Welcome Saturday Wrap Up

By Georgie Macho

On Saturday the 17th of February, St Hilda’s kicked off the new year welcoming in 118 first years eager to enter our community. 

The day had been long anticipated by our student and staff teams, with months of preparation leading us up to Welcome Saturday. From the early hours in the morning, it was all hands on deck. Our catering staff were whipping up a feast in the kitchen, our maintenance team were ensuring our home was looking as beautiful as ever, and our O-Week Leaders were bursting at the seams, ready to meet the new first year cohort. 

Soon after, our new students began to arrive with their friends and families, coming from all over Australia and beyond. Our dancing Diego the Dinosaur directed the cars through to the car park and to our excited O-Week leaders stationed at the front door, ready to greet all the fresh faces. Raring to go, the new students collected their keys were led by O-Week leaders to their new rooms. Boxes, suitcases, and pillows carried strategically by the whole team as students settled themselves into their new home for the year ahead. 

When talking to our Principal, James “Jimmy” Hardiman he expressed his great excitement for Welcome Saturday, O-Week and the kicking off the year as a whole. This is Jimmy’s second year as Principal of St Hilda’s College, after previously working as the Dean of Students for almost three years. He told me his favourite part of every Welcome Saturday is meeting new people and feeling the buzz in the air made up of the incredible mix between some first day nerves and huge excitement. When asked to summarise how he was feeling in just one word, he couldn’t help but give two: excited and energetic. 

As lunch rolled around, a steady flow of new students trickled in and everyone was invited to sit down in the front quad to hear Jimmy’s address to the new members of our community. Hearing him deliver words of enthusiasm and advice for the week and year ahead sent a wave re-assurance for new students and parents alike. Following Jimmy came our Student Club President, Paddy Ryan, with a few words of his own to share with this year’s new cohort. As a third year student, he reflected on his time at Hilda’s, giving well wishes for the year ahead and expressing his excitement to begin the week alongside the O-Week team. 

As the day continued, I met more and more new students and was lucky enough to get an insight into why they chose St Hilda’s College. An overwhelming majority of students expressed their eagerness to meet new people and make friends, as well as to live new experiences. I met a sister duo, one just about to start her first year at Hilda’s, and the other a Hilda’s Alumna. I asked the new student why she chose St Hilda’s, following her sister, and she shared with me that the inclusivity and diversity within the community is what attracted her to our college. Not only did her sister’s great time here entice her, but the welcoming and warm nature that can be summarised within our motto, ‘Communitas’, solidified her choice. 

Another new student commented on her choice to come to St Hilda’s claiming that the size of our college was just right, saying that with this amount of people, you can get to know people a lot better, rather than getting lost within the masses. She shared with me that even in her very first interaction with St Hilda’s on a student-led tour, she could feel the strong sense of belonging within our home. This welcomed her in with a bubbly presence that signalled to her that this was a community she could thrive in.

Our O-Week leader team, consisting of second and third year students, were thrilled to begin meeting all the new students and see their hard work start to come to fruition. Abbey and Bryce, our two lovely O-Week Coordinators were more than happy to let me pick their brains on the behind the scenes of O-Week planning. They commented on the enjoyment of coordinating such a wonderful team that holds such a range of strengths and personalities. Despite the chaos of planning such a big week, the pair loved the experience and couldn’t be more grateful for the team they had by their side. Their highlights of the organisational process were meeting all of the new students, along with the use of intentionality and purpose that was implemented into every part of O-Week and its planning. 

By the end of the day, smiles graced faces wherever you looked. One big melting pot of people from all over forging new friendships in their new home swelled around the front quad. Though somewhat saddened by heartfelt goodbyes, you couldn’t help but feel the buzz of nerves and excited anticipation for the week and year ahead.