“Choose Your Friends Wisely.”
These wise words rang loud and true from the University of Otago’s Vice Chancellors Speech (Professor Harlene Hayne) at the American-styled fourth Convocation Ceremony 2019 at the Dunedin Forsyth Barr’s Stadium, New Zealand. The crowd roused and roared into life.
“Welcome to University! Welcome to your new home!” says James Heath.
The 4000 strong crowd of first year students gathered for the 2019 O week (short for Orientation Week) as we were welcomed into the University and Dunedin City by some of our big names. Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, Chancellor Royden Somerville, Otago University’s Student Association (OUSA) President James Heath and Maori Development Director Tuari Potiki were all part of the powhiri (welcome ceremony) at the stadium. Dressed in glamorous graduation gowns, the prestigious University staff led by the Scottish Piper Band made the formal procession into the stadium. This was one of the best moments!
“Its about taking your place in a culturally, socially rich and supportive community with sporting and recreational facilities, galleries, theatres, musuems and events.” recalled Mayor Cull.
“Explore whats on offer. Make new friends. Try new experiences. Make it the start to the best time of your life.”
I was excited. I was glowing.
But I was nervous too.
Nervous because potentially I saw the huge competition that lies ahead amongst the thousands of us students. Nervous because I understand the pressures of these competitions, the outrageous mental health issues and high suicidal rates that go with it as a mature health professional.
I had listened to James (OUSA) being interviewed on the radio the week before as I was driving through to Dunedin after 24hour of travels. He was very confident and very supportive of the new year ahead. James reiterated that moving into a new city is never easy. Just as it was nerve-wrecking, it should be exciting and fulfilling too!
“Find your people, your place and amongst those strangers, some of them your dearest friends.”
A common theme that sounded across the board of speakers was to look after yourself and mental health. This was the truth!
I will make it a priority by finding that balance. I hope the other students and workers do the same too.
I emailed Professor Hayne some days later to thank her for that incredible speech at the convocation ceremony. She acknowledged my email and reminded me in my email with her three big ideas. They were very important as she elaborated on them in her inaugural speech.
Firstly, Professor Hayne challenged us to “create great memories.”
“Otago is the only truly residential university in New Zealand. There is no where else in this country do so many bright people come together, not only to learn but also to live. Many of you will find your soul mates here. Friends that you will keep for a lifetime. Like you, they are bright, articulate, ambitious, interesting, compassionate, friendly and are heaps and heaps of fun.”
Over the next few years, she challenged us to pick our friends carefully.
“Pick people who will make a better version of yourself, friends that you can laugh with, can cry with, friends that you can trust to have your back, can keep you safe, friends who will accept you just the way you are but at the same time will challenge you to push yourself to achieve great things.”
As an entrepreneur, the biggest lesson I have learnt was that your circle of friends influence your personal success. Jim Rohn famously said that,
“You’re the average of five people you spent most of your time with.”
The right circle of friends raises the bar, and helps us to set newer and loftier expectations of ourselves. When we surround ourselves amongst the popular and successful achievers, we consciously and subconsciously challenge ourselves to be the best.
Therefore, the best people we should be spending most time with, I learnt, are those who
-make you a better person
-push you to meet your goals
-inspire you and
-help you transform.
Have you got any of these friends in your circle?
Secondly, Professor Hayne challenged us to “be grateful.”
“As a first year student, many of you will have had your University fees already paid by the New Zealand Tax payer. This means that this first year of your tertiary studies has been fully funded. Your access and coming to University is free. So you will make an effort to be grateful to the New Zealand Public by volunteering your time and skills through to the many organisations this city, this region and community has to offer. She also encouraged us to make use of this unbelieveable opportunity.”
I didn’t fall into that category as I was a mature student. I had a couple of professional and academic qualifications under my hat. But that will not stop me from Volunteering my skills and services to the Otago Community in the near future.
Dr Stephen Scott also reminded us to “be grateful.”
“You are standing on the Shoulders of Giants! You must acknowledge those who have gone before you, the academic work of others. Recognise these Giants. These giants include Ethel Benjamin who was our first law graduate, Te Rangi Huaroa our first Maori Medical Graduate, Fred Hollows our pioneering Opthomologist and our biggest rockstars of music, the Six60 Band. Otago University was built in 1869, opened July 1871 and recieved women as students in August 1871. This year 2019 marks the 150 years of Otago University.”
“Know why you are here. Know what you are here for. When you know why you are here, then you become successful. You have a purpose.”
“Treat University like a job. Remember you are standing on the shoulders of giants!”
Thirdly, Professor Hayne challenged us to “act like a superhero.”
It is a big world out there and it’s often dangerous. This is a big university too and the environment can get very “crowded.”
Its important to develop a mindset of self-awareness so that you can go out and help others too. Behave like everyday heros-to take action helping others when the opportunities present themselves. Act with honour and integrity.
Find that balance and practice mindfulness-be aware of what is going on around you so you can take action and step in to offer help where it is necessary. Develop that feeling of confidence so you can do something.
Engage in self-efficacy. Believe that you can do it. Choose empathy. Develop and maintain empathy. Its a great skill and trait to have.
A superhero recognises the suffering of others and is moved to help rather than ignore or criticise. Find a cause to fight for like our Giant Dr Fred Hollows did.
I’ve pinned my three biggest challenges for University on my little vision board in my room, North Dunedin. They have now become my goals, my bucket list and my daily aspirations. I’ve reminded myself that these challenges will be the driving force and factor through my University years; to serve and be a good citizen to this community and the global community.
These goals will keep me grounded with my purpose, with knowing why I came to University and what I will achieve and contribute through the years. I sincerely and geniunely hope that, you too will find time;
to create great memories,
and will always act like a superhero
whether you are a student, a worker, a parent, an employer or an employee. As the University of Otago’s Motto proudly stands;
“Sapere Aude-Dare to be Wise!”