When I first set foot on ANU campus on Open Day in 2014, I took one look at the melee of students and the beautiful cherry blossom trees covering University Avenue and knew this was a place where I could spend the next five years of my life. That was the easy decision. But since I was from Melbourne and would need a place to live, I also needed to find a new home. Both my parents had lived in a college during their university days, so it seemed pretty straightforward for me to follow in their footsteps.
Most of what I had heard about the college experience was a mix of scenes from American movies and stories from my parents – flashes of parties, drinking, pranks, group bonding and most of all, friendships made for life. Despite this, I really didn’t know what to expect when I moved into Bruce Hall on my first day. As my dad and I brought up all my things in boxes from the car like a trail of ants, it felt strange to see my whole life laid out in front of me. I remember sitting by myself in a crowded room for the first time. Some may have called it too small, but I remember feeling happy because I figured that rooms are like shoes: you don’t want the biggest one. You want the one that fits.
The same thing applied to Bruce. It wasn’t the biggest hall on campus, it wasn’t the newest, the shiniest or the richest, but it was full of people who loved to learn, who loved to be excited about things and who were from all over Australia and the world.
The diversity of residents is what I’ve loved most about my time at Bruce. I had considered applying to Burgmann College, given that I am also a law student, but I’m glad that I live in a place full of students from all the different disciplines that ANU offers.
While my time has been positive, there were a few things I wish I’d known before moving into Bruce:
It probably wouldn’t hurt to tell new students that every college has a fire drill during O-Week, usually at five or six in the morning, so make sure to wear your best-looking pyjamas.
Each college usually celebrates the Holi festival of colours, which involves forming teams and raging war using brightly coloured powders. It’s a very messy event so make sure to bring a white t-shirt. It’ll be rainbow by the end of the week.
It’s best to pack more than one fancy dress, as there always seems to be something new to celebrate at college. These include events like Commencement, Academic Dinner and Lunar New Year. But there will always be more spontaneous events, like when alumni Stephen Gageler decided to visit Bruce or when the college bands together to celebrate its President’s birthday.
While college is great, sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming as if you’re living entirely in a bubble. Therefore, it’s great to pluck up the courage to venture out into the rest of campus and maybe into Canberra itself. ANU Market Day is a great place to start – all the clubs and societies will have a booth filled with friendly people happy to explain how they fit into the landscape of ANU. If you’re from overseas, there are lots of different international societies to help fill that void.
You are not alone. College is one of the most supportive environments and there are so many people there to help if you feel like you’re struggling. The Head of Hall and Community Coordinators usually have their doors open for a chat, so whatever your problem – homesickness, academic stress, etc. – they’re always happy to help.
During first year, I remember feeling that Bruce Hall was the best place in the world and that surely nowhere else could compare. But I attended interhall events and students living at every other hall proceeded to tell me the same thing: that their hall was the place to be, and that they were so happy to feel at home in Canberra.
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