Students finally get back in the water

‏‏‎ ‎

16 February; Matt Roseby

Having been closed for the lion’s share of 2021, student’s opportunities to participate in activities on campus were in short supply. Fortunately, as November brought end to the city’s sixth lockdown, the University of Melbourne saw a late return to its Water Safety Program.

Accommodating the late start, the usual 10 lesson course was packed into bi-weekly sessions over November and December, again taking place in the Beaurepaire Centre’s pool. Albeit excluding the traditional ocean seminar and excursion, participants were still taught all the necessary water safety and swimming skills that give rise to the confidence and ability needed to enjoy Australia’s fabled beaches and pools.

With classes predominately having been conducted online throughout the year, the University’s fitness spaces became one of the few locations students could access in-person in the later weeks of 2021’s second semester.

For graduate student Gabriel Sathiaseelan however, the program offered more than just a way to get back on campus.

“Swimming is basically part of Australian citizenship” he joked, noting his experience of pool parties and beach trips growing up; “having to wear floaties as a kid is always an uncomfortable burden, and you never want to be stuck on the sand when everyone else is swimming at the beach”.

Like many of the program’s swimmers, Gabriel did not experience the water intensive childhood many other Australians are accustomed to. Coming in with “zero confidence”, Gabriel praised the inclusive and welcoming atmosphere of the Program; “There was always something someone couldn’t do… there’s no shame and everyone is really patient”.

Having studied exclusively online for two semesters, Gabriel was elated to get back on campus with some fellow students but walked away with much more than a break from Zoom lessons and Lecture Capture.

When asked how he plans to use his newfound ability and confidence in the water, Gabriel shared his excitement about abandoning the shallow end of his mate’s pool, and more importantly, about teaching his future children how to swim;

“Whenever I start a family, I’m looking forward to taking my kids to the beach and being able to share these skills with them”.

With on-campus activities gradually returning to full strength, 2022 will see the return of the 10-week WSP alongside the vast array of on-campus sports and activities available to students throughout the semester.