Welcome Saturday Wrap Up

By Pema Deane

On Saturday February 18th, we welcomed another 137 new faces into the Hilda’s community.

The day began while it was still dark outside, with Tyso and his team ensuring the whole college looked its best, the walkways spotless and the ‘swamp’ freshly mowed. The much anticipated Welcome Saturday lunch was being prepared by our catering staff, making its way outside onto the banquet stands.

The O-week leaders huddled before the reception doors. They adjusted their pink visors and hyped everyone up through sweaty dances in the Diego suit. Despite having already been at the college for two weeks, nonstop planning the O-week schedule, they still had an impressive amount of energy, keen for the week to start and their preparation to pay off.

Communitas Director, Meg moonlights as Diego!

Before the freshers arrived I had a chance to talk to Fiona, the new Dean of Students. She told me she couldn’t sleep last night, she was so looking forward to today. She moved into residence during the summer with her husband and two daughters, and we talked about how the Hilda’s community goes beyond just the students. As we welcomed the students in it was also about welcoming their families, introducing them into a large community that expands well outside college, a community reaching to many different states and countries.

As soon as the first car pulled into the driveway it was all hands on deck for the next few hours. Despite the chaos of the car park- greetings being made, plants carefully balanced, pillows tucked under arms – there seemed to be a system working, freshers dispersed in all directions as the O-week leaders led them towards their new blocks.

Members of the O Week Team help our new students move into College

I had a chance to talk to one of the first freshers who arrived, Saskia from Perth, studying psychology through a Bachelor of Arts. She’s in B Block this year, and said she was a little bit nervous for today, but mainly excited to meet new people and start exploring Melbourne. 

As more people arrived I looked into the front quad, watching the chairs that lined the long white tables slowly fill with new faces. I was transported back to last year, watching Brenda address us as I sat next to people who are now some of my closest friends, sharing a college meal for the first time, hearing the magical word ‘yo-chi’ for the first time.

This year, Jimmy took the stand as our new Principal. He adamantly stated Welcome Saturday to be his favourite day of every year, a day of excitement and change. His advice to the freshers for the week ahead was to be open-minded, to talk to people who are different to you and to get involved in everything college has to offer. 

James “Jimmy” Hardiman delivers his first Welcome Day speech as our new Principal

It seemed like the new students had this in mind too, for as I stopped at the different tables and asked what they are most looking forward to about this week, most said it was meeting new people. While some students came in knowing a few people from their hometown and others knew no-one, everyone seemed eager to build new friendships and get to know whoever stood next to them in the lunch line. 

Pema interviews a group of our new students

Audrey from Brisbane introduced herself to me as we were waiting at the sushi station. She studies geography and anthropology through a Bachelor of Arts, and already seemed in her element, introducing me to her sinkie and a bunch of girls sitting in the back quad.

I also met Graham, who had come all the way from New Zealand to study design at RMIT. While his teacher’s appraisal of the design program brought him to Melbourne, he said he came to Hilda’s because it was a bit smaller than the other colleges, and he liked the idea of at least knowing everyone’s names. For international students as well, he said it was very helpful not having to move out during mid-year break.

As the afternoon went on, I watched as new students gradually progressed from sitting with their parents to chatting with others in their cohort. I watched students meet staff, parents meet parents, O-week leaders greet the freshers in their O-week groups… it soon became hard to distinguish which faces were new, which were old.

New students, Anna and Liv are excited to join the Hilda’s community

I can see why Jimmy said today was his favourite day of the year. Although Welcome Saturday is bittersweet with a lot of goodbyes, it is also a day of introductions and a fresh start. Every new student and their family have taken a chance, a leap of faith, in choosing Hilda’s as their place to live. Yet as I watched the afternoon go on, and the front quad filled with laughter and empty plates, I was sure that they would soon call it home.