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Choose your own adventure at O-Week


21 February 2014

L-R: O-Week directors Alistair Stephenson and John Fennel

With the start of semester only a matter of days away, O-Week directors Alistair Stephenson and John Fennel are busy putting the final touches on what will be the culmination of more than six months of wild brainstorming and detailed event planning.

Students will begin their orientation and welcome to their faculties on Monday, and can look forward to more than 90 events with the launch of O-Week on Wednesday, when the University will be transformed into a jungle of information stalls, live music performances, debates, fitness classes, stand-up comedy and interactive forums.

Alistair and John have been best friends since they met at the age of 11, throughout high school and six years of study at the University - fitting preparation for pulling off one of the biggest events in the University of Sydney Union's calendar.

"We'd already developed that working relationship," says Alistair, who in addition to his studies works part-time as a communications assistant with the University's Student Recruitment and Admissions team. "We can toss around the big ideas and not be afraid to step on each other's toes."

Even before Alistair and John were chosen as the event's directors in mid-2013, they had discussed a central theme that would inspire students to engage with campus life.

"'Into the Wild' was a metaphor we really liked," says John, who was the University Law Society's social director in 2013. "Previous themes have been really fun - big and bright and camp - so we thought it would be cool to go with something darker, that links back to our time at university. It's a bit wild, mysterious, interesting, but also an adventure."

For many students, orientation and the events of O-Week will be a fun introduction to uni life before they embark on their studies, yet for Alistair and John it marks the beginning of their seventh and final year at the University, with both students set to complete their Juris Doctor in 2014.

Both drew on their experiences as first-year students when planning for this year's packed schedule.

"In our first year both of us joined up to a lot of clubs at O-Week but didn't necessarily get involved with them. Also, I didn't endeavor to make bunch of new friends, which is something I'd change if I could," says John.

Alistair adds: "It's one of the reasons we've almost doubled the number of events compared to previous years. The more events you have, the more clubs are represented, so you're increasing the amount of avenues for students to meet friends, get involved and find something that they really, truly like."
But according to Alistair and John, O-Week doesn't have to be just for the students! There is plenty on the agenda that may spark staff interest, such as a Q&A with the legendary Australian scientist Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, great food at the Forager's Markets in the Manning Forecourt on Wednesday night, sunset jazz, '3-minute thesis' presentations, even taking a walk down Eastern Avenue just to soak up the buzz.

If you're interested in keeping our campus sustainable, you can visit the CIS Sustainability team's stall on Eastern Avenue and get a free bicycle tune up from the Bike Doctor; have a go on demonstration bikes and get some cycling advice from the City of Sydney 'Try 2 Wheels' campaign (26 February); learn more about waste recycling initiatives on campus (27 February); buy a re-usable KeepCup for $5; or get involved with initiatives such as the rooftop community garden and the Sustainable Workplace Group.

O-Week runs between Wednesday 26 and Friday 28 February, while the University is offering orientation activities right throughout the week. Eastern Avenue and the lawns in front of the Quadrangle will be the main focus of activity, with preparation and packing up activities taking place for a few days on either side. The main entertainment stage will be erected in front of the Quadrangle, and there may be some ambient noise while festivities are underway.

Remember to wear your Ask Me badge during orientation and the first two weeks of semester to signal to new students that they can approach you with any questions. If you would like to get involved, you can wear last year's badge or order one now.

Read the full O-Week program