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February 26, 2018 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving O-Week

It’s that time of year again! All the students are back in town, the bars are heaving, the streets are crowded, and the lines for the counter at Vic books seem to stretch for miles. Ah, O-week. When cheap alcohol flows freely – like the rain through the hole in the roof that your landlord has been refusing to fix – loud music is de rigueur, and bed-sheet togas are the height of fashion. Such is the image of student life with which we are presented, and for many it rings true.

But what if, like me – your friendly neighbourhood introvert – the mere thought of parties makes you feel drained and mildly ill? Perhaps you prefer to stay in, reading or watching Netflix, instead of having a night out on the town? Or maybe you simply don’t enjoy getting drunk. On the face of it, you and I are out of luck. In terms of events, O-week, and indeed the first few weeks of university as a whole, is overwhelmingly geared toward the desires of the ‘typical’ student, with the toga party and live music shows. Such a dearth of introvert-oriented activities can lead to this part of the year becoming an incredibly isolating experience, which, when coupled with the usual pressures of returning to or starting university, makes for a rather miserable time. In fact, that pretty much sums up my first year O-week experience, which, for the sake of entertainment, I shall recount for you here.

I arrived in Wellington late in February, as do most first year students from out of town; a nervously excited seventeen year old, still scarred by NCEA. Only one of my friends from high school was starting at Vic that year as the majority of our year group had remained in Canterbury, or had chosen to attend Otago. During the first day at the halls, my nerves got the better of me, and I withdrew, saying about five words total in the entirety of those first 24 hours. As the week progressed, and people went out to parties and bars with their new friends, I became increasingly reclusive, eventually reaching the point where I only really left my room for food, or to brew another cup of tea. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly how I had envisaged the start of my first year.

But Niamh, I hear you cry, you’ve already told us that we’re doomed to suffer during O-Week, why must you rub it in by regaling us with your own experience? Well, dear reader, I hope that by sharing my first year mistakes I can prevent others from having an equally tragic ordeal. Yes, my friend, you read that right. Despite all evidence to the contrary, there is still hope! What you hold is a guide, carefully curated by yours truly, from the experiences and advice of many an introvert known to me, on how to survive, and even thrive, during O-week and beyond. This mini guide is split into two parts; the first dealing with ways of avoiding social isolation during the first few weeks, while the second revolves around things to see and do in the city which are neither expensive, nor alcohol fuelled.

In my not so humble opinion, one of the most important things you can do to avoid, or at least mitigate the effects of isolation, is to get involved when you can. Now, I know this seems rather ridiculous, given all that’s just been said about how O-week events are geared toward the more party minded among us, but bear with me on this one. Halls of residence tend to organise events such as group outings in order to help students become familiar with the city, and this is something I strongly encourage everyone and anyone to get involved in. This is a chance for you to meet other students living at the hall, and potentially forge the beginnings of a new friendship. Asking about the subject that they’re taking, and their interests, is of course also a brilliant idea, as you may even find someone who’s in the same lectures as you. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying simply being alone and reading or watching Netflix, making that effort and pushing through the stress at the beginning of the university year will benefit you as the months progress. Though a more-than-slightly terrifying prospect, trying to sit with people at dinner each night is also something I highly recommend, as it will allow you to start learning people’s names, as well as helping you to get to know your fellow residents better, as you bond over your shared distaste of the hall’s… interesting cooking.

After O-week, Clubs Day will also be coming up soon. This is a chance to find people outside of your hall and lectures who share your interests, be it chess, anime, or even bell ringing. For LGBTQ+ people there is also UniQ, the university’s LGBTQ+ student group, who are always incredibly welcoming of new members. There’s a full list of clubs and societies on the University website in case you miss Clubs Day, or want to have a look at what’s out there ahead of time.

So you’ve been successfully staving off isolation, and now you want to go out and enjoy yourself, but all of the O-week events on offer are too busy or too boozy. What’s an introvert to do? Allow me to shed some light on the matter. As well as being the seat of government in New Zealand, Wellington is also the arts capital, boasting many theatres, museums, and galleries, as well as light shows and other events which take place throughout the year. Other attractions in the city include the observatory, waterfront, and national war memorial. Many of these culture and arts attractions are often free, or have good student discount prices. Without further ado, let’s take a brief look at some of the places to see and events on offer this O-week.
We shall, predictably, begin with Te Papa; as the national museum of New Zealand, no list of Wellington’s attractions would be complete without it. While not the city’s only museum, it is by far the largest, and it also provides a stunning view out into the harbour. Want to stare at a slightly decaying giant squid? Fancy getting emotional at a World War One exhibit? Just generally like history? Then Te Papa might well be for you! Situated on the waterfront, entry is free. A favourite haunt of mine, I highly recommend making a visit, especially if you’re new to the city.

If theatre is your thing, then you’re in luck, as the Wellington Fringe Festival will be taking place between the 2nd and 24th of March. Like its more famous cousin the Edinburgh Fringe, this event is packed full of funny and thought provoking shows such as ‘Pardon Me Alan Turing’, which deals with gay rights in Britain; and ‘Just Duet’, an improvised comedy show, featuring pairs of some of Wellington’s most talented improvisers. The full program can be found online, and contains information about venues, times, and ticket prices, including some rather nice student discounts as well. In addition to these cultural draws, Wellington also has some gorgeous scenery, including walks through the botanic gardens, and the view across to the South Island from Red Rocks beach. So if museums and theatres aren’t your style, and if you’re lucky with the weather, a walk could be the perfect thing, and of course it’s absolutely free.

There is nothing wrong with being introverted, or not enjoying alcohol and parties, and it shouldn’t be something which prevents you from being able to make the most of your time during O-week, and university as a whole. Do not ever feel that you must force yourself to be something or someone that you’re not in order to find friendship. While on the face of it there may seem to be few events for the more introverted among us, once you start to dig a little, a whole host begin to reveal themselves. Indeed, I’ve only really scratched the surface. Starting university can be a very challenging experience, but with luck this article may help you avoid the worst of my own mistakes, and, above all else, to have a brilliant time during your first weeks of study here at Victoria.


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