I’m sitting around waiting for the cafeteria to open in about 25 minutes for dinner, and it’s the first time this week I’ve really had a chance to sit down for a minute and reflect on this week’s experiences. It is Day 3 of a four-day orientation, and because most of tomorrow’s events are for freshmen I am pretty much done with my orientation. So I figured it was time to write.
I’m staring out of the window of the campus center at these beautiful clouds over the river, and I’m just so happy that I’ve chosen to be here. Really, I had my pick of much more “elite” schools. But I don’t think they could hold a candle to this.
First of all, this is such a supportive environment. Everyone’s been so nice, so friendly, and so helpful. The only drawback for me is that because I live off-campus it’s been really hard to meet people. I spent the first day eating alone in the cafeteria while everyone else around me had someone to talk to. So that was pretty lonely. But on Day 2 I met another transfer student who has three kids, and I keep meeting up with her. She’s very nice and she is the only person so far who understands my situation. Although, with 3 kids I know she has the more difficult job.
Anyway. Tuesday was the busiest day. It started out with lunch, and then I went to a services fair where I got a lot of goodies and information. One of the people at this event gave me information about banking services, and when I asked about signing up for an account she asked (in earnest) if I was a US citizen. So that was weird, but I just smiled and said, “Of course!”
I also got to sign up for a volunteer activity for Saturday, though I don’t know what I’m doing yet or where I’ll be doing it. It’s going to be a good opportunity to connect with people and not feel so out of place.
I then attended an advisement meeting where I met other transfer students, including the mother, and received information about what to expect from my adviser. I moved on to take a 45-minute survey (SERIOUSLY) which had nothing to do with anything, but apparently the school gets money for making us participate in it.
I headed to dinner after this headache, where I once again ate alone while watching everyone make friends. Eventually the cafeteria filled up and a family was forced to sit with me. They made really good conversation though, and I didn’t feel so alone. I find that I get along better with the parents than the students, unfortunately. But I guess that will change with time.
I headed to the matriculation ceremony straight after dinner where we got to hear some fabulous speeches. Everyone was trying so hard to make us newbies feel welcomed, and after the speeches we all stood in line one-by-one to shake the new president’s hand. I’ve since seen him in the cafeteria and around campus.
I reconnected with one of the admissions counselors at the ceremony who was behind the financial negotiations that made it possible for me to be here. He spoke at the ceremony and mentioned us community college transfers. He mentioned to the crowd that us transfers came from as close as University of Wisconsin (which is like 10 minutes from here) and as far away as Bronx Community College. I saw a lot of people in front of me look around when the Bronx was mentioned, and I could see that they were really surprised. I hope to keep on surprising them.
I pedaled my way home in the dark and came back at 9am yesterday. I met my mother-friend at breakfast so I didn’t have to eat by myself. First on the agenda was a student employment meeting where I got info on how to sign up for work study. From there, we took the class photo and had the family send-off where parents were told to get the fuck off of campus (not in that way of course, haha). I had to sit in the front because I was late, and I got sad because so many parents were standing around taking pictures of their kids while the photographer got ready to take the group picture. That was the most alone I’ve felt so far, but then the admissions counselor I love so much started waving at me and took a picture. That made me want to cry.
Then there was the advisement lunch where I met my adviser for the first time. She knew who I was and had read the file about me already so she had an idea of my interests. I also got to meet four of her other freshmen advisees who were really nice.
All that Lawrence offered after that was pep rallies and soccer games, and since I’m not into sports I skipped those and worked on coming up with ideas for my class schedule instead.
Today’s been the slowest so far. I had an official meeting with my adviser who spoke with me about my options as far as majors are concerned. She helped me decide which classes I should take in each term over the next year and assured me that although I will have to pick a major soon I still have some room to explore and figure it out. We talked about me possibly majoring in English and minoring in Ethnic Studies, or else petitioning to create my own major in Ethnic Studies since that discipline is only offered as a minor and I’m so interested in it.
The career services presentation was the most boring thing I’ve been to since I started orientation, and now here I am, waiting to eat dinner.
I’ve been thinking about my experiences at BCC and how they differ from Lawrence, and I can already see that the schools are just miles apart. For one thing, I didn’t have an adviser for the first two years I was at BCC. No one talked to me about my options or tried to help me figure out what I’d like to major in. I just sort of advised myself for a while. Freshmen orientation at BCC consisted of a poorly-done 10-minute presentation about each and every service on campus. Just 10 minutes. Then there was a quick, five-minute advising session and freshmen were sent off to figure out the rest on their own. And I only know about the BCC freshmen experience because I worked advisement this summer. As a transfer student at BCC, I got even less attention than the freshmen did.
The expectation at BCC is that the students are going to fail out anyway, so why bother. They only have a 14% graduation rate, after all. And whatever the students need, they will surely figure out on their own. And if they don’t, it’s their own fault.
I got a tour of the campus library today, which is bigger than the main branch library in the Bronx. Gah. Meanwhile, BCC poured money into the construction of their brand-new library which opened in 2012, and they just expect students to figure out how to use it. There are no tours.
I don’t know… I just feel sad for where I came from, and in just 3 days I can already see how much of an advantage students have when they go to schools like these. At BCC, we were never given the tools to succeed. And yes, there is the issue of money. Lawrence costs 13 times what my community college costs but they only have 8% of the population. So yes, there are more resources here to do more for the students. But wow. All I ever wanted, all that my friends back home ever wanted, was to come into contact with someone who cared about students, who cared about their jobs, and who could do their jobs well. I guess that just doesn’t exist where I come from.
Even with the loneliness, I am super happy to be here. But I am also sad for where I came from because I know that I left behind a lot of people who won’t get to have this. And I want to change that one day…
Anyway, on to dinner! Till next time.