The Avondale experience: living on but studying off campus

On–off campus student Abbey Rubessa.

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Abbey Rubessa has heard a lot about life in the residences of Avondale University, on the Lake Macquarie campus. Her parents Paul and Linda lived in Watson and Bethel Halls as students and brother Jai had a room in the men’s residence during his degree. “They’ve always raved on about how fun it was, so I wanted to experience it, too.” But with an interest in chemical engineering, Abbey enrolled in the Bachelor of Science at The University of Newcastle. A new initiative, though, opened the residences to students who study off campus elsewhere but want to live on campus. So, Abbey applied and now has her own room in Ella Boyd Hall.

With most of the week at uni or at work in a local pharmacy, Abbey has evenings and weekends to connect with her Avondale friends. “I’m not a social butterfly but living in the residences has given me more confidence to meet new people.” You’ll often find Abbey studying with others in the library, enjoying the beach or “just chilling around dorms.” A student-led worship service on Fridays is also “a good time to catch up with everyone and spend time with God.”

The on–off campus arrangement has pros and cons. Offsetting the fear of missing out is “getting that AvondaleXP while studying what I enjoy.” While Abbey’s advice is to know your limits, “the social and spiritual vibe here is so cool.”

Welcoming students like Abbey to the residences has helped—there’s a dozen in total. “Ella Boyd feels fuller,” says peer support leader Kahlie Wrankmore. “There’s lots of noise, good noise.”

Conversations with on-campus students who changed to courses not offered by Avondale but didn’t want to leave their new home led to the opening of the residences. “The students would ask me, ‘Is there any way we can continue living here?’” says student life services director Jennifer Petrie. She also heard from parents who wanted their children to experience what they did at Avondale—“the fostering of spiritual wellbeing in a caring, safe and supportive environment.”

One parent wrote about their son transferring to Newcastle from a tertiary institution in Melbourne. With mostly online classes, the son had little connection with his classmates and felt life had become routine. So, moving closer to beaches, a lake, and the mountains appealed. Living at Avondale now gives him easier access to adventure activities and more opportunities to connect with like-minded young adults. “There’s people around who want to do the same things I do,” he says. The “supportive structures” on campus are “a great way for our son to gain independence without isolation.”

The on–off campus students, says Jennifer, “enrich our campus by bringing their family’s Avondale legacy into the mix and sharing their gifts and talents.”

Students studying at another university can still have the Avondale experience by living on the Lake Macquarie campus. To go on the waiting list for 2023, contact

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