For those of you who don’t know, I’m majoring in English.
Classes start on Monday, and today – Thursday – was the Orientation day at the college I’m attending (the Lebanese American University), where we meet the faculty and staff, our advisors and supervisors, get to know the (worryingly large) campus and all its buildings, learn where we will be taking our classes, and most importantly what to do on the first day.
Or so I thought.
I got up early this morning and got dressed in what I hoped would be something presentable but casual. I mean, I didn’t want to look like I was going to a funeral. It would look like I couldn’t wait to get to college and be a grown up. Which I completely am; but I didn’t want that to be the impression I gave off.
I arrived 5 minutes early (I live just a few minutes away from college), and headed for the weirdly named building I was supposed to be at. There were lots of students – none of which I knew. They were all congregated in small groups, chatting and fussing over their papers, and as I kept walking towards the registration table it hit me how lonely I was going to be for the first while. I mean I always knew it was going to be this way… But it became very real at that moment. I’m now writing this post teary eyed because for some reason 80’s Films by Jon Bellion just reminded me of school and that made me bawl. Back to my wonderful story now.
I spotted my name tag, pointed it out to the lovely lady at the table so she can hand it to me along with a platic case and register my name, and looked around to see if other newbies were wearing theirs. They weren’t, so I slid mine into my pocket. I walked a few steps away and leaned against a pillar as casually as I could. I had hardly begun scrutinizing my peers before some old lady came and shuffled us into an auditorium.
I sat in the front, but not too in the front, otherwise you will threaten the man (dOeS ANyOnE gEt tHe reFeREnCe???2).
It was at that point that I started getting annoyed, as I knew I would. For starters, in true les gens chics sont toujours en retard fashion, we had to wait a good half hour before everyone could be assed to take a seat. Second – actually I’m gonna need me a whole paragraph for second.
Honey, I get it. You’re at the Lebanese American University. You know English. You even passed the SAT to get here! Well done! But can we focus on our college’s name for a second? Let’s see. LAU. Not ALU. You’re in a primarily Lebanese university, because it’s located in Lebanon, it’s run mainly by Lebanese people, and most of the attendants are Lebanese. You do not need to speak every sentence in English with that horrible accent of yours. We can understand Arabic, we’ve been speaking it before we knew what English was, and attending an American university did not take away your ability to speak it like you do everywhere else. How can they not hear how obnoxious they sound? Sestras and Brotha Sestras, I’m an English major; trust me, I can write and speak the language more efficiently, fluently, and with a far less atrocious accent than any of you. I’m aware of how pretentious that sentence was, but the key point is that I don’t do those things in your face. This is getting me boiled up all over again, I’m gonna stop. I’m certain you got the point.
So there I was, sitting there waiting while having to listen to people english-ly talking in obnoxious cliché phrases, thinking of creative ways to shut them up, even though deep down I was craving for someone to talk to myself.
At long last, the presentation started with some man whose attire suggested he waited tables in a Lebanese restaurent making us play a game (we had to count to 20, if two or more people said a number at once we started over) and it was funny for the first 4 seconds before a bossy girl (I’m settling for bossy to keep it civil) decided she was going to run dis shit (“Can’t some just lead them?!”) but actually ruined dis shit because the point of the game is the suspense and hesitation before saying a number and not knowing who’ll say it with you, not pointing at people and making them say the numbers in order. We’re not learning to count. But good for her for thinking she saved the day.
We met the soon-departing Dean of Students, who introduced himself by making us play a small game where whoever guessed what was in his bag won it. Turned out to be Mars chocolate bars, and the whole point of this was so that he could say “I brought Mars bars because actually my name is Mars!!!!” A cute old man (not in that way you pervert), but as I said he’s leaving soon so we met the new Dean who was considerably younger, considerably larger, and had a considerably better accent.
The rest of the presentation was a series of videos depicting skits that brought to life the boring rules and regulations no one would have bothered to read otherwise. There was also that infamous Consent With Tea video which was really awkwardly timed because we hadn’t been even a bit near the serious topic of sexual harrassment, and everyone was laughing at it because they thought it was another funny skit while I, having watched the video before and knowing it wasn’t about forcing tea down someone’s throat but something much more -ahem- solid, sat there torn between shaking my head in cringey desolation and downright laughing at the situation. I can still hear how the room rang silent when the video ended with something like “if it’s not hard to understand the concept of consent with tea, why is it hard when it comes to sex” and the Dean continued about how no one basically owes sex to anyone. Yeah. You can imagibe.
The disastrous part came at the end of the presentation. Disastrous for me, that is.
They divided everyone into groups according to their majors and fields. Biology, Chemistry, Business, Pre-Med, Psychology, Journalism… No mention of English, languages, or humanities. Finally, there remained a bunch of people including me, and the waiter guy said “the rest of you are Arts and Sciences Freshmen, right? Please follow whateverhisnameis”.
When I heard “Arts and Sciences”, I relaxed: that was the name of my departement! Phew. I got up and happily went with them, completely ignoring the key word in the sentence: FRESHMEN. Not that I didn’t hear it clearly; it just meant nothing to me. I had no idea what Frehsmen in college were; I just assumed they were first years, which I was. And so I went with it, and followed them.
Two friendly and thankfully down to earth a.k.a arabic speaking advisors showed us around the campus, told us about the different buildings, and warned us about a particularly slippery staircase. I was absorbing everything in as Always. (Does anyone get that reference?)
After about an hour, we went to an out of service cafeteria, dragged chairs into a bad circle and sat there looking awkwardly and furitively at each other while the advisors attempted to make us play a game (2 truths and a lie, which was a frankly moronic choice since none of us knew anything about each other so all we could do was randomly guess which fact was the lie). That was where I started picking up that something was off: they all came from weird and unfamiliar sounding schools, they looked confused when I said I studied General Science as a high school senior, and they were talking about chosing their majors. Weren’t they supposed to already have chosen one, like I, and all my friends, have? Naturally I brushed it off instead of asking the advisors about it, because that’s just what you do in this type of situations.
The final stop was a lecture with the woman who was in charge of the whole freshman program, and that was where I discovered the huge mistake I had made.
Freshmen were people who didn’t graduate high school. They didn’t pass their official exams, and they didn’t have a major yet.
You can only imagine how embarrassing and suffocating it felt, realizing I had been sitting with the wrong crowd the entire day. My hands started fidgetting, my forehead began sweating, and my high school diploma and official exam scores were deeply offended.
I felt trapped: what was I to do in that conference room, with the woman going on and on about the freshmen requirements that did not concern me in the slightest? Raise my hand and confess I had spent 4 hours being oriented to a completely wrong direction? That would just be humiliating and SAD.
I thought about what choices I had and I came to the conclusion that I could do nothing but get the fuck out of there. So I just pretended my phone was ringing, got out of the conference room and ran accross the halls, twice in the wrong direction like they do in cartoons. I was pissed at myself, and that’s putting it lightly.
It doesn’t end there, though: as I was running away, I spotted an advisor getting out of the toilets. I tackled her. I told her all about what happened to me, and I could tell she was fighting that laugh so. damn. hard. But she was extremely nice and didn’t even tell me I was an idiot. She checked her schedule, and told me the devastating news that the English conference took place during the first presentation. I had subjected myself to endless cringe and awkwardness for n o t h i n g. I was close to crying, but of course I didn’t because fuck it Anthony, you’re in LAU and you’re not going to cry over a missed conference even though it was probably the most important thing like ever. I was upset, and I was angry; like excuse me but that was an Orientation day, for new students. How was I supposed to know everything? Couldn’t they have a done a better job making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be?
I don’t know if she said it because it was the truth or because she sensed that I was devastated, but she told me that the conference wasn’t really that important anyway and that I didn’t miss anything major. She then proceeded to take me on a personal tour of the college to make sure all my questions were answered (most importantly, the location of the Library) and I got out of there knowing everything I needed to know.
Maybe it wasn’t a disaster after all, but I just couldn’t believe I missed my first ever college lecture concerning my major. I feel considerably better now, even though my nerves are building up. I’m going to be a huge knot of crippling nervousness by Monday. Hopefully it will peak at 1:55 PM, and by 2:05 it would have died down.
TWO MORE DAYS AND I’M A C T U A L L Y GOING TO COLLEGE.