Campus atmosphere ramping up for students' O-week

LIB WILSON
Last updated 05:00 01/03/2014

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Hamilton is gearing up for a massive weekend as students descend on the town for another academic year.

From Sunday morning, around 10,000 University of Waikato students will be entertained with a week of "non-stop" events which have been months in the making - but safety is also a focus.

ORI2014 was a "big operation", Waikato Student Union president Aaron Letcher said.

"You're trying to co-ordinate about 10,000 students for seven full days that run from seven in the morning til four in the morning the following day. It just runs non-stop, quite literally," he said.

Preparations started last November and the festive side of O-week kicks off Sunday morning with a pool party.

The campus atmosphere was already ramping up for a positive week, Mr Letcher said.

"If people actually came down and had a look they would see it's just young people having a good time, getting to know a new environment and then it tends to quieten down for the rest of the year," he said.

Safety was a big focus, with a nightly "pre-town feed" and free bus service at the core.

"It's got a real community aspect - that you're reducing the risk of drink driving, young girls walking home by themselves, or any damage to local residents' property. So it kind of helps protect that reputation of students and delivers them a service as well."

Pre O-week, the union consulted groups, including the halls of residence and local police, to make sure all bases were covered, Mr Letcher said.

Head of student and academic services Michelle Jordan-Tong agreed campus was buzzing with returning students.

"They welcome themselves to the city and have a little bit of fun, but it's good for the city and the overwhelming majority of them are sensible," she said.

Orientation changed and improved a bit each year, she said, and events aimed to cover the spectrum of age groups and those new to the university, new to Hamilton and to New Zealand, she said.

This year there was "extra flavour" for the 50th anniversary, including a time capsule.

Safety-wise, alcohol-free events were always on the calendar, and there were a number of initiatives, including information in student packs, and having a police officer speak to students in university accommodation.

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- Waikato Times

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