First off, a big shout out to everyone who’s supported me after my previous blogpost. I have had so many lovely messages and comments, and each one has left me feeling warm, fuzzy and a little buoyant. Thank you so, so much – it’s meant a lot.
May Contain Traces of Fish
I now want to introduce you to something else close to my heart. No, it’s not Doctor Who, and neither is it my cat – though both would be good guesses. The particular thing in question: my beloved floor in Uni Hall.
If you’re planning on staying in a hall of residence, you’ll find your floor will probably shape your first year experience more than any other factor. I’ll try to explain.
Your floor compatriots are among the first people you meet when you arrive at university; because you seem them every day, you get to know them really well. You become close, and fast. You share facilities, such as bathrooms, a kitchen, and a common room. Living in such close proximity means you get to know their quirks: their tastes in music, their strange, manic laughs. You do stuff as a floor. There are floor competitions, floor outings, floor movie nights. It doesn’t take long for a floor to develop a distinct culture and identity.
I’m on Floor Ten; our colour is aqua. Suitably the theme for our floor was chosen to be “aquarium”. When we arrived each of our doors had a little blue paper fish stuck to it.
The Aquarium Inhabitants
The person responsible for the theme and the fish was our Residential Advisor (RA), Christine. She’s a returning student and UH resident who’s living with us first-years – oh, pity her – and it’s her job to help us settle into the hall and generally to oversee our floor. She’s amazing: always friendly, helpful and approachable. And, she has pretty cool sunglasses too.
Including Christine, thirty-four of us call Floor Ten ours. When I met my floor-mates on move-in day, I wasn’t on top form. I was worn out: over the past hour I had climbed ten flights of stairs, twice, with several, heavy bags; now my parents had abandoned me. I felt awash, beached. Suddenly, here were thirty strangers with names and degrees to remember; here were the people I’d be spending the year with. Needless to say, my initial exchanges with them were a little clumsy and fumbling.
I was immediately struck by our floor’s diversity. We have people from all over: from Thailand, England, and Palmerston North. (Although in terms of degrees, the floor is not so diverse, with at least ⅔ doing Biomed or Health Sciences.) It also quickly became clear that many of my co-habitants are endowed with serious amounts of talent. We have, in no particular order, a master embroiderer, an accomplished ballet dancer, a national title-holder in orienteering… the list continues. I was in awe. As the ice broke, I saw not only are these people wonderfully talented, but also down-to-earth, kind, and genuine. Quiet, but quietly quirky too. It didn’t take long before I grew fond of this kettle of fish.
Early floor-bonding took place over Harry Potter evenings and games of scum. In due course, our nascent pride would burst into full bloom at the UH inter-floor wars, where each floor donned their most patriotic attire and battled others in a series of challenges at the domain. In aqua socks and bandannas Floor Ten rallied as one, and while we did not leave with the trophy, we did take with us a greater sense of camaraderie. Of sweat, shared and shed together (I may be exaggerating but you get the picture).
The most influential event in the creation of floor identity was surely the “pimp-your-floor” contest of a few weeks back, which pitted good taste against shameless self-expression. A budget was allocated for the purchase of aquarium-themed decorations; an expedition set out to Look Sharp and returned with an ocean in tow. Baby blue streamers were hung from the ceiling; plastic fish were pinned to the walls; quotes from Finding Nemo were splashed onto windows with blue whiteboard markers. A stuffed toy shark was bought, and we christened him Bruce.
Although we didn’t win the contest, we’re very proud of what we’ve made our floor. It’s creative, it’s silly, it’s beginning to feel like home. And all these wonderful, talented people – all these funny fish – well, they’re beginning to feel like family.