Background - 22.10.2018 - 00:00 

Freshers’ Week: nine months of preparation and planning

In the Freshers’ Week, new students familiarise themselves with everyday campus life. More than 150 staff ensure that the Freshers’ Week will remain imprinted on their memory. A substantial contribution to this was made by students Irina Peterhans, Andreas Oberholzer and Daniel Grutzeck.

22 October 2018. For the 1,700 new students, the Freshers’ Week has already been part of their past for some weeks. They have discovered the campus and St.Gallen, and they have already made a few friends. Everyday student life has caught up with them.

This is not the case for the Freshers’ Week team of the University of St.Gallen. “For us, the Fresher’s Week will only be concluded with the inspection of examination papers in February 2019,” says Miriam Mrisi, head of the Freshers’ Week. In retrospect, however, she is already able to say that the Freshers’ Week was more relaxed than in previous years. One of the reasons for this was the team constellation. Mrisi’s five-strong team was supplemented with three students. "This year, we changed the system; now the University employs students – a huge gain in efficiency."

Miriam Mrisi also owes this increase in efficiency to the fact that Irina Peterhans, Andreas Oberholzer and Daniel Grutzeck had already been involved in the organisation of Freshers’ Week as the campus credits team in the previous year. Thus the tasks were known to them, and they needed less time to learn the ropes.

Well-coordinated team

The preparatory work for the autumn already began early in the year. Irina Peterhans was in charge of the 120 tutors while Daniel Grutzeck began to plan room allocation and timetables, as well as heading the entire support crew who would staff the information desk and the Freshers’ Week Café or be available as drivers. Andreas Oberholzer managed the social media channels, ran the document team and organised the concluding event. "Since we were already a well-coordinated team and each of us was familiar with our tasks from the previous year, the whole preparation stage was much more relaxed," says Irina Peterhans. And Andreas Oberholzer adds: "Owing to our experience, we were able to assume even more responsibility in the project."

Daniel Grutzeck used the more relaxed preparation stage to reconfigure his field of activities: scheduling was reorganised. "The administrative introduction to studies was made in the first two days, which meant that the new students could subsequently wholly devote themselves to work on the case study and thus to the academic introduction."

However, the eight-strong team cannot run the Freshers’ Week on their own. Every year, 120 supervisory tutors, 25 students in the support crew and a 15-strong document team are jointly responsible for the Freshers’ Week becoming a memorable success for the new students. The tutors and the support crew were recruited by Irina Peterhans. Andreas Oberholzer lent her a helping hand with the tutors, Daniel Grutzeck with the support crew. "The application figures reveal that the Freshers’ Week also arouses "older students’" interest," says Peterhans.

Nine months’ planning for one week

Although the students had an inter-term break in the summer, they continued to work for this one week.  "Four weeks before the Freshers’ Week, the workload becomes bigger and bigger the closer calendar week 37 becomes," says Andreas Oberholzer, adding that it was that much more important to take a few days off in the run-up in order to get a clear head. Particularly the Saturday before the Freshers’ Week – the "sacred Saturday" – was an important day in terms of relaxation, adds Peterhans, because for the organisers and the student helpers, the Freshers’ Week starts as early as Sunday.

How well the team has prepared itself is only revealed in the Freshers’ Week. "The week is a very intensive but exciting time," says Andreas Oberholzer. Every day is different and presents new challenges. This makes the Freshers’ Week so exciting for Daniel Grutzeck: "What pleased me most is when nine months’ planning comes off and also works in practice." Miriam Mrisi, too, has to face the dynamics of the Freshers’ Week. "You can’t influence anything any longer, you can only react."

The week is concluded by the final event in the OLMA Halls. Andreas Oberholzer was responsible for even the smallest detail. “It’s really an unforgettable moment to see all 1,700 students file into the halls,” says Oberholzer. By way of a souvenir, he repeatedly left the director’s desk during the show in order to film the audience.

Recharging their batteries

After the Freshers’ Week, the three students downed tools. They all took time to recharge their batteries – some more, some less. "My body and mind needed a few days for all the tension and stress to ebb away," says Daniel Grutzeck. He spent more time with his wife again and recovered before starting an internship in October. Andreas Oberholzer, too, swapped the lecture rooms for an internship, before which he relaxed at home, in the garden. Only Irina Peterhans resumed her studies at once. She is also the only one who will be involved in the 2019 Freshers’ Week. "Now that I’ve been able to experience the Freshers’ Week as a participant, a tutor and student employee, changes in the Freshers’ Week team will provide me with an opportunity to experience another perspective and division of responsibility."

For Miriam Mrisi, this means that she will have to recruit new students, to teach them the ropes and to make preparations for the 2019 Freshers’ Week, "for the Freshers’ Week would not work out at all without the student staff."

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