The Last First Day of School

Today was my last first day of school.  I say that, not with confidence, as the graduate school issue is still very much up in the air, but because it sounds dramatic, and because I’ve been dreading this day for most of my life.

This morning I had yogurt for breakfast, and ate it crouched on our new couch.  The couch, compliments of the Salvation Army, is yellow with multicolored daisies.  It’s so ugly that it’s actually glorious.

Because two of my housemates also had 9:15 classes, we set out from Bag End (I kid you not; houses have names in Morris, and ours has been recently christened) together.  Jordan was chipper, despite having flown in from a summer-long stint in Norway yesterday.  He clasped coffee and led our small band down the cracked sidewalk.  Joey, freckles pale, pushed his bike.  He had been out late the night before.  I trotted next to him, trying to let the largeness of the day wash over me.

My first class was Grammar and Language.  This is the nerdiest class I’ll probably ever take, but it’s also one of the most valuable.  I consider myself, mostly due to my extensive reading, a good speller and grammatician.  But I don’t know how to diagram a sentence.  I don’t know the history of the English language.  I don’t retain the difference between “who” and “whom,” despite having Googled it several times.

I went home for lunch afterward, and then returned to campus for a 1:00 literary festival planning meeting.  Then came 20th Century British Fiction, aka Woolf Lit.  We’re reading just about every novel ever written by dear Virginia.  It’s a small class, maybe 20 people, so I hope that discussions will be lively.

Immediately following was my Senior Seminar course.  Senior Seminars at Morris are required for every major.  They vary, but in the English department, Seminar courses are themed, and students must write and present a 12-15 page paper following the theme.  My Seminar is Renaissance Romance, which I know absolutely nothing about.  Thankfully, before we’re expected to come up with our own thesis, we spend time reading lots of materials that familiarize us with the topic.

At 6 I had a Higbies staff meeting, and then I attempted to mow our lawn.  I got about one-quarter of the lawn done before the mower died, and resisted all rehabilitation.

I think tomorrow, once I’ve slept in and recuperated from OGL, will be a better day.


Sometimes, things happen.  Sometimes, in order to impress the class of 2016, you find yourself on stage, wearing dreadlocks, and talking like a pirate.  Sometimes you find yourself clapping the rouser as loudly as possible, shouting the lyrics at confused underclassmen.  Sometimes you must put on your best disgusted face as a boy pretends to throw up a mixture of oatmeal and water in front of you.  Sometimes, you must dance ridiculously.

The annual OGL/Community Advisor Extravaganza was tonight.

Skits were performed, songs were sung, school spirit was abound.

What did you do with your evening?

Head for Shelter

Storms come up quickly on the prairie.

One minute you’re walking home from campus, chatting with a friend, and the next the wall of black that was in the distance seconds ago is looming overhead, bending trees and tossing hail the size of golf balls.

We ran, my friend and I, to the only refuge in sight: the liquor store.

Amidst the glinting bottles we waited, dripping onto the linoleum and ignoring the stare of the cashier.

He didn’t even ask to see our I.D.s.


Today was my first day of Orientation Group Leader (OGL) training.  OGLs are the upperclassmen who lead freshman around during those few quiet days before the rest of campus arrives.  We give tours, aid with book buying and classroom finding, dry homesick tears, and generally help soften the transition between high school and college.

This isn’t my first time being an OGL, so I knew what to expect with the training; lots of information delivered by lots of different people (librarians, counselors, computing services gurus, etc.).  It’s certainly important to get this information, as I don’t want to not know the answer to a freshman’s question later on, but it’s an overload when you have it thrust upon you all day every day for 3.5 days.

Tonight, however, the Orientation Task Force had a unique activity planned for us.  We were led to the Fitness Center without being told what was in store.  Upon entering, we were asked to get in the line that corresponded with the first letter of our last name; the Fitness Center was set up to resemble an airport.  We gave our names to an official (the hall directors played this role), who would find us on a list, give us a color (i.e. “You’re in the Blue Dorm”), and direct us through a door.  Some people were ‘detained,’ which meant that they had to go to a roped off area.  I never found out if they had to do anything special there.

Once through the doors, we found another official whose name tag color matched the one we had been given.  The official gave us a ‘form’ to fill out.  The ‘form’ was a set of eight basic questions (name, hometown, phone number, etc.) written entirely in Pig Latin.

After translating and filling in our forms, we were herded downstairs to the gym, where a podium was set up.  We sat on the bleachers and listened to the OGL head (masquerading as the Chancellor) gave a short introduction speech, similar to the one all freshmen hear when they first arrive on campus.  Then we were divided into our color groups, and asked to follow our new ‘hall directors’ to our ‘dorms’ (the quotes, obnoxious as they are, denote that many of the activities/people were simulated).

My dorm, the Blue Dorm, was a small classroom just off the gym.  Once there, our hall director led us in a few ice breaker activities (names, interests, etc.).  He then gave us blue name tags, and announced that in the Blue Dorm, there is a long-standing tradition.  The tradition is that whenever one refers to himself/herself while speaking, that person must touch their own foot.  So any “I” or “my” merits a foot touch.  He explained that we would now be heading to our ‘OGL Groups,’ and that it would be important for us to uphold the Blue Dorm Tradition at all times.

In the OGL Groups, people from all different color dorms were mixed together.  As we did more activities within those groups, it was evident that every dorm had its own unique tradition: the purple group members were loud and proud and refused to stand close to anyone from a different dorm, the yellow group members stood as close as possible to other people at all times, the green group members would touch a person’s elbow every time they spoke to them, etc.

I wasn’t sure what the meaning of everything was until we were all asked to gather together and sit on the bleachers again.  In front of us were two international students who had been asked to come and speak to us about the international student experience in general, and how we as OGLs can help international students to feel welcome and included in our groups and on campus.

The entire simulation, then, had been intended to mirror the experience of an international student arriving in the United States and being introduced to the campus.  The ‘traditions’ we were assigned in our ‘dorms’ and asked to carry out into our ‘OGL groups’ echoed the cultural characteristics that international students bring to campus, which are often viewed as strange by American students.

It was interesting, when it was all over, to step back and think about how odd my foot touching must have looked to other dorms, and how odd I thought the elbow touching was when I witnessed other dorms doing it.  And then to think how alien other cultures often seem to me, and how alien American culture must seem to everybody else.  And finally, to think how I can apply these lessons when leading my own OGL group.

Butt Funny (Let Me Explain)

It was a gorgeous afternoon.

At eleven I had my second round Orientation Group Leader interview.  It was speed dating style; we had to answer two questions at each station.

I think I did well.  I was tired, so I didn’t feel as energetic as I usually do, but I answered every question with appropriate pragmitism and spunk, I hope.

One that threw me was this:  What would you do if a first-year student in your orientation group asked you on a date?


Say no?

I think I bumbled something about telling them that it wouldn’t be appropriate given I was serving as their mentor, but it was a strange, strange question.

After my interview, I went downstairs to meet with my running mate and our campaign team.  Two members of that team, thank the heavens, had experience making and editing videos, and so we were able to shoot our own successfully with plenty of advice from them.  It was warm and sunny out, so much of our footage was taken outside, perched casually on a park bench, talking about our platform.

A highlight was when I went to move one of these, because it would have been in a shot otherwise:

And the darn top pulled off in my hands, leaving the bottom to crush my toe and splash cigarette water all over my feet and legs.  It was disgusting, but funny.  Butt funny.  (Sorry)

Now I’m sitting in my room, wrapped in a blanket (which is what I always do when I’m forced to sit at my desk.  It makes the uncomfortable chair somewhat bearable).  Some freshmen are screeching across the way, surely happily aware that their voices carry.  It’s almost 10:13, and I’m undecided about watching SNL, for once.  I do have a five page paper to write.