Day 1: Orientation

February 22, 2010 in On Writing, Study by pacejmiller

So here I am, in the university computer labs, having just escaped from a massive auditorium of wide-eyed students.

Today is Orientation Day, and it was brutal.

Sadly, the first thing I had to do today was head back to the office.  Amidst my euphoria on Friday afternoon, I had forgotten to hand back my work pass.  So I thought I’d get in early, avoid everyone, and get out of there before anyone spotted me.

No such luck.  I bumped into at least 5 people that recognised me, inside the building, outside the building, and on the street.  They all thought I had done a George Costanza (ie quit and then come back, pretending it didn’t happen), but appeared to accept my story.

About 30 minutes later, I stepped back inside the university building where I spent 5 years (and completed 2 degrees) of my life.  My alma mater.  Everything looked eerily familiar but strangely different.  Plenty of student helpers on were hand to direct us to the Orientation welcoming session which was just about to commence.

The outside of the auditorim hall was packed to the rafters.  I was taken aback, having forgotten what it was like at these things.  I quickly found my faculty table and grabbed a welcome guide and some other crap.  I found a quiet corner away from all the bumping and grinding, and began flicking through the pages.  I burst out laughing when I spotted the massive photo of a good friend of mine (and his then-girlfriend, now wife) who completed his undergraduate degree with me more than 5 years ago!  Looks like my university doesn’t update its photos very often.

When the time came, we filed into the auditorium like a line of ants.  Uniformed staff directed us to our seats.  The place looked exactly as I had remembered it.  I had done plenty of examinations in that room over the years, and it always made me nervous.  The last time I was there was in 2004, for my graduation, and I remember being especially nervous (‘sweaty palms’ nervous) because I was the first from my degree to step on that stage and I knew I had to make chit chat with a former Justice of the High Court of Australia.  Of course, I mumbled and made a fool out of myself.

When everyone was seated, I saw a familiar face reach the podium.  Hang on!  That guy used to lecture me in something!  He looked almost exactly the same, except fatter (he was a chunker even back in my day) and balder (and trust me, he didn’t have much back then either).  He still had that whiny voice though, which I would recognise anywhere.

Very quickly, I got bored and began surveying the surrounding students.  It was an interesting mix, with what appeared to be plenty of international students.  What caught my eye in particular was the fashion.  Some were all glammed up, in their prettiest outfits.  Others were dressed more casually, in T-shirts and jeans (like myself).  There were a few that went all out, to be individualistic, I suppose.  One chubby fella was wearing skin tight demin shorts and a loose grey T-shirt with massive holes at the armpits.  It wasn’t a great look, even for him.

The head of the university then got to the lectern and began telling us what a great choice we made and showing us photos of famous alumni.  She really talked up the place too, about how students and former students were making a real difference in the world.  I guess it was a reinforcement speech, more than anything else.  After all, we had already accepted our offers.

Then came the weirdest part of the ceremony.  They had this Aboriginal dance ‘group’ perform live on stage.  I was expecting something awesome, but truth be told it was kind of embarrassing.  Now, I love Aboriginal culture, but this was just a bunch of old, overweight Aborigines doing lame stomping and clapping.  They were literally panting by the time they made their way to the stage.  They even got a few students to go up on stage to dance with them.  It was extremely awkward.

Next, a Peruvian dude who went through with us the events of the week.  There were socials, seminars, all that jazz.  I was just dying to get out of there.  The students around me got restless and began chatting.  Loudly, and consistently.  It was rude, but I didn’t want to be the snotty postgrad student shushing the younglings.

By the time we finally got out of there for morning tea, I was sprinting in the opposite direction.  I needed a student card to avail myself to the wonderful discounts that awaited me.  I found the student office (thankfully, before everyone else) and it was done quite quickly and painlessly.

However, the photo was atrocious.  My old photo was taken from 10 years ago, and in it my head looked like a brick (I had a ‘military’ haircut back then, as my wife informed me).  In this one, I was approaching floppy-hair mode, but I had eye-bags (from killing myself on the basketball court yesterday) and I had that ‘can I smile yet?’ look on my face.  It would have been a pretty decent mug shot, but what the hell.  It’s only for a year.