Sully Abroad: A new kind of community

The roar of The Ruckus, the pep band playing and singing the fight song, Rhody the Ram running around, watching our basketball team beat the living [expletive] out of Providence College (knock on wood); these are all things that makeup the University of Rhode Island’s identity. Like other schools in America, athletics and school-wide organizations make up the school’s community and its presence amongst its students. In America, it’s all about what you can do on campus: the college experience.

Australia, on the other hand, cares little, in comparison, for building up the community on campus. There are smaller events, such as stress-less week, but nothing like what we have at URI. University isn’t the place to have those same experiences, but rather it is a place to learn in order to set yourself up for life. UNSW was even just ranked as the 46th best university in the world by the QS World University Rankings (URI didn’t even make the list, and the list is 900 schools long!) But there is one area where that isn’t true, and that’s what this article is all about. The sense of community within the dorms at UNSW.

Dorm life at URI has a bit of a negative connotation. Every semester there’s a fight to get into Eddy, Wiley and Garrahy, and then the rest fall soon after. Freshman can hope for the luxury of Hillside, the convenience of Butterfield and its dining hall, or the air conditioning inside Weldin and Barlow. What all of the dorms at URI lack, however, is a sense of building wide community. Sure there are friend groups, and maybe even a hallway that gets along really well, but there isn’t really that sense of “we are all Hillsiders” (or whatever you want to call it).  

URI obviously doesn’t do much in the dorms (like most schools), but that’s because the whole school gets involved in events. While I can remember a handful of small scale events taking place in front of Weldin on the grassy knoll, URI has the SEC. Every year there’s concerts, athletics, greek life and a ton of other ways for people to get involved on a school wide level. That is the polar opposite of what my experience at UNSW Hall has been like

As I mentioned in an earlier article, each individual learning community at UNSW has their own orientation, rather than the whole school. UNSW has 55,000 students, it wouldn’t be feasible to run an orientation that large. As a result, everyone is forced to spend their orientation getting to know the people they’ll see each day, rather than just a friendly face they might see around campus every week or two. Each dorm also takes part in what they call the “fresher dance,” or when all the first year students organize a dance that they show off to the other dorms on campus. It’s actually a ton of fun to see everyone get really excited when the song comes on and start doing the dance, even though they don’t have to do it anymore. They do it because it’s a family, it’s tradition.

UNSW Hall puts on a ton of events during the year. Too many to count and to explain, but a short list includes pub crawls, games nights, culture nights, movie nights, day trips and a plethora of others. Only open to Haller’s (the people who live in hall), this puts us together all the time, fostering community. We also compete with other dorms on campus in sports, competing in basketball, field hockey, cross country and a handful of other sports. Within the building itself we have floor competitions, which range everywhere from trivia, to baking competitions, all the way to volleyball. But the best part about hall, and the best showcase of community was last Sunday, Haller-Day

During the 4th birthday of UNSW Hall (Previously it was Baxter Hall) the entire building had a massive birthday party. There was a scavenger hunt in the morning, followed by an afternoon full of fun. There was a bouncy castle, lunch (which we don’t get on our meal plans!), pies and cakes, free “UNSW HALL 2017” bracelets and tons more. We all layed on the grass, swapped stories and just had a great time celebrating the building that has given us so much over the course of the year. It was spectacular.

I’ve had a great time in URI housing, I really have. My freshman year my room had a walk-in closet, and my roommate was a tour guide just like me. My sophomore year I picked each and every one of my suitemates in Eddy, and we had a blast living together! And yet, in a community where 3 ½ months ago I didn’t know anybody, I can say with absolutely no doubt that this is the best dorm experience that I’ve ever had. It’s magical, and almost indescribable. Everybody in the building knows me, I know them, and I can start a conversation with anyone. We even had our very own hall formal last week, followed by an afterparty at one of the biggest clubs in Sydney!  Nevermind the fact that the drinking age in America is 21, could you imagine any dorm at URI having their very own formal?

The community has been a part of every semester I have been in at university, both in America and in Australia. Between the URI marching band, the Tour Guide Team, the Rhody Ruckus and the other groups that I’ve been a part of, I’ve always found a place to call home at URI. The same can be said of UNSW, but instead of it being an organization or a certain group of people, that community is my dorm. So that’s the biggest difference between the two schools, where I’ve found community.