Australia’s leading international student news website

O-Week: How to get the most out of it

Karen Poh

Tue Feb 22 2011

Singapore Students Society, Melbourne University

NEW year, new country, new phase of life with newfound independence and a new blank page to start your university life on – it doesn’t get more exciting than that.

Orientation week is an international student’s first taste of university life, and many come charged with high ideals and expectations of what it’s going to be like. After all, you’ve seen the happy smiling faces on university brochures – everyone’s warm and friendly, and it’s going to be easy fitting in, right?

Photo: Wan Shing Lang

Orientation week is the perfect time for making friends and expanding your social network. Photo: Wan Shing Lang

Yes, but not quite, for me at least.

The nerdy college graduate that I was, I had taken my mother’s advice to “study hard to get into university” (if you have Chinese parents you would get this).

And now that I was in, then what?

The journey matters

The best piece of advice I’ve received is this – university is as much about who you meet and what you do, as the courses you undertake. The university experience is just as important as the degree you will receive at the end of your undergraduate life. When it comes to finding a job, employers value those who aren’t just good at burying their noses in books, but individuals who are open-minded, possess good interpersonal and communication skills, and leadership qualities. All these can be honed while you are still at university.

The journey matters - the overseas student experience is as important as the degree you will receive at the end of your course. Photo: Wan Shing Lang

The journey matters – the overseas student experience is as important as the degree you will receive at the end of your course. Photo: Wan Shing Lang

Make friends

So go ahead, make new friends. Don’t spend all your time with your head down checking the latest status updates on Facebook or Twitter, or clinging exclusively to your close circle of friends.

Networking is a word you constantly hear in the business world. And it’s true. So much of life is dependent on the people you know. Some of the best connections I’ve made are those from my schooling years – friends who have given me a helping hand later on in life, lending me their expertise in areas I needed the most.

No doubt, it can be a pretty daunting experience stepping into campus surrounded by throngs of people from all around the world. And unless you’re the flamboyant people-magnet sort, it’s hard to overcome your shyness in a large crowd. But the start of the year – when everyone is new – is the golden window of opportunity to make friends. That’s what O-week is for.

Take advantage of small group settings. Smile, and introduce yourself to the person walking next to you when you’re touring the campus/faculty/city. Engage in small talk – ask them where they’re from, what subjects they’re doing this semester, what their hobbies and interests are. Initiate, and round up a few classmates to form a study group. Eleven years on, I’m still good friends with the first person I met on my first day on campus.

Plug into community

You need a house for the body and a home for the heart – and finding a community to plug into will help the settling in quicker and more enjoyable. University clubs and societies are a good place to start.

Here, we name a few from Melbourne University:

Malaysians of Melbourne University (MoMU) was originally established to bring Malaysian students together on campus, but membership is open to anyone who is interested in learning more about Malaysian culture, food and tradition.

Events taking place next month include a welcome barbecue at Flagstaff Garden (March 6), a beach outing (March 12) and treasure hunt (March 20). But the club’s most popular event is the annual three-day two-night ski trip to Falls Creek in August.

The membership fee is $10, and students can sign up at the MoMU booth during O-week or email for more information.

Like MoMU, the Singapore Students Society (SSS)was formed to bring the Singaporean student community together as well as help them integrate with the larger student body at Melbourne University.

Social events they’ve organized in times past include day trips to Mornington Peninsula, Chadstone Shopping Centre, Brighton Beach, the Tulip Festival; Mahjong and Left-4-Dead tournaments; and casual “makan” sessions during the semester.

Day trip. SSS members had a field day at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm.

Day trip. SSS members had a field day at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm.

Annual highlights to look forward to are the National Day Parade and Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations.

If you’re joining for the first time, don’t miss the three-day two-night camp from March 11-13 at Wesley Point Camp, Eppalock. There’ll be canoeing, archery and group bonding activities to bring new and current members closer together.

To join, visit the SSS booth at Melbourne University’s Union House from Monday to Friday, between 12 to 2pm, or email for more information.

Originally the Overseas Commerce Students Society, the International Commerce Students Society was first established in 1993 as the voice for overseas students within the Faculty of Economics and Commerce.

It has since broadened its objectives to empower and position students both local and from overseas in the context of a global marketplace, highlight career and employment opportunities both locally and internationally, and update members with news relating to accounting and financial firms, as well as changes to the industry.

Inter-faculty events, such as functions held in conjunction with the International Law Student’s Society and the International Engineering Society, are also held regularly to expand member’s networks.

ICSS events worth noting this year include the Semester 1 Orientation Barbecue (March 1), a day trip to Yarra Valley, and the futsal event Goal for Charity to raise funds for victims of the recent floods in Australia.

The majority of the club’s members sign up at the C&S Orientation Day. Or, you can visit the ICSS booth at Union House from Mondays to Thursdays between 12 and 2pm when term starts. For more information, contact the club secretary Joleen Teo (

If you’re into dance, you must check out Melbourne University’s Flare Dance Ensemble, which has grown from strength to strength through the years.

The dynamic student-run dance group provides a space for university students to indulge in the many expressions of dance, from urban, jazz and hip-hop, to ballet, contemporary and ethnic dance – and members get a chance to learn, teach, choreograph and perform and explore new styles and forms of dance.

In addition to the annual production held around October every year, the ensemble also performs at some of the hottest nightclubs and events around Melbourne. Events lined up so far this year include a gig at the upcoming Night Market at Melbourne University.

Those interested can sign up at O-week on February 24 and 25 from 10am to 3pm at Wilson Hall, Melbourne University. Or, if you’ve missed it, you can drop by one of Flare’s dance classes to sign up. Check the website for timetable details.

Early bird memberships are on offer till the fourth week of semester at $15. Normal memberships cost $20.

Stay safe

And finally, do remember to stay safe amid all the excitement that university life has to offer.

Social events can sometimes involve alcohol, and there may be peer pressure to drink. Know your limits, eat before you drink, and say no if it’s just not your thing. You don’t want to mark the start of your university life with unglamorous photos and videos of you posted on Facebook or YouTube.

Have fun, and start the year with your best foot forward.

Meld Magazine’s O-week coverage is proudly supported by the City of Melbourne, Yahweh Asian Grocery, MoMo Sushi, Kairos Hair Story, and ChilliPadi restaurants at Melbourne Central, Australia on Collins, Waterfront City and Watergardens. Click on the links for store locations and other information.