Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Take it easy, but take it: the advice to new students

Convocation Story Image 4
The event was held at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium and welcomed in thousands of first-year students.

This year’s Convocation Ceremony was a different one to previous years as speakers reflected on how a global pandemic had changed many students’ lives but could prepare them for a bright future.

The event was held at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium and welcomed in thousands of first-year students. After returning to Alert Level 1 before the Orientation Week started, there was a strong sense of gratitude and understanding of the privilege to gather as a group and celebrate the start of a new chapter.

The ceremony featured guest speaker Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Grant Robertson, who reflected on how 2020 had impacted many Year 13 students.

“2020 was a pretty rubbish year to be in Year 13. A lot of things were cancelled, a lot of things you were looking forward to you weren’t able to complete or participate in. Every New Zealander went through something and I want to acknowledge that for you, you missed out on something. Now is your chance to make up for it - in a balanced way.”

“It can be a stressful time and a full-on experience starting out as a tertiary student. Hence my chilled-out vibes of saying ‘take it easy’, but equally, opportunity abounds for you. There’s no better time to grab it than now.”

Mr Robertson shared of his own experience at the University and his time as student president in 1993.

“In the Orientation Magazine for 1993, (we didn’t have a convocation ceremony) I wrote a welcome for students. In it, I dropped a few lines from a new TV show called ‘Shortland Street’, just to show my ‘cred’, and I finished my welcome by urging my fellow students to take it easy but also to take it.”

“Acknowledge the place you now call home. Appreciate the halls that you are in, the lectures that you will drag yourself out of bed to attend and remember that where you are is a place of learning.”

“Take the opportunity to sign up for anything, any club, anything that will get you out and about. You’re going to make the most amazing friends in your colleges and halls, they will be your friends for life, but there’s an enormous amount of other people out there at university who are going to shape your future as well.”

In addition to hearing from the Deputy Prime Minister, students heard from 2021 Student President Michaela Waite-Harvey who encouraged students to recognise the opportunity they have signed up for.

“Acknowledge the place you now call home. Appreciate the halls that you are in, the lectures that you will drag yourself out of bed to attend and remember that where you are is a place of learning.”

“Remember those that have come before you, acknowledge that those who came before you have made your time easier. Know that no matter your individual drive, you are all here for the betterment of society and you should all be proud of the collective effort you are making to improve all of our lives.”

Among the speeches, students also heard from Otago music graduate Metitilani (Lani) Alo, who performed a few items and was said by many to be the highlight of the event.

In her final ceremony, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Harlene Hayne, recognised what the past year had taught young people about meaningful connections.

“This convocation ceremony marks the beginning of your journey here at Otago, a journey which I guarantee will change your life forever. What happens here over the next few years will shape both your personal and professional future.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many lessons, but perhaps one of the most important lessons is how much we truly need each other’s company. Over the days and weeks to come, I guarantee you’re going to find your soulmates here, friends that you will keep for the rest of your life. I encourage you to choose those friends wisely. Pick people who will make you a better version of yourself.”

Professor Hayne went on to share with the group the significance of this moment and the new chapter ahead.

“This convocation ceremony marks the beginning of your journey here at Otago, a journey which I guarantee will change your life forever. What happens here over the next few years will shape both your personal and professional future.”

The date for this year's Convocation Ceremony coincided with the ten-year anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake, and many of the speeches of the day reflected on this significance. University of Otago students in Christchurch at the time were among many brave New Zealanders who helped those affected, and many other students were greatly impacted by those events.

Convocation Story Image 5

Convocation Story Image 5 (1)

Convocation Story Image 4

Convocation Story Image 1

Convocation Story Image 2