The First Day

Pre­pare to be un­pre­pared!

Activated - - FRONT PAGE - By Elsa Sichrovsky Elsa Sichrovsky is a freelance writer. She lives with her fam­ily in Tai­wan.

“How­ever much you’ve pre­pared be­fore­hand,” my friend warned, “the first day at uni­ver­sity will still be an over­whelm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.” I wasn’t sure why she thought some­thing as in­nocu­ous as a uni­ver­sity could be over­whelm­ing, but I told her that since I’d done all right in high school, I was sure I’d man­age uni­ver­sity just fine.

I stepped out of the metro sta­tion, cam­pus map in hand, and pur­pose­fully struck out in what I hoped was the right di­rec­tion to­ward my first class. I’ve never quite fig­ured out how to use a map and never paid much at­ten­tion to road signs. I ended up roam­ing help­lessly for two hours across the uni­ver­sity that boasts eleven cam­puses. Fi­nally, I stum­bled into my class about fif­teen min­utes be­fore it ended. As I sank wearily into my seat, I re­called my friend’s words.

Af­ter ask­ing some of my fel­low stu­dents for di­rec­tions, I suc­cess­fully lo­cated my next class, an in­tro­duc­tory course on lin­guis­tics. A woman was sit­ting on a bench out­side, dressed in a sports shirt and baggy jeans. I as­sumed she was the jan­i­tor and en­tered the class­room where a woman wear­ing a blouse, black skirt, and high heels was writ­ing on the black­board. The pro­fes­sor, I as­sumed. She went on to lead the class in a short oral test and sur­vey. Then the woman in jeans swung open the door and in­tro­duced her­self as Pro­fes­sor (and em­i­nent lin­guist) Lee. She then in­tro­duced her as­sis­tant—the woman in a skirt!

There were more sur­prises in store at the next class, an in­tro­duc­tion to West­ern Lit­er­a­ture. I lis­tened for dates, facts, and fig­ures, all of which I stu­diously jot­ted down. But it turned out none of that was of any use. In­stead, af­ter the first hour, I found my­self in a group of ten ab­so­lute strangers tasked with pro­duc­ing a play com­plete with mu­sic, cos­tumes, a stage, and so on—all within two weeks!

Of course, by the end of the se­mes­ter I knew where to find the best study nooks on cam­pus, my group’s play came out fine, and I learned that pro­fes­sors will dress how­ever they like. As I look back rue­fully at my fresh­man blues, I know they cer­tainly weren’t the last of my life’s ex­pe­ri­ences as a “new­bie.”

Though un­com­fort­able, th­ese are the sit­u­a­tions that can spur me to grow in bold­ness as I learn to func­tion with­out all my old safety nets and props. Best of all, the deep­ened ma­tu­rity will far out­last the dis­com­fort of my fresh­man goofs.

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