O-Week leaders are a group of second year students who volunteer to help mentor the new first year students during orientation week. By having these O-Week leaders available to talk to, not only was I able to get more in-depth knowledge on how the college functioned, but I was also able to find out more student related queries such as the best hang-out spots and particular college events to look out for.
It took no time at all to bond and form friendships with many of the other first year students. We were all encouraged to get to know each other through a range of fun and easy games and introductory activities in our first week at the college. Many of the friendships that I formed during these first days became an integral part of my support network at university, and to this day are some of my closest friends. However I didn’t realise the strength and importance of this support network until a little later in my college experience. As with all students, I felt my first taste of homesickness during my first few months at the college. Not only was I able to confide in many of my new friends, but a bunch of friendly second years invited me to the park for a kick of the footy and a coffee to take my mind off my homesickness. Since then, both my college mates and I have consistently used one another as support during everyday struggles, as well as with problems at university. This has allowed us to all succeed together and create lifelong friendships that will reach far beyond our university years.
Moving interstate for uni and being able to call a college ‘home’ made the transition incredibly seamless and enjoyable. Having such a central base has also made exploring and getting to know the city a much more fun and easy experience. As an avid football fan, I love being able to simply jump on the tram and head to the MCG to watch a game, something I have done on numerous winter weekends during my two years here to date. On top of this, the location of University College means that it is a simple ten-minute walk to my university classes, which are just down the road. The supportive staff at University College, and the various study resources and amenities provided, have also allowed me to focus more on my studies and spend less time on other everyday concerns.
Not only is there on-campus support for any study issues I was facing at university, thanks to dedicated resident tutors (RTs), but University College also takes care of several other aspects. For example, students living out of home must cook for themselves, make sure they can earn enough money to pay bills and, in many cases, have minimal privacy. Whereas at UC, three meals are provided per day to students, all bills were inclusive of the fees I paid to live at the college and each student room was completely private, meaning that you can easily lock yourself away if you needed some downtime or to eliminate distractions. Some of my favourite memories from college come from these simple benefits, such as having the opportunity to eat with my friends every day. We are often found an hour after the meal has finished still laughing and hanging out in the social hub that is the dining hall.
For anybody moving for uni, I highly recommend looking into a residential college. I have loved my two years at University College and I’m particularly grateful for the role the college played in making me feel at home and making my transition to Melbourne that much more memorable and enjoyable.