I woke up at 11am sharp (wow! That’s pretty early for the first week! Go me!) and texted my mate to meet me in Fort Street, so she could accompany me on this exciting, journalistic adventure. We stalked up Queen Street, swerving past the suits on their pre-lunch vape breaks, and excited to make new memories with our O’Week activities (and actually remember them).
I had imagined that Albert Park would be full of bright-eyed club reps and cult members, but it was Wednesday and we’d completely mis]sed it. Instead we were graced with people lounging in the grass, relaxing in the park with their friends likesome idyllic American college movie. I swear there was a group tossing a frisbee around. It was far too wholesome. None of them were even stoned. Or at least, they weren’t about to share any with us.
Undeterred, we crossed Princes Street towards the Quad. The first thing I saw, after the dust from the construction site had cleared, was that the lawn was covered with photos of famous people. There was Will Smith, Justin Bieber and that dude from Kiss with the tongue. Oh god, a memorial wall? Just as I started to hold my head at the unthinkable prospect of Taylor Swift dying, my friend reassured me that it was a giant game of Guess Who? I was relieved.
After that scare, we just had to pop down to the brand new Shadows location. The beautiful holy sign assured me everything would be fine. My home, my castle, my alma mater, ushered me in gently. I’m older, and much more responsible, so just one drink couldn’t hurt. Both my friend and I had a jug each, of the cheapest. It’s the only UOA tradition that exists, and who are we to break it? We had to christen the new bar too, welcome the moody, somewhat grungy, rooms to campus. We finished our third jug (oops) and headed back to the Quad. I took out my phone to take notes on the chaos, and the text started to sway. I had to close one eye to focus on the screen, but I wanted to stick to my journalistic intentions.
I had never seen the Quad so busy before, and my head was spinning as freshers sped past. Perhaps by the time lectures start the rest of the people will have dropped out, or started watching the recordings from home… before actually dropping out. Perhaps these uni dwellers are just waiting for the first lecture to rear its ugly head, where they will return to bed with recordings and snacks. A DJ was playing extremely tasteful music (D’n’B bringing the worst parts of Dunedin to Auckland), and people were milling around some signup booths. There was a table for bFM, which is like Craccum but audible, and a table for Unichem, which is not very much like Craccum at all. There was another for UBS, and a very busy table offering a years supply of noodles. I thought that advocating such quantities of poison would violate some AUSA code, but the noodleman was very convincing. Finally, there was a table to enrol to vote.
Oh shit, I thought, looking around. They let these people vote?
Around the corner was something that genuinely surprised me: motherfucking Guitar Hero. We couldn’t resist playing, and although my fingers were uncoordinated and I was drenched with sweat, the dulcet tones of Alice Cooper drowned out my shame. And we totally crushed it. We then walked down the stairs away from the Quad, and I caught a fleeting glance of the Shadows sign again. However, my mildly-drunken brain convinced me to continue, so we turned around, ready to continue our journalistic journey.
Suddenly, we were swallowed by a swarm of Friends t-shirts and Seinfeld socks. Had there been an explosion in the Queen Street Typo? There was a whirlwind of recognisable (nostalgia-baiting) brands passing by. I spotted the leader of the troupe holding a red sign above her head, with a number emblazoned on it. Oh, I thought, we were nearly crushed to death by a damn tour group. Unlike the tour groups from cruise ships, this wasn’t made up of tanned, beautiful tourists, they were just trendy first-years.
‘Do we run?’
‘No, we need to observe it.’
The UniGuide was saying all sorts of strange things about “student life,” which I did not
understand. Hadn’t student life ended with the closing of our original Shadows? We decided to follow the group, hoping to learn more about the “community”. It was imperative that we remained inconspicuous, so we swayed quietly amongst the crowd. Apparently there is a positive spirit within the University of Auckland. Anyone know where to find that? Probably wasn’t mandated by the committee, and will eventually be replaced by a more reliable source of revenue.
As we followed the group towards Symonds Street, we were stopped by a tall man, asking if we wanted to join his barber club.
‘A barber group?’ I slurred, incredulously.
‘We meet every week to discuss,’ he said.
‘About being a barber? Like different haircuts?’
‘Oh sorry,’ he said laughing, ‘I meant, bible group.’
We started backing away, terrified, and broke into a run.
After that harrowing incident, we decided it would be best to retire back to the pub and debrief. We ordered a couple drinks and I checked my notes from the expedition. I had only written misspelled swear words and the phrase “David Seymour looks like he was drawn by Dr Suess.”
So much for a serious journalistic perspective.
To make a vain attempt to pull a conclusion out of my incredibly blurry experience (and not piss off my editor), Orientation is a week that doesn’t make much sense if you decide to attend it drunk in your fourth year. However, remembering how overwhelmed and ignorant I was in my first year, I probably wouldn’t have fucked up quite as much if I had actually remembered
Orientation, or I had stumbled upon that “community feeling.”