Social life in Australian Universities tends to have a reputation of being quite bland, especially compared to our international counterparts in America. Although it’s not fair to compare them to other universities across the world due to the difference in culture, increasing amounts of students come out of high school having expectations of university life similar to those they see in Hollywood movies.  Popular Facebook page forums such as Uni Confessions often, in a satirical way, show people wanting some sort of social interaction or experience in their university life.

Hangs App founded by local mates of the North Shore, Daniel Kwarcinski and Michael Leboud seeks to change that. A simple yet dynamic social media app for university students, Hangs app allows students to make a profile to message, plan a ‘hang’ or attend events hosted by Hangs. Dan, co-founder of Hangs describes the app as simply “a dating style app for making friends and finding parties”.

Hangs also comes with the Corpus Column, a media blog dedicated to students offering university tips and pieces of advice. It represents their vision to create more than just an app but a community that brings university students together.

“I wanted to create an overall university experience where you not only meet people but become part of something bigger.”

With their social interaction based app, Mike and Dan join an exclusive group of people who have contributed towards establishing an array of friendships or relationships for other strangers. “It personally feels amazing, being able to facilitate these interactions. It’s really inspiring and it continues to motivate us” says Mike.

“How can this place of 50,000 people be the loneliest place in the world”

The motivation to start Hangs began from a reality check that hit Dan and Mike when they first went to university. They pictured a vibrant experience where friendships were forged, like-minded people were met and a chance to be a part of something. It was halfway through their degree when they started to realise that they haven’t really met anyone in university. “How can this place of 50,000 people be the loneliest place in the world,” says Dan, “It just doesn’t make sense”.

On a day of usual procrastination before exams, there came a lightbulb moment where they thought, ‘why can’t we simply do something about it’. With some doodling on pad and pen, simple ideas led to the creation of Hangs. The initial drawings are still on that pad and provide fond memories for both Mike and Dan as they look back. Although the app has significantly changed in its design and features, it still embodies the very inspiration that built the app, the desire to enrich each student’s university experience.

The production process for Hangs App soon began. A common theme for most tech start-ups is to at least have one founder that has a prior tech background or knowledge. Mike and Dan were the opposite, having created Hangs by simple ideas and concepts alone without any technical experience. “When we made it, we prototyped it and built this very rudimentary version of the app but because we are non-tech founders, it just couldn’t work properly,” says Dan.

The app was in fact built by Rick, a freelancer from Adelaide who became the crucial third member of the team. “Rick has been amazing. He helped make the design, ideas, layout, features all become a reality. We gave it to him and he made magic happen”. This would become one of the hardest barriers in their journey to overcome. “It was a leap of faith for us, to make sacrifices in money and time when there was much uncertainty especially when you don’t have a lot to your name,” says Dan.

Insights towards social life in Australian universities

There can be many different opinions regarding the reasons behind the lack of university social life for students. As trailblazers who seek to enhance the university social experience, Dan and Mike provided their perspectives on what they think are issues affecting students’ social life. “I feel like the main problem is putting yourself out there,” explained Mike. “People don’t know if others want to interact so it’s hard to know who wants to make friends or who wants to just be in and out of uni”.  Being a social and outgoing person himself, he even found it difficult when he was in a class of 20 or so people.

Dan acknowledges that although universities are an amazing avenue to meet people, the actual chances of having opportunities don’t happen often. “People end up just hanging out with people they know before, they don’t get exposed to these amazing opportunities because its hard to take the leap yourself,” says Dan. It starts to become noticeable that much initiative is needed for students to thrive in the current university environments.

However social life in Australian universities isn’t necessarily all bad, in fact, it defines the Australian way, a quieter and simpler way of university life. Changing the current status quo isn’t necessarily the solution and there is no need for us to become like the colleges in the United States. Mike and Dan affirmed that they are not trying to necessarily change what isn’t there, but to transform the way people socialise at universities and simply make it easier.

Journo for ECX Magazine

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