Riverside Student Retreat at Terara

PhD students, Manuela Ecker and Jessica Mazalo recount the recent student-run weekend retreat in Terara, NSW to bond, unwind, and have fun together.

After the EMBL Australia Node in Single Molecule Science (SMS) was established, SEAMS – the students of EMBL Australia node of SMS – organised the first student retreat in Buladelah in 2016. This retreat was a great success, bringing together a large group of students who started their PhDs. It helped the students to get to know each other, and create a friendly atmosphere when we returned to our work environment.

Now in 2018, SEAMS decided it was finally time for another great adventure, with all the new students that have joined us since. We travelled two hours south of Sydney to Terara, a riverside location, and among the attendees were interns, Honours students and PhD students. We left UNSW Sydney on Friday, and after everybody settled in, we kick-started the retreat with an Aussie style BBQ and some board games to break the ice.

On Saturday, we enjoyed the amazing weather and views of the river, playing soccer and Frisbee, and telling stories of our journeys to UNSW. Even our mascot, Ludo – a French bulldog owned by one of our PhD students – was trying to score some goals! In the evening we played Scientific Trivia and Charades, and a group of us cooked up a feast for the quintessential Aussie tradition of a Christmas in July dinner. We ate delicious roast chicken and vegetables and a variety of salads while sitting together on the porch, which made for a perfect family-like atmosphere.

On our last day, after packing up, we drove to a nearby park where we did a bushwalk and lunch together at a picnic site. After that, it was time to head back to Sydney after an amazing weekend!

We believe this event has helped foster friendships, which are essential for research students to feel like they have a great support network during their studies. Getting to know each other better also adds to the collegial atmosphere of our workplace, and facilitates more interesting and cross-disciplinary discussions among students from different research groups. Furthermore, getting together outside of the workplace was an incredibly fun way to de-stress. We hope that SEAMS helps students build real lifelong friendships that will directly benefit their lifestyle and support their project work.

We are grateful for the support received by SMS head, Kat Gaus and the other group leaders who helped us make the retreat possible. We are grateful to be able to organise events like these that help create a great community spirit at SMS and make it such an enjoyable place to work; SEAMS would not have been able to do this without the participation and support of the group leaders. Thank you!

[Images courtesy of Ilina Bareja (PhD student) and Abhishek Patil (Honours/intern student)]

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