Thursday, March 5, 2009

T-R-I-N-I-T-Y

After a few days of recovery, I can finally write about my first week in my new home: Trinity College. As I said in my last post, "college" means something quite different from "university," although in the States we tend to use the terms interchangeably. A college is a tight-knit residential community where you live, take your meals, participate in clubs and sports, and make your closest friends. Each college has a number of administrators, tutors, and other staff, and often a library, a chapel, sports equipment, music practice rooms, and a number of other facilities. Here's a little more about Trinity specifically.

Trinity is the oldest college on the "College Crescent," where the twelve residential colleges sit just north of the University of Melbourne. Each college has its own buildings and grounds, fenced off from the crescent. Of these twelve, most are quite small-- the four worth mentioning are Trinity, Ormond, Newman, and Queens, and from what I gather, you really want to be in either Ormond or Trinity. Ormond is quite beautiful, with large Gothic buildings much like Princeton's, and it is the largest college on the crescent. Of course, all its students are jerks and we hate them. They suck.

In all seriousness, I can't imagine a better place for me than Trinity. At 280 students, it's just the right size to be close without being oppressive. It's very difficult to get in, and all the students are top-quality and a bit more diverse than the rest of Melbourne Uni (including not just Melburnians and people from regional Victoria, but plenty of people from interstate and international). Trinity's buildings, while not as ostentatious as Ormond's, are beautiful and quaint, kind of like a little bit of English countryside. There's a world-class choir here, and although I decided not to sing in it, I enjoy hearing them from time to time :) The college has tennis courts, squash courts, music practice rooms, and art studio, a nice library, several common spaces, a large (Anglican) chapel, lawns, trees, and a nice big quad called the bulpadok (buhl-pah-DOCK), which right now is unfortunately being torn up to put in water retention tanks and drought-resistant turf.

I live in a very small building called Dorothy, which houses only thirteen people and is situated on the very edge of campus (closer to Ormond, our neighbor, than to the rest of Trinity). It's a smallish cottage, and its inhabitants have a reputation for getting very close as they are all first-years and fairly isolated (basically the Forbes of Trinity). My hallmates are definitely my best friends at Trinity thus far; they're all great fun. Also, I am the only exchange student in sight (there are only seven of us in total, scattered across the college). There are twelve freshers (first-years) including myself, one senior (n.b.: "senior" here means upperclassman), and our floor tutor, Emma, who lives in a flat on the first floor with her cat, Leo. Emma, although a lovely woman, is not someone to cross, so you'd better make sure you know the emergency phone numbers and don't make a lot of noise at night.

But before I go into too much detail about daily life at Trinity (I can save that for another post), I'll tell you about . . . O-WEEK.

O-week, or orientation week, is basically a weeklong combination of actual orientation, bonding, hazing, partying, and general mayhem. On Sunday morning, the first-years flooded in with their parents to move in; at noon there was a chapel service, then a picnic on the lawn, and then a formal admissions ceremony in the dining hall. For the purposes of Trinity, I'm considered a first-year (although I'm older than most of the second- and third-years), so I stood awkwardly in my long black academic gown with about a hundred gawky eighteen-year-olds, and signed my name in the Registrar's book when I was called. After the ceremony, most of the parents left. . . then it began.

We started with a "floor meeting" . . . all of the Dorothy kids crowded into Emma's flat to go over essential information on emergency procedures and other mundane aspects of college life. This was also my first interaction with the people with whom I'd be living, so I was a tad apprehensive. From there we went to dinner, and were then broken up into small groups and assigned to a member of the TCAC (Trinity College Activities Committee? anyway, they were a committee of about seven who basically ran the show for O-week, with seven RAs and about thirty "buddies," volunteers from second/third/fourth year who helped out), where we did silly icebreakers and things and tried not to be awkward. It was interesting for me to be both a participant and observer, as I could remember most of the events of my own Frosh Week from Princeton two and a half years ago. We then moved to the JCR (Junior Common Room), a combination common room/bar that's actually close to Dorothy.

In the JCR, the TCAC gave us a history lesson on Trinity in play format, outlining a bit of history as well as alluding to some of the traditions we were joining. However, the "play" lasted only about ten minutes until we were herded through the doors and ran as fast as we could through the long hallway of Lower Clarkes, where scenes of Trinity life played out in the doorways that flashed by on either side-- an awkward tutor/student meeting, a wild dance party, the choir singing in the elevator as we dashed by. The freshers, buddies, and TCAC streamed into the Gourlay Basement, which was decorated with red, white, and green streamers and balloons and thumping to the heavy bass of some serious speakers. It was a great way to start what was essentially a fresher mixer, and we danced the night away and stumbled into bed late that night.

The next morning dawned early as seniors rushed through our corridors and dragged us out of bed at 8am for a grand breakfast on the bulpadok (the bul), complete with tables, chairs, and TCAC waiters in tuxes as the buddies danced on tables to the music blaring from Behan. After breakfast, we donned our bright blue fresher T-shirts and crowded onto trams headed for the city (about a hundred and thirty people on something the size of a normal bus . . . we even crowd-surfed one girl). We were forced to run around the city holding hands in single file, occasionally stopping to do things like beg for change, drop onto our backs and flail around, and do the hokey-pokey in Federation Square. Of course, the whole time we're screaming and cheering like idiots, making sure the entire city knows who we are and where we're from. Exhausted, we piled back onto a single tram to head back to college just in time for lunch. After lunch was an "Academic Orientation," then the whole troop again piled into a tram to the nearest thrift shop (Savers) to obtain costumes for the various theme parties of the week.

The theme of our O-week was "In the Beginning," which served a double purpose-- on one hand, it was a meaningful reflection on the beginning of a major chapter in our lives, but on the other, it was a great way to theme the week's parties; each night was a different creation story/myth. The first night's party was Garden of Eden/Temptation/Casino, complete with leafy jungle decor, poker/blackjack/roulette, and even live snakes to hold and play with. Costumes included skeezy casino dudes, apples, snakes, and pretty much anything involving leaves or playing cards.

The next morning we were rudely awakened at 8am once more, this time to learn the "Fresher Dance," a . . . creative . . . routine to "Push it." After breakfast we headed to Uni for some more orientation goodness (almost a complete waste of time, but a good four hours of my day). Then back to Trinity for a 2.5 hour "College Life" orientation, where Dean Campbell and others covered EVERYTHING on life at Trinity. After dinner was another party, this time themed as "Supernova." We were told to wear "fluoro" (neon colors), and the party was basically glowsticks, UV lights, and lots of fluorescent paint (rave!). The coolest part of this one was that it was held in the Dean's front yard!

The next day was more Uni orientation (DEFINITELY a complete waste of time), followed by a Greek-themed toga party on Behan balcony. After dinner we headed to the Melbourne Pool for a moonlit "Neptune's night" and spent a fantastic couple of hours batting volleyballs around and playing Marco Polo, until we all trooped back to college exhausted.

Thursday included an event called "Mr. Squiggle" (cover each other in as much paint as possible), then an intercollegiate lunch at one of the other colleges on the Crescent. After lunch was back to Uni for a Clubs and Societies expo-- everything from the Medieval Reenactment club to the Physics Students Society to the More Beer! club, with upperclassmen out in force to recruit new members. I'm now on the frisbee email list, a member of MUESC (the Melbourne Uni Engineering Students Club) and a member of MUSEX (MU student exchange), both of which have great parties/events and whose members get discounts at various places. Meanwhile, back at Trinity, all the other seniors who hadn't been part of O-week were arriving. We mingled on the bul before dinner, and then we had our first formal hall (there's a high table, you wear academic gowns-- more on this later), followed by the Ice-Age themed "First Frost Ball." The theme was "a touch of frost," but basically a dressed-up classy party in a big tent on the bul, including a snow machine if you can believe it. This was our first chance to meet the rest of Trinity's students.

Friday was Trinity's own Clubs and Societies Expo, where I signed up for a few community service activities and the Wine Cellar club, which holds wine tutorials every other friday and excursions to Yarra River Valley wineries. After lunch we returned to Uni for even MORE clubs and societies-- I chatted with several of the Christian groups and got myself on their email lists as well. Friday was the hottest day so far since I've been here, probably about 30C (hey, if I have to convert so do you!). The afternoon, however, was the seemingly innocuous "TCAC play and fresher photo" . . . I suppose we should have realized something was wrong when they herded us onto the tennis courts, closed the gates, and surrounded us, shaking the chain-link fence and yelling at us like we were gladiators about to be fed to lions. Although I won't divulge the details of the next few hours, suffice to say that I was officially inducted into Trinity and I came out on the other side very, very messy. After just enough time to clean up, we had informal dinner followed by a music revue in the chapel of both freshers and seniors, of which I was an appreciative audience. The party that night was fairly tame (Yin Yang themed-- wear black and white), which I think we needed after a long and busy week.

Saturday morning was the Race Around the World (i.e. Melbourne), which I have saved for my next entry. because it was amazing and ridiculous and I have lots of great pictures. That night, however, was the "Commencement Dinner," a formal affair which involved a multi-course dinner, various speeches and awards, and general merriment to mark the start of the semester. The event was followed by a crowded and crazy party in the JCR, a great finish to a fantastic O-week.

There you have it-- I believe the most exhausting (and fun) week of my entire life. Please forgive me for writing so much, but as you can tell . . . there was a lot to write about! I'll have to deal with various other important things (like actual classes and Uni/college life) in a later post.

PICTURES (note: a lot of my pics (including lots of me draped in live snakes) were on a disposable camera that the TCAC wisely gave us . . . I'll put those up when I finish the camera)


Supernova night/Fluoro party


after getting covered with paint


First Frost Ball


Dorothy crew looking classy for Yin Yang night (yes, Craig cut up two suits and sewed them together)


some crazy Dorothy guys before Commencement Dinner

3 comments:

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Joyce said...

Hello!

I'm currently thinking about which University of Melbourne college to apply to and I'm leaving toward the more traditional triad i.e. Ormond, Trinity, and Queens but I was wondering if there was anything that distinguished them from each other? (reputation wise, student life, traditions, features, etc...)

Thanks!
Joyce

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