Hey PheeBee, at the start of this year, I resolved myself to being a more intersectional and outspoken individual who would educate herself more on the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight for reconciliation with Australian Indigenous communities. However, I am finding myself mentally exhausted by the effort that education and empathy takes. Do you have any tips on how to maintain a fighting spirit when you aren’t part of the marginalised community that the movement is about?
Dear Emotionally Exhausted,
I totally get it! My anxious overly empathetic savoir complex is really showing up right now.
Here’s how I spiral: SO MANY bad things are happening to people and it is SO unfair and I am just sitting here taking up space when people are dying and getting shot and the world is just on FIRE. And we are running out of water and I am running out of energy and now I have spun so much I need to unravel and there goes the whole day and I have done nothing but feel sorry for myself. What a waste!
I have been there. Many times.
The world really is a little bit on fire at the moment. It seems you have decided to become a firefighter. HOT DAMN. Firefighters are HOT, I can’t wait to see you in (or out) of that uniform. However, being a firefighter that actually puts out fires is a lot. There is smoke, and soot and it’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to see. It’s also completely overwhelming walking into burning buildings. It is also disheartening realizing that the structures we lived in couldn’t protect everyone, they weren’t fireproof. This fiery truth enlightens us and burns us little too.
Fire brings light, truth. This fire has illuminated a lot of things in the world. Truth can be hard to accept, especially if maybe we confirmed the strength of the burning breaking structure. Maybe we built some of it, believed in it too. Maybe sometimes we ticked yes on that housing scheme for our own convenience and ease – letting someone out to freeze. Now though, don’t look away. Let the proximity to the heat humble you, you don’t have it all figured out, you don’t have all the answers, or the whole truth and you don’t need to. We are not Prometheus, an overbearing god, here to “enlighten” or “civilise”.
Instead, look at the leftover ruins and listen. Let history whisper through the walls, they speak in many voices and languages, not heard before, familiar, so close, a mother tongue you once knew. The spoken for will whisper to you, they don’t have a home and when you have no lands, you live in your stories.
We think fire is new, but it’s ancient, we have learnt to tame it before. Truths have been ignited before. Hear them speak, and the fire will be tamed into a campfire, where they will tell you their stories. You’ll hear them whisper when you read their books. Read about how Malcolm X learnt to love his red Afro, how even after all the fame, he still saw himself as a street rat and those streets still loved him too. Listen to Maya Angelou “dance like I got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs”, even if “ You may write me down in history, with your bitter, twisted lies “ . Read how they took everything that life gave them and rebuilt beautiful powerful homes out of ashes.
Take in that warmth, that wisdom, as you sit together circled by this light glow, wood of broken homes as kindling. Knowing that time is cyclical, and this has happened before. We will continue what other people brought to us. Torchbearers carrying on the truth.
Being on fire, the act of suffering, also makes you who you are. Don’t take it from me, take it from the people who have been there. We have all felt what is to be like to be burnt. Stings are part of the gig as a firefighter, but the people with burnt homes and lost loved ones have to rebuild their entire lives. Listening to them will build your resilience. You are not a survivor. You are a service provider. You do your work and let it go. Leave the shame and guilt at the door. Shame and guilt will paralyse you, and people with PTSD need you to act.
I am still learning how to use my writhing fire hose, how to not create more chaos. I am still trying to not let my fear and guilt engulf me. And as you walk into these burning buildings, these broken systems, remember you have a mask, keep it on before you aid another with theirs.
I look to these powerful figures to guide me, warm me, and remind me and I am a side character carrying their story. We carry water, they call the shots. Hear the shots fired and see what those sparks ignite. Truth will always show itself; fire will always bring the heat, whether it’s warming or burning. Listen and it will warm you, it won’t be easy, but we won’t be alone.
Stay hot and close to the wise,
2018 was a big year for women. Things are changing (albeit slowly) all around the world. Trust me, I know women, and in 2019 women want to finally be treated equally. Women want and deserve respect.
It’s about time for things to change, and for that change to come about, us men have a responsibility to change our behaviour towards women. Now, I’m an equalist – you probably won’t find anyone who treats people more equally than me. Because women have been treated like second-class citizens for so long, it’s only fair that they get some special treatment to make up for it. In 2019, women want to be respected? Well, I can go one better. In 2019 I don’t respect women, I worship them. Here’s my guide on how to worship women in 2019 and move a step closer to a gender-equal world. Ladies, this year’s on us.
First, interacting with women. When interacting with a woman, you should appear disinterested and not listen to what she’s saying. Although it might sound idiotic, just think about it from a woman’s perspective – easy! Women are constantly being talked over and interrupted by men, and so when a man is enthusiastically engaged in a conversation, alarm bells will start ringing for a woman that she’s about to be talked over. By acting disinterested, a woman will feel comfortable with you, knowing that she’s safe from interruption and can talk all she wants.
To display your polite disinterest, you should avoid direct eye contact and look into blank space, mouthing incoherent words every once in a while to indicate your commitment to a deep rambling daydream. If you do accidentally make eye contact, a wink (subtle and playful) will resolve this mishap.
Now, when speaking to a woman, make sure to use affectionate pronouns instead of her name. Using a woman’s name can be forward and intrusive. Instead use terms such as ‘love’ and ‘darling’. In conversation, words can have different meanings for women, a phenomenon known as ‘playing-hard-to-get’. To understand what a woman means, you must have a strong and stable intuition to decipher her riddles. For example, the phrase ‘please do not talk to me anymore, you make me highly uncomfortable’ can mean literally what it means. But it can also mean ‘please keep asking me when you can play guitar for me and if I’ve done acid before.’ It’s up to you to take some responsibility and understand what’s being communicated between the lines.
As words have different meanings for women, this means that women can be prone to confusing themselves when speaking. As such, when in conversation, you ought to assume what I have coined the ‘Disposition of Paternalistic Doubt’ (DPD). Essentially, what you want to do is question the legitimacy of anything a woman says, like a dad doing school revision with his 7-year-old daughter. Constantly pepper her with questions like ‘Really?’, ‘Are you sure?’, ‘Actually I think it’s…’. Now, there is a second step that goes hand in hand with DPD. Before she gets time to react to your undermining jab disguised as a question, explain her own point back to her, to clarify that she’s not confused and talking about the wrong thing. Even though women might not like being talked over, sometimes it’s for their own good and they just don’t know it. Regardless of their expertise and your likely lack of expertise regarding that topic, even if you can only offer a broad and very possibly incorrect piece of information, it’s best to play it safe and interrupt her than run the risk of letting a woman embarrass herself.
For conversation topics, feminism is always an easy go-to. Be sure to open a conversation by telling them about the collection of feminist literature you either don’t actually have, or do have but haven’t read. If asked your opinion, deflect this with vague and fluffy comments such as ‘yeah I really like how Clementine Ford highlights the rampant sexism in Australian culture’, or offer them your unread copy of The Second Sex to borrow.
Finally, conversation dynamics can change slightly on social media. When texting a woman, the two key forms of communication should be music recommendations and poetry. These help to culturally educate and enlighten her, while also containing melodies and rhyming, making them easy for her to remember. For music recommendations, try the aggressively sexist hip hop you listen to that totally contradicts the feminist values you told her you uphold – she won’t notice. For poetry, anything sexual, preferably those that use weird and jarring fruit metaphors.
So, there it is men, follow this guide and you will transcend respect and break into a new realm of how to properly treat women. It might not be what women say they want, but they do. In 2019, instead of respecting women, it’s time to worship them.
What is perfection? The Oxford Dictionary says that being perfect is to be free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; that it’s a state of being faultless. For me, the idea of perfection has aspirational value but is a little counter-productive.
Perfection is something which we struggle to put our finger on, but which is strangely familiar to us. It permeates through teachings of faith, themes of literature and the brushstrokes of art. Pop-culture though has really brought perfection to the forefront of our minds. Advertising selling us the ‘perfect’ lifestyle and simultaneously reinforcing our own sense of imperfection. But perfection is so often defined in the negative by expressing simply what it is not. Faith and religion, for example, articulate what is the divine by acknowledging and condemning our own imperfection.
When we were young and starting to learn a new musical instrument, because our parents thought that it would make us smarter, or we had just started a new team sport, we were constantly subjected to the phrase ‘practice makes perfect.’ But, since perfection is an innately unattainable standard, what are we actually being taught to aim for?
Towards the end of last year, I too was told to practice. A very seasoned editor said to me: ‘you need to just become comfortable with putting out articles that you’ve done your best on and are 80 percent happy with… and get over your perfectionism.’
My desire for my writing to always be perfect, to project my ideal self constantly, had been preventing me from actually writing. I’d have an idea but then would abandon it because of my uncertainty over whether I could make it mind-blowingly awesome. Uncertainty about whether I could make it perfect.
I was introduced to the idea that you should, as a general rule, become 80 percent happy with your work. The remaining 20 percent is significantly more challenging and is largely affected by factors outside of your control. These could be your physical health or your state of mind, or you might not ever get to 100 simply because of subjective standards.
When I wrote my last column piece, some people gave me constructive feedback, some agreed with the sentiment and others dismissed my thoughts as part of my personality style. None of this was unexpected, nor was it unwelcome. But I achieved my goal to push through my perfectionism, and as a bonus, I was able to inspire a couple of readers’ existential crises.
The thing is though, practice does actually make you better. Practice makes you engage in a process of trying things out and succeeding a little bit and also failing a little bit. In so doing you are actively learning what doesn’t work, what is useful and what is unnecessary, enabling you to allocate your time and energy appropriately.
If you are going to perform a music recital you have to work on the parts of the music you find most challenging because otherwise, the overall piece will sound terrible. You won’t know which parts of the music they are until you’ve completed at least one trial run or practice.
It is also important to bear in mind the need to be constantly pushing yourself to do better. It is not enough to reach the point in a task where you think you have reached your 80 percent and then automatically finish it with a thought of “it’s good enough”. It is not good enough – it is a cop-out. It is a cop-out because you are not actually improving, or even really completing the task, you are simply compromising within your comfort zone.
Perfection may be unattainable, but your best is a moving goal post. By not pushing the boundaries or the goals, you are settling for second-best. You can move it forward by one centimetre, one metre or one kilometre – it does not matter; what matters is that you have improved and that you have achieved your best. That is a truly admirable accomplishment.
So, there you have it! Me writing a column this year is really just a slightly polished form of practice and all of you readers are here for the ride.
Ben Lawrence discusses his unhealthy perfectionism. Especially unhealthy when you consider that perfection is innately unattainable.
The weekend before O-Week 2014 blazed hot enough to fry eggs on the pavement. Temperatures soared above 40 degrees as my parents and I scrambled to furnish and stock my studio in Davey Lodge. A dozen hours, one trolley load of groceries (with more fresh food than I would have in my pantry for the next year or so) and a few Big W pickups (including my trusty 15 dollar fan) later, and I was alone.
I was 18 years old. I had never drunk alcohol before. I knew one other person in Davey, and only a handful on campus at ANU. I was alone, and I was exactly the same as thousands of other first years.
Davey is essentially a giant concrete brick without air conditioning, so in that first weekend we found ourselves in the only part of it that was air conditioned – the common room. It was that Sunday night, gathered around a table as we attempted to cook pasta for a dozen or so of us on Davey common room’s solitary, temperamental stovetop that I first felt what this place, and its people could mean. It was then that this place first felt like home, and the people I shared it with as one community.
Amazing how a shared meal can turn strangers into family.
A week later, we made some pancakes on that stove. By the following week, I’d managed to secure some money from UniLodge’s Community Spirit Fund – short of 200 bucks, to make pancakes every Saturday morning for anyone who wanted to come. We picked up several slabs of pancake mix and a jug of maple syrup from Costco and away we went.
A week or two after that, I ran for first year social representative for the UniLodge Residents’ Committee. Nearly five years on, I’ve been many things and held many roles since. But it’s on that shitty stovetop that I began, and when I think back, it’s those glorious February and March Saturday mornings flipping pancakes among friends and strangers as we stumbled through the whirlwind that was our first term at ANU that I loved the best.
Firstly, if you are reading this, there is a good chance that you are an ANU student. It’s not guaranteed, but this is a student magazine, so I’m reasonably confident. Secondly, by virtue of even clicking on this link or picking up this magazine, you are at least vaguely interested or curious about ANU as it exists as a community. Thirdly, if you’ve made it this far, you don’t find me intolerably dull (which I appreciate).
If you stay with me a bit longer I’m going to try to convince you to serve. I’m going to attempt to persuade you to unironically, passionately, fearlessly, and genuinely give yourself to something beyond self-interest. I don’t know what that thing is – we each have our own shitty stovetops, the catalysts of human empathy and value that call out to us “this matters”, and maybe you haven’t found yours yet. But you will.
I’m asking this because the future of our Commonwealth, and our world, depends, and has always depended on people willing to strive for something more. Every work of art, every lasting contribution to human knowledge, every moment of compassion, justice, or kindness, or love has been the result of that choice.
Our society is sustained on the service of countless individuals – teachers, firefighters, police, nurses, judges, engineers, builders, community workers, public servants who make the decision to put the public good first. It is improved by the efforts of activists, advocates, academics and citizens who dedicate their lives for a more just society. All that is good in this world is the result of the choices of people to make it so. We are it. There is nothing and no one else.
This might seem obvious. But in a world of 7.6 billion people, it’s easy to feel individually insignificant. It’s easy to fall into a sense of insular apathy, to imagine that our capability to help begins and ends at our tax bill, and to assign moral responsibility for solving problems to some government department that we pay a few bucks to a week.
And it’s easy to imagine this world as natural, the arc of history inevitably bending towards what we have today. A world where we carry the sum of human knowledge in our pocket. A world where we have light whenever we want it. A world where we have clean water on demand from pretty much anywhere we are. A world where our personal liberty is an assumption.
The Romans marvelled that a citizen could walk from one end of the Empire to another without being accosted on the road. Today it’s such a basic assumption that it doesn’t even need to be voiced. Even the brightest minds of the Enlightenment would have been floored by the scale, comprehensiveness and rights of the modern legal system.
But human progress, knowledge and civilisation is not some natural, inevitable force. It is a city, built, rebuilt, expanded and maintained by constant human effort. Person by person, brick by brick. And without maintenance of our foundations, the city crumbles.
We live in an age of almost unprecedented public cynicism. The assumption that others are motivated by self-interest, partisan tribalism, or ideological combativeness is rooted so deeply that it’s almost impossible to shake. This cynicism started in politics, but it’s slowly stained every aspect of our society and our public life.
But above all else, cynicism is safe. If the system is broken and the people involved in it are tainted hypocrites acting in self-interest or some moral vanity, then we can justify not getting involved to ourselves.
Every party member in politics is a self-interested psychopathic hack. Every church charity is out to moralise and convert. Every international NGO is full of professional voluntourists who only care about feeling good rather than doing good. Every lawyer that takes on a pro bono case is only doing it for optics. These are the stories that we tell ourselves to justify our own inaction.
This is because to do is to risk being criticised for doing. To have and declare principles is to be held to them. To serve is to expose yourself. To try and set an example is to be compared to it, and to fail it.
Because you will fail. You will fail in ways great and small: you fail because of circumstances and chance, you will fail because of others, but most of all you will fail because of yourself. Not just the mistakes you make but because of the actions you do not take.
At this University we fear failure, perhaps more than anything else. We are the end product of a culture that prioritises success above everything. For many of us, our entire lives have been a never-ending pressure to excel at this exam, or this instrument, or this job.
In doing so, the appearance of being successful becomes more important than the magnitude of success. We become risk-averse, focussed on what is reliably achievable rather than what is valuable, obsessed with maintaining a facade of perfection. We want to be successful but not at the risk of being held responsible for mistakes. We want the reputation of someone who could do great things if they put their mind to it, without the risk of ever actually attempting it. Potential energy becomes more important than kinetic.
We become strangely insubstantial, with few, inoffensively held public views, a handful of carefully cultivated hobbies, and curated experiences designed to give the appearance of being a idealised stereotype. In this digital world that forgets nothing, we too often strive to avoid saying or doing anything memorable.
It is the strange curse of our generation. We are the most capable and educated set of elites in the history of humanity. The overwhelming majority of us that hail from the upper middle class have spent our entire lives being prepared to excel, each the product of close on two decades of formal education and extracurricular experiences, a huge investment of resources intended to allow us to compete and win in a ruthless meritocracy.
We have tools none of our predecessors enjoyed, carrying around the sum of human knowledge in our pockets. For us, to research, absorb and synthesise information into an argument is almost as natural as breathing, something we do in every argument on the internet or around the dinner table when we resort to Google to settle a disputed fact.
We have everything except purpose. Much of the formidable talent of our generation lies idle, paralysed in a malaise of apathetic nihilism that views the world and their place in it through mute cynicism. I disagree with the majority of millennial gaslighting literature that attempts to paint us as lazy and entitled, but there is a kernel of truth when Yale Professor Emeritus William Deresiewicz calls us “Excellent Sheep”, and when Senator Ben Sasse questions our conviction as he did in the Vanishing American Adult.
This is not to say that we don’t have an idea of what a better world and society would look like: many of us do, some of us passionately. Often we have a well-reasoned and researched basis for believing what we believe. We can imagine a more perfect society, that human city called progress, but we struggle to imagine how we, as individuals, can meaningfully contribute to bring it about. Then it becomes easy to be a cynic, a critic, a person to point out how things could have been done better in the privacy of our own thoughts, while remaining passive, silent and unmoved.
But as Theodore Roosevelt aptly noted in a speech to Paris’ own elite student population some 109 years ago, “it is not the critic who counts”. The world turns on those who strive “valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…”
The challenges facing our generation and our world are serious and they are real. Climate change, automation, wealth inequality, drug resistant pandemics, decaying infrastructure, privacy in a digital era, the omnipresent threat of nuclear apocalypse, a globally ageing population and an increasingly grim international security situation are among them. If these challenges are to be met, they will be met by us, uncynically, pragmatically and tirelessly pursuing a more perfect city.
So find what is good and true. Imagine your perfect city. It will not be the same as others, and in many important ways it will be wrong, and other people will tell you that it’s wrong, and then in the fires of debate and research prove it to you. Always keep yourself open to revisions upon new information, because while our values and goals should be immutable, our methods must never be. Decide what matters and then hold fast to it: if you refuse to move, eventually it’ll be the world that does instead. But the city has never, and never will, be built by cowards who know neither victory nor defeat.
Be unironically, earnestly passionate for the terrible, incredible and bizarre experience that is human existence, and always remember that you have the unique and significant ability to make it better: not tomorrow, not next year, but today. It starts with a choice.
“Love is free and when one is honest with themselves, they are liberated in this digital world. We’re more sensitive to our peers and everyone’s opinions due to the rate that we are bombarded with them.”
– Miguel at his concert in Dallas, late 2018.
Hello, I’m your subconscious.
Make no mistake: getting to university is a big deal. It’s not only about the one or two years of work which got you that special number to apply to your degree. It’s about the entire life journey you have had up until your entrance to university. It’s about the childhood memories; those episodes of ‘Arthur’ which provided the foundation for a need to make good friends and a desire to visit something similar to The Sugar Bowl (Koko Black or Mookie, anyone?); the complaints about year seven assignments; the hormones in your teenage years; the stress of your penultimate year of school and choosing the perfect outfit for formal and graduation. Getting to university is a big deal, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise, no matter where you came from. If you’re from the Bronx of Canberra, aka Tuggeranong, or the northern suburbs of Sydney or the Apple Isle, you will be perceived by your peers in a certain light. That’s okay! Trust that most of the fun of university comes from you defying your own expectations and the assumptions that your first year peers had of you in O Week. Petty? Maybe. True? Definitely.
Don’t be afraid.
You might meet people in O Week who are the embodiment of all of the crushes you have ever had. You might meet people in O Week that embody all the traits of people who made you run away from your hometown. From anecdotes and personal experience, it’s pretty rare to find your lifelong best friend in O Week. That’s okay too! Prove me wrong if you can, though. For those who don’t want to go out and party in the first semester of university, join the club (ha ha… irony) and find the lit things that daylight-hour Canberrans get up to: like studying at the National Library on Sundays or walking around Lake Burley Griffin or going to Enlighten. If you don’t have that new group of friends by the end of first semester, good. You have used your judgement wisely, and second semester provides new opportunities to warm up to good people.
I am yours and yours alone.
Take care of yourself, food-wise. It is very easy to neglect your health and your stomach while you worry about your readings or assessment. Listen to your body and its cravings for actual orange and green vegetables and fruits when you need it. Google or test your Medical Science friends on the impact of alcohol on your system within one hour of consumption. And please, complain about how expensive food is as much as you can and hopefully someone will open a Student Soup Kitchen (but also definitely check out the Food Co-Op!).
I am the projector and you are the projection.
Whether you are a first year student or a final year student or a staff member, remember what a big deal it is to be at university. A significant part of this big deal is the education, right? We are all going to learn so much, both from our education and the events surrounding university and the outside world. Hopefully this year brings us greater knowledge and understanding of each other and of the world. No point learning in a vacuum! Try to get outside and see how your degree has real-world impact.
And I am always supreme.
Buzzwords like self-care might have come up a lot during your summer holidays. It’s great that we are talking about mental health more and about the ramifications when we don’t talk about it. University brings its challenges – both from people and the stress of the degree itself – but I promise you, it is nothing you can’t handle. You never get dealt a card that is too much for you to handle. Please be kind to everyone, and give yourself space when you need it. Reach out for help and be receptive to helping others. University is a big deal. Your mental health is an even bigger deal.
Think back to the last time someone asked your opinion on something. Did you tell them the truth? Or a half-truth? Maybe it was to protect their feelings, or perhaps it was self-preservation.
Truth is complicated. There’s a time and a place because ignorance can be bliss and the truth hurts, but it hurts more when things are kept from you… I’m sure there are many more applicable clichés, but really, I think that the key ingredient is trust. It’s probably morally right to be truthful all the time. But the truth has consequences, and knowing whether it’s better to get it all out there and the way to do it is a bit of minefield. When one of my friends offers up a brutally honest opinion or perspective with me, I usually find it refreshing because it grounds me and reminds me not to be so self-indulgent. I’m not saying it doesn’t sting a little, but I think the occasional ego check is valuable.
Trust is important. For a functional relationship with friends there should be a level of fundamental trust that you have each other’s best interests at heart. Actively thinking about this is often what separates the close friends and those ‘situational’ friends who fall out of your world when the context changes.The other thing total honesty says to me is that the person actually gives a damn, that they appreciate my perspective, or that they value me. They are in no way obliged to give advice or to spill the tea to me, but they trust me and they trust that I care about them enough to be receptive to them. So yes, you should tell your friend that they have something in their teeth, because it shows that you trust each other.
It was because of trust that I could say to my friend that their clothes looked like pyjamas. By being honest with them, not only were they made aware of their crime against fashion, but the friendship was strengthened by the knowledge that they could rely on me for frank and honest advice. When there is good rapport and trust in someone, there is a basic understanding that you support each other and say things from a place of love and respect.
Recently, I was interviewing people for roles at Woroni, and candidates would generally describe one of two different methods for giving criticism. The first involved a criticism sandwich – where the critique would be preceded and followed by positive comments, and they would have to prioritise particularly important feedback so as to maintain the happy ratio. The others would pick up every detail and put it all out there. All I will say is that I think that it shows in the output. How can you address the problems, the issues, the irritants if you don’t know what they are?
Why is it that people feed and eat the criticism sandwich? I propose that it has to do with the level of trust in each other, and the sandwich cart comes out when either of you are not confident that whatever you’re saying will go down well. The criticism sandwich sugar-coats the taste of the filler, which is the important stuff. It’s actually somewhat demeaning of the good things which are lumped together, which appear as though they are only being highlighted for the sake of offsetting the negatives. Nobody likes it when there’s a compliment followed by a ‘but’. It takes time and actual effort to get to the stage where you can serve a pointblank criticism without a second thought. But it’s worth it, because then you know that you’re in each other’s corner (and you spill all the tea then).
So next time you don’t feel like you’re getting the full opinion on your outfit from your ‘BFF’, follow it up! Don’t eat the criticism sandwich, drink to honesty and spill the tea.
Ben Lawrence discusses how brutal honesty strengthens and breaks friendships.
Comments Off on How Not to Die In O-Week: A Guide for First Years
These are some words of guidance from an experienced science student who managed to survive their first year at the ANU. Although it’s written in the frame of science, this article is applicable for anyone trying to survive this O-Week!
1. Try and figure out where all your classes are going to be.
Instead of running 30 minutes late for your first ever mandatory lab, make sure you actually know where everything is before Week 4. Go on a tour, download ‘Lost On Campus’ or figure out how long it takes to get from your favourite lunch spot to your lecture theatre. This will be incredibly helpful next week after your seven-day hangover.
2. Drink lots of water, please. And maybe even drink responsibly?! (What an idea.)
For many of you, this will be the first week in your life where there is a party you could go to every single night of the week. Whether you’re planning on only going to Friday Night Party or everything from your College Mixer to ANU Trivia and then Mooseheads, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water before, during, and after you start consuming any kind of alcohol. Your liver and brain will thank you for it.Or… you know, O-Week is still fun without drinking.
3. Talk to people!
From my experience, there’s an incredible number of interesting, smart and diverse people at the ANU, who are engaged in not only science but all areas of study. Maybe you think that free breakfast on the first day of O-Week is a dumb idea, but you’re likely to meet other people there who will agree that gelato is a good idea for breakfast, and what more could you ask for in a potential life-long friend?
4. Go to at least one event related to your degree.
It could be a Science Bonfire, a first-year camp or just turning up to Market Day and talking to someone at the ANU Chemistry Society stand. It’s worth getting to know other people in your degree – not only for the sake of support, but also to save you when you forget you have a tutorial in Week Three and they’re messaging you like crazy asking “Where are you????”.
5. Make or join course-related group chats as soon as you can.
Out there, someone in one of your courses (maybe you!) is going to have the bright idea to make a group chat. Yes, it will eventually be filled with random spam. Yes, you might not like using Facebook Messenger, but your first-year group chats will save you time and time again.
6. Go to Market Day. Just go.
If you feel like you might have trouble meeting people, or are really confused as to what is going on in O-Week – go to Market Day. Chemistry and Biology students – buy your lab coats and glasses from your respective society ASAP. You will be grateful when you forget you even had labs, and you already have all the stuff you need for them. It might cost $5 to join and $5 for the lab coat and glasses, but the study sessions held by many societies later in the year will make it well worth it. They don’t stock the hugest range of sizes so if you’re an extra small or extra tall make sure you get there nice and early. (You will thank me sometime.)
7. Participate!!!I know, after 12 years of mandatory education (and maybe a gap year for those of us lucky enough to travel), that hearing someone urging you to participate isn’t what you want. However, getting involved is the one thing that I’ve seen consistently make people’s university experiences 1000% better. Chat to your course convenors, ask questions, go to available lectures, mixers, and parties, and adventure outside of your comfort zone. The people around you and the experiences you have are going to be the thing that makes or breaks this year – be yourself and do it proudly.
8. Don’t forget that everyone else is starting out fresh.
Even if you already know people at ANU, the start of each year is exciting and different for everyone. Don’t forget that university is a fresh start, and a place that will have heaps of incredible opportunities and friendships to see you through. Listen to advice from peers, do what makes you happy and prepare your body, mind and soul for some of the best years of your life!
Now go forth, and live long and prosper.
These are some words of guidance from an experienced science student who managed to survive their first year at the ANU.
When one thinks of issues of access and inclusion, student carers are unlikely to be the first group that comes to mind. The very role of a carer is relatively unknown to the public as their achievements are largely experienced by those receiving care. To clarify, carers are individuals who undertake caring responsibilities for a family member or significant other. Those being cared for generally suffer from physical or mental disabilities that limit their capacity to care for themselves. Caring roles can be undertaken part time (sometimes shared between multiple carers) or full time where day to day care is provided by the individual. Those who undertake caring responsibilities do so out of family or friendship responsibility to the person being cared for. Caring is a selfless act as it has no immediate financial benefits and can be a substantial burden upon the carer. This burden is most impactful upon youth carers and student carers, who generally lack the resources to balance caring responsibilities and other commitments such as work and study.
Research into youth and student carers shows that the role can create significant economic and social disadvantages. Maintaining employment can be challenging as a carer’s role can require them to be unexpectedly absent due to unforeseen caring responsibilities. The same is true of education, where absence can be unforeseen and difficult to discuss. Despite the disadvantages faced by carers, their unpaid work is estimated to contribute $13 billion of economic output. This is measured based on the cost of care if it was provided outside of family and friendship networks. Caring positively contributes to economic and social welfare despite the limitations that the role places on carers.
Personal accounts of carers indicate the strain that caring places on the individual. Extra responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, administering medications and practical tasks take up so much time in the average day that it is completely unrealistic to expect carers to be able to meet all work and schooling deadlines. Carers express feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation as the burden of care takes a toll on overall wellbeing. The lack of structural accommodation of carers contributes to feelings of dissatisfaction and disadvantage. The current social understanding of carers is also detrimental to access and inclusion: carers can feel stigmatised or unable to ask for help as the role is frequently misunderstood. In many cases carers fear that their caring role will be perceived as a personal weakness. This is due to a severe lack of carer assistance and public unawareness. Caring should be reframed as a personal strength, as the role provides significant skills in organisation and management.
Youth carers aged 14 – 25 and student carers represent a particularly vulnerable section of caring roles. The responsibility that caring requires can impact on education and employment, limiting the success a carer can have. This pressure placed on youth and student carers can have long term effects on qualifications and mental wellbeing. Despite the substantial burden that youth and student carers face, there is a lack of institutional support for carers that could help alleviate some of the hardship faced.
The Australian tertiary education system currently offers very little in the way of support for carers through access and inclusion. Some crucial steps forward include modifications to current access and inclusion policies in general and greater awareness of the carer role. Clear policy guidelines are needed to specify the process of acquiring extensions and special considerations for assessment, and greater flexibility is necessary to allow for the extra difficulties carers face. This would work comparably to current extension and special consideration policies to maintain consistency in institutional application. At the moment this poses a challenge as extensions are generally granted on the basis of a medical certificate, and the caring role does not directly affect the condition of the carer. Because of this, a method of carer appraisal is needed either internally through institutions or externally through certification of caring roles.
Increased financial support would also benefit carers in fulfilling caring roles and tertiary/employment commitments. The economic output generated by carers justifies increased funding to scholarships and assistance programs for student carers. Considering the importance of caring roles, supporting these individuals financially would subsidise their invaluable contribution to the economy and facilitate lower levels of drop outs within the carer population.
Awareness is another important element of improving study conditions for carers. One of the biggest contributors to anxiety/depression and feelings of isolation amongst carers is the limited understanding of the importance of caring roles among the broader population. Feelings of stigmatisation have been linked to carers reducing engagement with tertiary programs. In order to increase public knowledge of caring responsibilities, campaigns aimed at spreading awareness and generating discussion are needed. Melbourne University has had success in campaign-based support through their website which contains important information and personal stories of caring responsibilities.
The ANU Carers Collective and Carers within ANU are seeking to engage the public through awareness programs similar to that of Melbourne University. By producing carer-based content and recognition, further advocacy of carer issues can be shared.
ANU should strive to be at the forefront of carer support and inclusion. As a leading Australian university, it has the capacity to radically reform current standards of carer support nationwide. The introduction of effective carer policies here would mean the potential to implement successes more broadly. Extensions and special considerations are an immediate step forward along with initial planning of scholarships and support programs. Following in the footsteps of Melbourne University’s advocacy of carer issues would also increase awareness and public support. This could be achieved by providing an institutional platform to groups like the ANU Carers Collective for advocacy. With University backing, the issues would be more widely accessible and provide foundations for policy adjustments going forward. Student and youth carers are disadvantaged by a lack of structural accommodation through access and inclusion. The strength that carers provide through a supportive role should be recognised and supported by tertiary institutions. Doing so will reduce carer disadvantage and dissatisfaction promoting inclusivity and support. ANU and universities in general should strive to support carers and their ongoing economic and social contributions to society.
Bush Week is always a big week. Compared to O-Week, there is less people and less hype, but more partying. People feel more at home, have settled into university life and they often haven’t seen their friends for the whole break. As this was my second Bush Week (and first time being in a leadership position) I was preparing myself for many things this Bush Week – exhaustion being the main one. However, the biggest struggle was easily balancing my extra-curricular activities, organising and going to events and studying.
Unlike O-Week, many students will find that they have lectures and tutorials in Bush Week (and in case you haven’t checked your course outline, tutorials tend to be compulsory). I naively went into this week expecting I would be able to attend most of my lectures and tutorials – I went to six. Six out of a possible twelve. The shocking part is that this number well exceeded the majority of my friends – many of whom did not attend one lecture or tutorial in week 1. We were all too busy organising events, attending things such as Market Day and helping out on stalls, as well as attending the occasional party. This lead me to reflect on my extra-curricular activities and question whether they are worth the sacrifice my grades are facing.
So many students face this difficult situation – we’re told that extra-curricular activities are crucial and give yourself opportunities, but you also need the grades to secure your place once your foot is in the door. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful and humble for all of the opportunities I have been given from being involved with leadership positions, Clubs and Societies and other groups.
However, after Bush Week, I can’t help but wonder whether taking on these extra-curricular activities was the best idea. There is a fine line for university students. We are encouraged to have fun and get involved, whilst simultaneously told to place a huge emphasis on studying. Nothing specifically states when we should start prioritising studies over extra-curricular activities, and when it’s okay to enjoy yourself. I’ve seen so many students struggle to find a balance between the two and this leads to a magnitude of problems – overcommitting, burning out, grade dropping and having no time to rest.
However, what is possibly most concerning is that these students often have little time to take care of themselves and their wellbeing. I have personally found it incredibly difficult to find the time needed to address my mental health problems whilst balancing extra-curricular activities, studies and a job. There are mechanisms in place, such as Access and Inclusion, bursaries and people to speak to that can help you establish a balance give you support (and I would highly recommend looking into these). However, even finding the time to organise these things can be incredibly difficult when you have assignments due, events to organise, meetings to attend and a job to go to.
Right now, I know I am personally feeling overwhelmed at the semester ahead. Trying to balance responsibilities, extra-curricular activities and a job whilst maintaining a decent grade is incredibly daunting. However, something I stand by is that prioritising your wellbeing (which for some people, does includes socialising and going out with friends) is more important than any extra-curricular activity or assignment.
Just try to go to SOME of your tutorials.
For many of us, coming to uni is our first time living out of home and/or making big decisions about our lives with minimal structure and guidance. Whether it’s filing out our first tax returns, finding time to complete assignments, or keeping in touch with our loved ones, staying across everything we have to do is a scary part of “adulting”. As we become independent and form our own futures, the new things we have to learn and confront can be immensely intimidating. But life is full of potential and opportunity, and a way to balance what we want out of each aspect of our lives really makes all the difference.
Schedule, schedule, schedule.
Getting stuff done give us this incredible sense of achievement – a testament to our potential as responsible humans. Whether you prefer handwritten notes in a diary, or phone apps are your go-to, make note of every plan the moment you make them. This can help avoid double-booking, which can often cause confusion, disappointment, and tension in relationships.
In my schedule I have down social plans, meetings, appointments, and deadlines. This gives me an idea of how stressed I may be at a given time, and I can work my other plans around that. If I know I’ve got three assignments due on one day and I’m going to be too stressed to make food for myself, I might reach out to a friend and ask if I could come over for dinner one of those days.
Prioritise and have a to-do list handy.
Whether it’s laundry, booking a holiday, catching up on lectures, or sending out a single (but very important) e-mail, maintaining an ongoing to-do list can help relieve stress. When we go from tutorials to work and then home, our mindsets change with every activity – what this means is: work will be fresh in your mind, so you’ll be more inclined to follow up with work things, and forget about the tutorial stuff earlier in the day.
Jotting down a short dot point (“degree plan”, “bank”, “groceries”, “Josh”) is usually enough to spark your memory about that particular item; what’s important is to put it down the moment it comes to mind so that you don’t forget it altogether. It’s also crucial to prioritise the items on your to-do list: some things can wait, while others are time-sensitive. So when you find a pocket of free time, take a look at your list and think about what you could get done with the time, energy and resources you have. This is where scheduling and to-do lists come hand-in-hand, as you’ll be able to gauge how you might be travelling after a particularly exhausting day.
Communication and relationships* are so, so important.
From friends, to family, to professional working relationships, the way we relate to people around us can really make or break our experiences in the world. Keeping our loved ones close is one of those things that comes back to us in all kinds of wonderful ways when we need them. However, our time doesn’t need to be spent worrying about where we’re at with people in our lives. Communicate openly and genuinely with others: tell them you love them and when what they’re doing doesn’t sit well with you. Create a culture of honesty that comes from a wish to make things work, and talk about things before they become problems.
If you’re not feeling up to a massive hike you may have planned with someone, tell them, “It’s been a crazy week, and I don’t think I will have the energy to conquer the hike. But I would still love to see you in some capacity. Perhaps we could do something else instead, like go to the markets or bake.” This makes it clear that it’s not themthat you are bailing on, but the specific activity – and it makes them comfortable to do the same in future if they need to!
Pro tip: Combine your to-do list and maintaining relationships. Some of the most memorable hangouts with dear friends have been grocery shopping and hunting down Canberra’s cheapest petrol. When people want to spend time with you, they’ll understand not being able to take a chunk of time out – and chances are they’re on the same boat too – so it’s perfectly okay to suggest that someone come along to return your library books, or ask if you could drive them to the train station.
Keep asking questions and learning.
Nobody has it all figured out. If there’s something in particular that you’re struggling with, reach out to those around you who may be able to point you in the right direction. Whether that’s going to the gym for the first time, or putting together a project proposal and budget, seeking out the guidance of people around us is an act of great humility. Similarly, if you’ve got something covered and someone else is just coming to it, be wary of being dismissive, as they may bring new perspective and insight.
It is also important to keep pushing our comfort zones outward, and to seek out new experiences. This is the way we grow and learn. Trying an activity seemingly unrelated to everything else in our lives may end up opening up opportunities we’d never considered before, or we may meet people who teach us things about ourselves and the world that fascinate us.
The one thing to remember is to stick to things. Self-care is, at times, about sucking it up and getting stuff done – even if it may be the last thing we want to do. It is easy to find distractions and excuses – and sometimes we may really need that break – but it’s when I’ve pushed myself through a particularly rough time that I’ve felt the proudest of my achievements. Good days and bad days are a reality of our lives, but adulting involves being responsible to ourselves and others, and being able to continue with what we’ve got to do even at our worst. It doesn’t mean ignoring our well-being, but it means giving ourselves a certain amount of tough love and credit for how resilient we really can be!
*I speak of relationships, in this case, as those platonic and otherwise. I believe it’s really important to think about our friendships with the same weight and through a similar lens as our romantic ones, and give them the importance they deserve.