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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Welcome speech 27 September 2016

Hello everyone! I hope you're enjoying this evening. If we haven’t already met, I’m Adrian, your Warden. And I have just a few brief things to say tonight. 

First, to everyone, let me extend a very big, warm welcome to the Hall.I hope we've made your first days or weeks here comfortable, friendly, and relaxed. And I hope you’ve been able to connect with plenty of people at our social events and in our lovely Hall bar. 

I can already see a close and supportive community forming between us all this year. Living at Connaught will give you the opportunity to forge great friendships and happy memories that I hope you will carry with you for a lifetime.

All of us on the team are so happy that you have joined us at Connaught. I speak for all the staff when I say that it’s been an absolute pleasure to meet so many of you in the last few weeks. 

It’s natural that the year ahead will throw up challenges. Maybe it already has. Sometimes, it will be stressful. Some days, you won’t feel like university is the best time of your life.
If you do find yourself feeling like that, please know that it’s ok to reach out and talk about how you’re feeling. Remember that the staff, senior members, and I are here to help you. If there’s a problem, let us know about it. If you’re feeling worried, upset, afraid, or unhappy, talk to us. If you have a question, ask us.  

Each year, I try to include just one piece of advice in my welcome speech. Last year, I spoke about the importance of asking questions. This year, I want to highlight just how important kindness is.

Does anybody know who Saint Basil the Great was? ... Well, Saint Basil the Great really was a great guy. As well as writing much of the Eastern Christian liturgy, in Greece, he is the equivalent of Santa Claus, visiting children’s homes on 1st January and leaving them gifts. Back in the fourth century, Saint Basil wrote:

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

That was 1700 years ago, but now, there is good scientific evidence that being kind makes us happier. There seem to be specific neural pathways in our brain that are only activated when we show kindness to others. Research is showing us that kindness, compassion, giving, and volunteering are at least as beneficial for the person doing as for the person receiving.

I have another quote for you, this time from the 1980s: 

Life’s a bitch, and then you die.

None of us had a choice about being born, nor into what kind of life circumstances we were born into. Life is hard. And we all have a terrible prognosis – in fact, the worst prognosis: we’re all going to die. If we’re lucky, we’ll get old before we die, experiencing years of wrinkles and aching joints. So every one of us is facing inevitable existential catastrophe. Remembering this can help us to cultivate forgiveness and compassion – both towards others and towards ourselves.

Of course that guy shouted at you for no apparent reason: he’s dealing the best way he can with the reality of a tough existence. He doesn’t need your anger: he needs your compassion. Obviously that woman didn’t hold the door open for you: she’s preoccupied with just getting through the day. She doesn’t need your anger: she needs your compassion.

Being kind to others, though, is relatively easy. It can be a lot harder to be kind towards ourselves. We already said that mistakes are inevitable in other people. Well, guess what? It’s inevitable that we will make our mistakes, too.And it’s so important that we learn how to forgive ourselves and be kind to ourselves when we fall short of our own expectations. So, if things don’t always work out how you wanted, try to give yourself a break: allow forgiveness for yourself, have some self-compassion instead of punishing yourself, and move on.

Finally, let me tell you about some of the many opportunities to get involved in the life of the Hall this year. 

Think about standing for election to the Residents Club Committee. The Committee runs the Hall bar, organises most of the social events in Hall, and gets a budget of £7000 a year, plus any profits made from the bar. Being on the committee, you'll get to know nearly everyone in Hall and have a great time doing it. And it’s really good experience for your CV of working in a team. I will publish details this week about how to stand for election, and we'll be voting on Monday 10th October. 

If you want to help us improve the Hall itself, come to our facilities forums. We'll be advertising the first of those next month. Speak with Rajan about the facilities forums.

And if you want to enrich the cultural environment in which we live, think about getting involved with the multicultural students’ forum, which aims to bring the whole Hall together in celebration of festivals from all around the world. We’ll be starting off the multicultural calendar with Diwali next month. Speak with Daniel about getting involved in that.

These are just some of the ways to get involved this year. Make sure you stay up to date via the Hall Facebook group. Read the newsletters we send you, and look out for all the events posted on our notice boards.

Ok. I said I would be brief. So let me finish with a toast.Connaught this year is going to be a welcoming, supportive, and friendly home for us all here. So let’s raise our glasses…  To kindness, new beginnings, and new friends!