First-year Science student Olivia Stroeven and Commerce graduate of 1987 Fiona Wilson discovered they had more in common than living in the same room at Victoria House: both were the first in their families to attend university.
Fiona is proud to say that her two siblings, and more recently her son, have followed her footsteps all the way to Victoria.
Despite now living in Auckland, where she is managing director of a Māori accountancy firm, Fiona retains a strong affection for Wellington: “I stayed in Wellington for 32 years. Wellington is home for me.” Olivia grew up in Auckland, but has fallen in love with Wellington’s vibrant creative scene.
Olivia gave Fiona a guided tour of Victoria House and settled down for a chat in the room they have both called home—watch the full story.
What was your first impression walking into your old room?
I remember the room being small, but this seems quite big. It’s much more nicely decorated compared to what I had. I had it pretty boring. Enough room for a mattress on the floor. I was at my cousin’s 50th recently and he said he remembers coming to visit and sleeping on this floor.
What was the highlight of staying at Victoria House?
Vic House was just so handy for everything. The University, the gym, those Dixon Street steps to get to town—they were a bit of challenge—and we used to go to that dairy on the corner. The location was just perfect, and being in a hall of residence I got to meet lots of friendly people, who I’m still friends with.
What was on your walls?
ABBA, the Bee Gees, there were some pop stars, but mostly family photos. I was pretty much a homebody.
What are some of your favourite memories about Victoria University?
I’m a sporty person, so I remember Victoria in terms of sport. There were competitions between the halls in soccer and netball. I went to the university games, the Easter tourney, for basketball and netball, and managed to get into the New Zealand University team. I got my University Blue Award for basketball the same year as my brother got his for rugby.
What advice do you have for Olivia?
Make the most of your first year, in terms of making friends, study buddies and socialising yourself and to the environment of Wellington. It’s a great opportunity to stay in a hostel. It gives you chances to expand your networks. I went straight into flatting after Vic House, so that first year is a chance to find out who you can live with, without actually living with them. It’s a good stepping stone to flatting.
What is it like to be in your old room and meeting Olivia?
I stayed in Wellington for 32 years more, and I’ve only recently gone to Auckland. Wellington is home for me and this is the first of my homes here. It’s funny looking back, because you’re always looking forwards. You’ve got to know where you come from. This is not one of those places that I thought I needed to know where I came from, but it is. I feel a bit of a closeness now, knowing that Olivia’s here.
What are you studying?
I’m in my first year of my Bachelor of Science, majoring in Psychology and Criminology.
Was the room what you were expecting?
When I walked in for the first time, it was so bare—it really made it feel like a fresh start.
Why did you choose Victoria University?
Since I was 14, I always knew I would move out of home as soon as possible, as I am so independent. When I was about 16, I discovered the artiness and vibrancy of Wellington, and when I finally decided what I wanted to do with my life, I found out how well Victoria was rated for its humanities and social sciences and everything just fell into place.
How does it feel knowing your room once belonged to someone who’s gone on to have a highly successful career?
It makes me feel like university isn’t as never-ending as I thought it was going to be. And everything I’m doing now is going to lead somewhere, hopefully to do something good in this world. Also, I feel quite proud of her because we are connected in this random way.
Why did you want to stay at Victoria House?
Literally only because it had a cat. I have been known to be a crazy cat lady by many.
What’s the best thing about the hall?
The people! I’ve met a lot of great people here, as well as the wonderful residential advisers and support staff.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Eating at every possible establishment in Wellington.
What is it like meeting Fiona?
It’s awesome. It’s nice to know there’s life after university.