Tuesday, September 2, 2008

first few weeks of school.

I decided to turn a comment on my last entry into another post regarding the first few weeks of school. The first few weeks are definitely overwhelming. All of a sudden I was nobody in a sea of people, struggling to remember building names, campus layout, homework, orientation sessions, and of course, the tens and thousands of names of people who I'd vaguely recognize... but not really.

Homesick? Surprisingly not. At least, I kept myself too busy to be homesick. I dived headfirst into every club that interested me (and somehow split myself into three different people, I swear!). College academics is a whole different ballgame -- this was definitely a big distraction. I might have said this before, but the thing is, professors won't care if you do your reading. They won't care if you do your homework. You'll just flunk the midterm and consequently receive a really bad grade. And when you do, the professor won't be running after you asking you what extra credit they can offer, they'll just put that grade down on your paper. For me, the way they tested was also completely different, it's different unique to each professor's style and took quite a bit of getting used to.

Names. Ah names. I met so many people those first couple weeks that I struggled for months afterwards to get everyone down. There were people in my suite, people in my classes, people in my clubs, random people on the street, friends of people I'd just met.. etcetc.

I will admit that I felt lonely the first month or two of college. I was separated from my long time friends, yet everyone seemed to take instantly to each other. Sometimes I felt I was the biggest loser on earth with no friends. Don't worry if you feel this way, it's natural. Don't panic, take your time. The people you bond to in those first few weeks may not be people you hang out with in later years. When second semester rolled around, I looked at some of my friends and realized we were on completely opposite ends of the personality spectrum. Sometimes your initial friendships are based on mutual fear in this new environment. It's confusing and disheartening, but don't worry. You'll be fine, it'll pass.

Buildings and campus layout? Best way to identify a first year is if they walk up to you and ask where to find something. That's fine, welcome to UVA! However, please pay attention when I tell you. I had a first year start walking away from me when I started talking. (Eh? Did you really want my advice?) I also had someone who made me repeat my instructions seven times. I counted. Seven times. Don't worry if you have to ask someone else on the way there!

Mandatory orientation sessions were a bit annoying. Yes ma'am, I won't play with the fire alarm. Yes sir, I understand that UVa won't tolerate racial discrimination, and that I should report any incident in which I feel uncomfortable in. I felt that UVa made us go to so many sessions because they really wanted us to understand that although we were on our own, it wasn't a dog eat dog world. If we needed help, it was only a phone call or link away. Some sessions though, such as Different Voices: Common Threads really touched me. For those unfamiliar with this, it's when people in the minorities get up stage and share their stories with the new first year class. In my year, there was an Islamic girl who got up stage and shared how she was a victim of hate crimes after 911. People would destroy her homework, throw her lunch away, graffiti on her desk, steal her gym clothes and leave her lovely little hate notes to find in her belongings. (I was amazed at how vicious middle schoolers could be). I'll admit, I had tears in my eyes at the end of her story. At that moment, I was so happy to be a part of a community that was so accepting that this girl was willing to share her background and story to the world. By doing so she risked becoming victim to the same hate crimes again, but she believed in the UVa community so much that she was willing to get on stage and show people that the meaning of minority wasn't limited to skin color, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or cultural background.

That turned into a much longer posting about orientation than I had meant it to be, and I'd actually meant to write about something else as well.. on to the next topic!

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