O-week: creating and celebrating connection

Morning tea, sponsored by PARSA Morning tea sponsored by PARSA Bouldering/rock climbing Buddy meet-up in the park Buddy meet-up Lawn bowls at the RUC Lawn bowls Dr Aunty Matilida Welcomes students to Country Paul Girrawah House and students prepare for a Welcome with digeridoo and bilma (clapsticks) Paul House smoking the Florey building where medical students study Paul House smoking the Florey building where medical students study
14 February 2023

This year, orientation week (o-week) activities were back to pre-pandemic levels with lots of opportunity to socialise.

ANU Medical Students’ Society (ANUMSS) representatives Mel Gezer (Social Representative), Yu Tong (Sarah) Fan (Year 2 Academic Representative), and Edwin Hur-Thompson (Year 2 General Representative) – who experienced restrictions during their orientation last year – where keen to fill o-week with fun activities that allowed the first year medical students to connect and learn.

Students were spoilt for choice. Activities included lawn bowls, bouldering, a trivia night, a breakfast event sponsored by PARSA, a mixer hosted by the Australian Medical Association, a buddy picnic organised by the ANUMSS Wellbeing Officer Emily Ryan, and an end-of o-week party in the city.

Mel said, “When planning the events, we drew upon our own experiences and insights fully understanding how important the in-person activities are to create personal connections.”

Sarah added, “Many of the second year medical students graciously provided us with invaluable feedback, tips and tricks from their own first year experience. This informed the events we organised and I enjoyed collating the tips into a presentation for the new students. It’s a great reflection of the collegiate culture between the medical students, where we look out for and help each other however we can.”

Chloe Hinckfuss, a first year medical student noted, “It was obvious the second-year organisers put a lot of time and effort into planning these events and they really helped facilitate intra-year familiarity and bonding.”

“Every activity represented a chance to step outside your comfort zone or try something new, but also mingle with people you had sat next to in a lecture or introduce yourself to new faces.”

“I was surprised to see how naturally everyone interacted and it was really warming to see the ice break - pun not intended,” Chloe smiled.

In addition to the social activities, students experienced a Welcome and Smoking Ceremony (for cleansing, healing and celebration) led by local Indigenous elders Paul Girrawah House and Dr Aunty Matilda House.

Vincent Batchelor, a first year medical student said, “Hearing the perspective of Canberra's First Nations custodians was truly insightful. I felt that through this presentation the School had begun to set the foundations for me to learn how to become a conscientious medical provider, particularly to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.”

“While Australian medicine has a dark history in this regard, I feel that the School will help teach me the tools to become a part of systemic reconciliation,” Vincent said.

“The Smoking ceremony felt particularly significant. It was a welcome by the true-custodians of this land into what I hope will be a long medical career. I felt immensely grateful, privileged and a sense of connection to be in that position,” Vincent added.

Chloe, who along with Vincent was invited to contribute to the Welcome advised, “The ceremony involved a group of students using clapsticks known as ‘bilma’ to accompany Paul House as he played the didgeridoo.”

“I have previously witnessed Welcome ceremonies but this was the first time I had the opportunity to be a part of one. I’m sure I speak on behalf of all students when I say it was a really special and memorable experience and we thank Paul for inviting us to participate.”