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Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Welcome speech - delivered at dinner on 1st October 2013

Hello everyone. If we haven't met already, I'm Adrian, your warden here at Connaught hall.

I hope you’re enjoying your food. Let’s thank our kitchen staff.

Now, some congratulations are due...

Due to all of you, in fact. You have arrived here, in London, at Connaught hall, to begin or to continue studying at one of the best  universities in the world. Well done:  you must not undervalue your own achievement in getting here.

Thanks  are also due to Chris, Becca, Christopher, Georgina, Daisy, and Emily of the outgoing Residents' Club Committee for the brilliant freshers' programme they put together for us.

We all want the academic year that lies ahead to be your best and most successful year so far.

You're in the right place for it: Connaught has a reputation as being the happiest and most social hall in London. I hope you have already found yourself calling Connaught  your home, and if home is where the heart is, that Connaught will take to your heart as it has to mine.

We can call ourselves successful if we can look back and say that this year we have deepened our understanding of ourselves, contributed to the happiness of others, and learned a little more about the rich diversity of our world and the people we share it with.

In order to do this, we need a safe, secure home environment. The Hall Management team strive to make the building comfortable. Harriet is our Hall Manager and can help you with anything to do with your room, common areas, bathrooms, catering, safety, maintenance, and cleaning. You can see Harriet and her team in the office behind reception.

While the Management team look after the building, as your Warden, I’m here to look after the people who live here: to help you enjoy your experience this year, to support you through any tough times or difficulties, and to promote a social, cohesive, supportive community spirit. Five student Senior Members help me. This year, they are Bill, Jing, Joe, Vikki, and Zack.

I am a specialist A&E doctor at University College Hospital, and the Senior Members are full-time students, so we are mostly available in the evenings and at weekends. I can offer confidential listening and support for absolutely anything that impacts on your wellbeing. No problem is too big or too small. Email me, ask for a chat, or come to one of my advertised open office sessions.  

For help in emergencies, a Senior Member is on call every night and all weekend. You can contact them by asking at reception, and they can call me, if they need to, any time of day or night.

There are a few things that will unfortunately guarantee this year is neither your best nor your most successful.  The most common one is noise. The most serious one is fire. I’m not going to harp on about negative things tonight, but please, please take a few minutes this week to read the sections of the Residents’ Handbook about noise and fire safety. It’s really important. Please remember to take a look.

Let's get back to how we can positively make this your best and most successful year...

Everyone in this room is bright, intelligent, thoughtful, and uniquely interesting as an individual. We can all make a valued contribution to our hall community.

You can contribute in a formal way, by getting elected to the Residents Club Committee, or joining the Facilities Committee or Multicultural Students' ForumThere are posters and Facebook posts up right now about how how to get involved in these. The deadline for all of them is within the next week or so, so check the noticeboard in reception tonight if you haven't already seen these.

Or you can contribute in a thousand different ways informally.

  • Set up a club or society - jazz, chess, movies, art, whatever interests you. 
  • Have a regular lunch date for anyone to join. 
  • Organise a trip to a museum or tourist attraction. 
  • Pick up litter in common areas. 
  • Bring your friends to the hall bar. 
  • Set up a pool tournament. 
  • If you spot something that's broken, report it.
  • If you see potential for improvement in something, tell me. 
  • Encourage people to recycle. 
  • Tell your neighbours in a friendly way if they're being too noisy. Or report it to me if it's a frequent problem. 
  • Support your friends if they're feeling upset, sick, or lonely. Tell me if you're worried about them. 
  • Share your hobbies and interests with us. 
  • Encourage and promote respect for everyone, regardless of their faith, culture, disability, colour, gender, sexuality, politics, or social class. 
  • Challenge prejudice. 
  • Ask questions. 
  • Donate books to the library when you don't need them anymore. 
  • Or simply turn up at events.


In all these ways, and many more, you can make our hall and our community better; help others to do well; and give yourself something to be proud of.

We are only one or two weeks into the year. Many of you will still be feeling some sense of homesickness, loneliness, or even culture shock. Most of you will still be anxious about whether you will make enough friends, or the right sort of friends, or whether your degree is the right one for you. All these feelings are normal and most will resolve themselves over the next few weeks. I hope our programme of welcome events has already helped you to work through some of your worries. If you need more support, remember that's exactly what I am are here for.

Together, let's build a community that will see us all through the year ahead. This hall is a great place to live. Make it your home. Make it special. Make some great friends.


Now, without further ado, let's raise a toast to your best and most successful year!


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Those four really important pages of the Residents' Handbook....