BY MONICA MARTINEZ
The first week here in Brisbane, Australia can only be described in one word: brutal. The spirits of Brisbane surely wanted to provide me with the warmest welcome, hence the 90F weather the week I arrived. One would have guessed I would have adapted well to the weather, but nope – I ended up getting heat stroke the second day here (absolutely amazing and possibly record breaking, I know). Anyway, here is a little insight into UQ’s O-Week.
Prior to arriving in Australia, I received an email from the UQ International Student Office with information on the compulsory Incoming Study Abroad and Exchange Orientation. The session would take place on Tuesday, February 21 at 8am in Building 50. The day before orientation, a plethora of questions ran through my mind:
“How many students would attend?”
“Would I be one of the only Americans/Californians there?”
“Would I feel intimidated, welcomed, or a mixture of both?”
The next morning, I arrived early to the lecture hall to secure a seat in the first row. When I arrived, the total number of students in the room did not exceed 20. But each passing minute introduced a new wave of eager, diverse, and nervous group of students. By the start of the first presentation, the lecture hall was overfilled with more than 300 students. The director of the office kicked off the session by asking students to cheer for their respective region/country. After cheers for Asia, Europe, South America, and Canada, the biggest roar erupted when she said “America.” More than half of the room erupted into a massive and load “WOOOO” and it was truly extraordinary (and a little painful).
After a general introduction informing us about the academic, career, and health services available on campus, a professor from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Department led us in a traditional Australian chant. Performing the chant with hundreds of students from all over the world was one of the greatest experiences and to hear the words “Welcome to UQ, this is your new home” was the ultimate cherry on top. At the conclusion of the orientation session, student ambassadors from the center divided students into little clusters for a campus wide tour. I remembered viewing the campus from the airplane, looking at how the Brisbane River provided the perfect border. I did not, however, anticipate the size – a campus filled with over 89 buildings, nine libraries (five are open 24/7 hours and are fully equipped with sleeping pods, showers, a kitchenette, and vending machines with packages meals), nine playing fields, and a lake. To say it differed from UCLA would be a major understatement. I also got to get my University of Queensland student ID, making the exchange tangibly real.
Following the tour, the Queensland University Exchange Student society (QUEST) hosted a Welcome Sausage Sizzle to end orientation day. Other than hearing the phrase “Shrimp on the barbie” in reference to Australian food, I had absolutely no idea of what an authentic meal would be. After patiently waiting in line for 15 minutes, I received a sausage placed diagonally on a single slice of white bread (yes, you read that right) topped with caramelized onions and ketchup. I initially concluded that given the size of the group, the club ran out of hotdog buns, but nope – this was it. I tasted the sausage sandwich and it was fantastic. Also, the greatest part (by far) about the Sausage Sizzle was the mini farm featuring llamas and baby pigs. SO CUTE!
The day following the International and Exchange Student Orientation, an event known as Market Day consumed the Great Court. Market Day transformed UQ into a festival filled with stalls, giveaways, and performances. All of the clubs and societies at UQ had a booth set up and eagerly tried to encourage students to become a member of their organization. From the UQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Society to the UQ Surfers, the range of clubs extended every social, departmental, cultural, and sporting interest. As I walked toward the Great Court, I felt overwhelmed by the hundreds of clubs and thousands of students there. I surveyed the major tents at the center of the Great Court because of the giveaways available. UQ Union, the largest student organization on campus, provided students with welcome totes containing school supplies, a planner, and information pamphlets outlining the host of student support services. Before moving on to the clubs, I picked up a reusable water bottle from the UQ Sustainability department and a free University of Queensland t-shirt from UQConnect.
After circling the Great Court and talking to representatives from clubs I felt interested in, I officially became a member of UQ Volunteers, the UQ Latin American Student Association (LASA), the Queensland University Exchange Student Society (QUEST), and Law Society. Here lies a major distinction between joining a club at UCLA versus joining a club at UQ. While at UCLA’s Enormous Activities Fair, a student can simply fill out an information sheet to be added to the club’s mailing list, a student at UQ must pay for their membership in a club. The price varies depending on the resources/benefits the club promises to provide to members and its overall popularity. To gain membership into the clubs listed above, I paid a total of $15 (which is equivalent to $11.50 USD). Although the idea of paying to join a club/society seemed strange, the cost ultimately is returned through club activities throughout the semester.
UQ Union’s Ignition Party
O-Week finished off on Friday night during UQ Union’s Ignition Neon Party. Held on the Forgan Smith Lawn, the party featured live acts, lots of neon paint, and free food. Tickets for the party sold for $10 and students were encouraged to purchase neon paint. Comparable to UCLA’s Bruin Bash, the festival was an equally massive success. To paint the picture for you (pun intended), you are alongside hundreds of students on a large lawn on campus, dancing to the music of up and coming artists, while getting drenched in neon paint. The paint gets everywhere– (hair, shoes, mouth, eye, etc.) and no place is safe.
Reflecting on orientation week, I can genuinely say UQ does its best at ensuring every single student feels welcomed and supported. Although I am more than seven thousand miles from UCLA, I truly feel at home here at UQ.
Monica Martinez studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia in Spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/australia/Pages/host_Queensland_AustraliaImmersion.aspx