Campus is beaming up with new faces as they are being ushered into their new realities after much dedication and hardwork. The introduction to Fly@UP is well underway, and there is so much more to uncover through O-Week, formally known as O-Week. For to those that have been accepted to the UP residences respectively, here comes double the fun. Orientation Week is when the university formally introduces first-year students and their parents to the university, coupled up with exciting activities over the course of a week. For the UP residences, this means a new era awaits when the first-years are ordained into a camaraderie of their choice, where they will be taught the different ways to uphold the esprit de corps of their new homes.


PDBY interviewed house committee members [HCs] from different UP residences on O-Week: Humelo Mjikeliso – Nerina chairperson (2023/24); Thato Lott Komane – Tirisano chairperson (2023/24); Mpho Molamu – Tirisano vice-chairperson of academics, mentorship and alumni (2022/23); Joe Hobden – College’s portfolio of sports and recreation (2022/23).


What is O-Week through the lens of the HC and having experienced it from the other side?

Mjikeliso: O-Week is infamously known at many universities for introducing incoming students to student life [or], in our case here at TuksRes, residence life. O-Week is known now for the various activities that happen on and off campus as well as [interaction] with other first- years. O-Week for HCs means a lot of work as well as lots of planning behind the scenes, but besides that, HCs know O-Week as reminiscent of their own experiences in their respective first years. For first-years, O-Week is a time to have fun and [gather] lots of information on UP and Tuks residences at large. They get to experience a whirlwind of university life within their residences and campus as well as [form] relationships with new people and [learn] to adapt to a more independent environment as university students.


Lott Komane: The difference in Orientation week experiences as perceived by a first-year participant and a House Committee member revolves around a dynamic of giving and receiving. The HC’s emphasis is on making an enriching experience for the incoming first years, which includes lessons delivered and sessions planned, all with the goal of making it a transformative journey for them. This is also a chance to help with registration admin, submission of contracts, etc. For first-year students, O-Week is a fun blend of living, interpersonal bonding, and educational enrichment. It provides a platform where all individuals are treated equally. [It] surpass[es] backgrounds, building an environment of lifelong friendships and serving as a vital networking opportunity.


Molamu: O-Week is, from my lens, a short time or period given to me to be a brother to the first-years that have just joined varsity from various places, […] helping them to integrate well within this new space of their lives. [I can help] them with their academic stuff especially first from the admin’s perspective, support them emotionally and physically, create memorable experiences with them by providing opportunities for them to socialise with other first-years from other [residences] while unlocking their potentials thereon.


Hobden: O-Week is the chance for the first-years to integrate into their new lives. The ability to form bonds with those who will be around you for the next few years of your life. As an EC, it is the chance to help these first-years adapt to these new surroundings and encourage them to come out of their shells and experience the new world.


What traditions have been upheld in the previous years, and are there any new traditions recently incorporated?

Mjikeliso: Specifically at my residence, the one most memorable to first years is the goodnight saying that the first-years must recite to the HCs before going to bed. This started a while ago and is still being upheld today! And the infamous harlequin pose which Nerina students are known for, which had started over a decadeago, and if anybody does it on campus or in public, they’ll know exactly which residence that is.


Lott Komane: The traditional act of greeting individuals and acknowledging structures offers the significance of showing respect and honouring the presence of others. Since this is a sacred topic, I’ll just give you this one.


Molamu: Traditions I know include the singing of the house song by members of the house, but this is taught to first-years first during O-Week, meaning all seniors know it from O-Week. Another tradition is referring to HCs as “ministers” until first-years have graduated, which would be the end of O-Week. [Furthermore], the singing of Igwijo to express our emotions, the wearing of first-year uniform or black and yellow colours every Wednesday, since it’s a Tiri-Wednesday. [Another tradition is] not wearing the cap inside the building during O-Week, and those are all the traditions I can remember. There are no new traditions incorporated unless they come up with new ones now [for] this coming O-Week. 


Hobden: At College, we have a few traditions which are very important for us. All of our traditions have meaning behind them, and the EC explains them in great detail to the first-years. I feel this is very important to help explain the reasons we do things, and [it] makes the first-years feel involved in more than just a building, but rather a new family.


What are some negative aspects of O-Week and struggles not only for the HC but also for the first-years?

Mjikeliso: I do believe in the past that res culture was very ‘initiation’ based and less focused on the betterment of students. However, TuksRes really does incorporate fun while learning and experiencing res traditions in a progressive and productive way. Now, res culture is centred around ensuring first-years have a good time – there are monitors from TuksRes to ensure this too!


Lott Komane: The House Committee’s responsibilities can be both physically and emotionally taxing, as our leadership abilities are constantly put to the test. Notably, not all first-years understand the purpose of O-Week, which leads to division between the residential life and themselves.


Molamu: You find that sometimes on a particular day we have a lot of socials to go to; therefore, we must spend more time preparing for all of them and attend[ing] them. So that’s a bit exhausting, but fun. When students come with financial issues which the university and other bodies take time to address, [it] distracts both the HC and those first-years from the whole process of O-Week, and it’s negative. 


Hobden: The packed schedule and high social demands [during O-Week] can be very draining. People start to run out of social battery, and more time to relax and catch your breath would be better.


What should the first-years look forward to during O-Week?

Mjikeliso: First-years must look forward to meeting many, many, many students, as well as lots of walking. (This seems bad, but trust me, at the end of it all, you’ll want to re-experience all the walking.)


Lott Komane: O-Week’s social interactions, bonds formed, and educational aspects all add greatly to its multifaceted purpose.


Molamu: The first-years should look [forward] to learning the history of the house, values of the house, singing more, speaking with others more, waking up early, eating new food, and being homesick because it is going to happen one way or another. They should also be looking forward to participating in a singing and dancing competition called 1nSync, where they will be competing with other first-years from different residences.


Hobden: The excitement of meeting new people! At home, I was surrounded by the same people. When I came to university, I met new people from all around the country. It’s awesome and so exciting to be involved in.


How important is O-Week, and how effective has it been with first-years’ adaptation?

Mjikeliso: O-Week is very important. In my opinion, I’d say [it is] the pinnacle of first year in terms of res culture. Besides all the fun, O-Week at TuksRes makes the adjustment stage a lot less stressful and a lot easier to adapt to actual university [life]. There are multiple informative sessions during the week that assist first-years with ClickUP, booking meals, and campus tours. O-Week also allows for many students to step out of their comfort zone. For a lot of people, O-Week is the first time students get to enjoy and feel free without any pressure from the outside world/others’ opinions. O-Week is so effective for adapting as it makes the new phase of life one embarks [on] less daunting and awkward and more memorable. O-Week will forever be a fan favourite [of] university students, especially first-years.


Lott Komane: The inclusion of O-Week lessons proves valuable in navigating university life with greater ease. The week provides invaluable life advice and academic insights, as well as an understanding of the historical context of the residence and the larger university. Furthermore, it allows participants to align with the moral fabric of the campus by instilling values fundamental to the university code of conduct.


Molamu: O-Week is very important, as the first-years are left in the best hands ever [for] their first time [at] varsity. So their lives become [easier] because we basically help them with anything they may need, and they feel safe and comfortable around us while learning to be responsible and respectful adults who can live with different people in peace. It has been very effective. First-years [who] are off-campus and don’t get to attend O-Week often get lost on so many things, whereas the ones who attend O-Week come out just fine and adapt very fast and [easily] to the varsity life.


Hobden: I think O-Week is very important. [It is important] to meet people who go to the same lectures and events as you[…]. You feel like you’re no longer alone in the sea of uncertainty of these new surroundings. To bond with the people who live around you is also important, as you will be living with them for the next year.


O-Week does not fall short of fun and is jam- packed with activities. While the transition from high school to university is never seamless, you will receive all the support you need.

Mahlatsi Tshabalala Hope
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