Excitement as residences open

27 January 2010 | Story by Newsroom

students queueHome from home: First-years led the way of students making their way into residences.

UCT was buzzing on 26 January as first-years led the train of students making their way into residences. Freshers lugged their bulging bags and suitcases, some with the help of their parents, and braved the sometimes slow queues to get into their rooms.

Among them was Rotondwa Nengovhela, who said she was scared but excited about her first time in a university residence, "because I don't know what to expect".

Some residences responded to such anxiety by hosting ice-breaking parties. "We know that most of the first-years are anxious about settling into residence, and we decided to play music to relax them and make them feel at home," explains Inga Macakati, a sub-warden at the Baxter Hall residence.

Her Tugwell counterpart Dinika Govender said some parents were so protective of their children that they would want to do extravagant stuff, such as changing curtains to match the bedding and put up plasma television screens. "In those situations we stand up and explain to them that residences are homes away from home that are geared towards study, and students must have a peaceful environment to study."

Govender said residence opening was tiring and at times frustrating, especially when having to deal with unhappy and very vocal parents too.

"But we always strive for efficiency and try to process as many students with smiles on our faces, and reassure parents that their children are in good hands."

House committees also used the occasion to market their activities and to raise funds by selling useful odds and ends such as locks and T-shirts. Grant Willis, director of Student Housing & Residence Life, reports that, based on previous trends of high cancellations and no-show rates, they have carefully over-allocated - as do airlines and hotels - bed spaces. Meaning that there should be a bed in a UCT residence for every student who turns up.

"These arrangements ensure that we are able to offer as many students as possible residence accommodation, settle them as quickly as possible and retain a 99% occupancy rate in order to balance our ring-fenced budget," says Willis.

UCT has also set aside an additional 170 temporary and transit beds in first-year residences should there be an overflow.

"The intention," adds Willis, "is that after 30 January, by which time all returning and new students should have arrived, these transit students will be settled, usually in the same residences where they are temporarily accommodated."

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