Just another (friendless) first year

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Thank God the holidays are over. I could not have coped with another day of summer monotony. The burdens of beaches, barbeques and babes have been detached from my shoulders; the memories of catch-ups and cricket lullabies once again confined to wax-locked diaries.

No longer will the noise of parties clutter up my calendar. Instead, university is back to rescue me. To deliver me back into a world of healthy intellectual debate. The familiar faces of Mr LMS, Mrs Supersearch, and Sir Redmond Barry await.

In spite of the bliss that a new semester brings, I am aware that the beginning of March also coincides with an incoming batch of fresh-faced first years. Rest assured, though; I am prepared.

We all know the first few weeks of uni can make or break a freshman – to borrow the trite American expression. Socially, camps have the potential to set a student up for the remainder of their course. The cheapskates, however, are left in a vulnerable position as they attempt to make friends the traditional way. I wish them the best of luck, because there are times when small talk can only reap so many benefits in a fish-tank of thirty-five thousand names.

Already social outcasts, newbies fast become subject to the sadism of lecturers. Did they just cover my entire VCE course in a single slide show? It doesn’t take long before everything one knows about anything is reduced to rubble; in its place are abstract theories that do little more than lift the egos of experts and fill otherwise content minds with confusion.

Unimelb’s latest inductees should be ready for a week of hell–but spare some sympathy for yourself. After all, you’re the one that has to deal with this new mob of undeserving crèche graduates.

The hostility we have for our juniors has been intact from a young age. For some, the initial feelings of bitterness began when Mummy and Daddy developed favouritism for the newer, cuter baby. Others can blame their primary school teacher, the she-devil that one day chose to concentrate their attention and affection toward the cute preppy. Failing to eradicate our jealousy, when we hear that a younger acquaintance has reaped success, we will either scoff at the apparent fluke or compliment them with a patronising gesture.

Amnesia is another cause of our antagonism. How often do we chastise fifteen year olds acting up, only to realise that we were twice as reckless at the same age? It’s easy for us to ask teens why they’re using fake IDs to spend their parent’s savings on alcohol, or participate in petty gambling. But a couple of years ago, those same activities were our glorified contraband. Was anybody shrewd enough back then to see our peer support buddies finding inspiration?

Perhaps our strongest reservation about such youngsters is their ignorance. I refer not to the intelligence of our first year brethren. Rather I speak of naivety, and overconfidence–the two factors that bring unbridled pain to the rest of us.

Lectures are filled with more stupid questions, South Lawn becomes home to more clueless know-it-alls, while course counselling sessions book out to cater for the rise in young ne’er-do-wells. In the meantime, the unwritten protocols of libraries, unionism and designated lunch areas are ignored. Add to that the thousands of lost children, and you’ve got yourself quite a mess.

Rumour has it that this is the very reason that prompted the controversial Melbourne Model. The University of Melbourne’s administration–keen to avoid the constant turnover rate of students–duly made their courses less attractive to youth, and more necessary for undergraduates.

You don’t have to study calculus to do the maths. Longer courses enable higher retention, while breadth requirements cause lower intake. In short, fewer new faces.

Fewer first years to worry about.

What this system fails to achieve, unfortunately, is an absolute cessation to the Melbourne Uni invasion. Whether we like it or not, first years are something we have to endure. And if education has given us any clues towards our future work life, we may even have to start getting used to newer, younger, and prettier faces intruding our personal space.

As experienced students–both of parmas and politics tutes –perhaps we’ve accidentally inherited a mentoring role. Perhaps it’s our responsibility to lead the way to these youngsters, to help them find their proverbial feet. Perhaps it’s time we throw away our walking sticks and lend these guys a hand.

The idea is terrifying; befriending a blood-sucking protégée, desperate to consolidate their first university pal. Yet all that is required is a good impression. Why not catch one off guard, and take the initiative to ask them where they’re heading? Replace your ageing grumble with a smile and nudge them in a positive direction. In fact, if each one of us nudges at least one first year, we’ll all be singing the same song by the Easter break.

And if you think that’s too much to ask, then consider this; it still beats the hell out of holidays.

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