Sunday, July 6, 2014

Begin (Again)

We started the day by putting our stuff into Mr. Mannix’s hotel room and checking out, since he will be keeping his room, and since we needed a convenient place to store our things until we went to Vanderbilt. After that, we went to Pancake Pantry, which is an extremely popular breakfast restaurant that has an extremely long line to match. We waited for quite a while, but each other’s company helped alleviate that. I ordered raspberry pancakes.

After we finished breakfast, we browsed the shops around Pancake Pantry. I bought myself some tea. We decided to go to the mall soon after that, and I bought sunglasses at H&M there. Opry Mills, the mall we went to, has a fantastic selection of stores! Some stores that stood out to me were H&M, Gap, J.Crew, Banana Republic, Clarks, and Express.

We went back to the hotel afterwards to collect our belongings, and we departed for Vanderbilt. We then checked in, though I did not have the most favorable first impression. The cohort had sat down for a moment to discuss sharing detergent, and we decided that I would hold onto the detergent even though the girls paid for it. I gave Shanti two dollars to compensate, and a staff member from Vanderbilt Summer Academy (VSA) immediately walked up to us and questioned us because of the transfer of money (two dollars!). We explained that we were sharing detergent, and the staff member told us that males are not permitted on females’ floors and vice versa. I was not pleased to hear how restrictive things were. I split up from the cohort.

As I checked into my room, I got an impression of the types of males in this program. It seems like many of them are not the most fashionable or confident, but rather eccentric, and I hope you can read between the lines to understand what I am implying about them. They were not the type of people that I normally spent time with. Fortunately, when I walked into my room, I met my roommate, a rising senior from New Jersey. He was not like the others, and he was actually fun to talk to!

After some unpacking, the cluster on my floor held a meeting. We did plenty of icebreakers, and I learned some of the names of the students in my dorm. I didn’t quite manage to learn everyone’s names though. I’m not one for excessive “little games” or icebreakers, nor do I like being forced to meet people if there is no strong motive or reason besides “making friends.” I very much do prefer making friends on my own, in the method that I find most comfortable. In a large program like this, there are too many people to make friends with, so I would much rather choose my own friends. I also don’t like being put into a large group; my cluster a little more than ten students, I believe.

We went to the dining hall for dinner, though we would not use that one dining hall regularly. It was only for today; for the rest of this program, we are to use a different dining hall. On our way to the dining hall, our proctor (essentially another word for residential advisor/RA) told us a few things about some of the buildings. It wasn’t much of a tour.

After dinner, the program gathered in some sort of theatre, where the program had its opening. The staff grouped the students into three “houses,” and each house was to compete for points. These points are most likely for spirit and for bragging rights. The staff also went over the rules, which I find much, MUCH harsher than Brown’s rules. There was a significant amount of gender segregation, which makes me quite unhappy since I prefer female friends over male friends. I befriend females better than males. Other than some speeches and more of those games that I find a bit ridiculous, there wasn’t much more than the rules and the groupings. I don’t enjoy highly structured programs, because many of the things we do in these structured programs feel too synthetic—which they are. They don’t have the organic, natural, genuine feel that you get when you’re off to do things on your own instead of being coddled and having your hand held.

When we left the orientation, the houses had a bit of a competition with more of those games. My house was the V-House, and I did not particularly enjoy the games. After all the activities and being forced to stick with my cluster for nearly an entire day, the houses held meetings of their own. We were given some time to try to meet people from other clusters within the house, though the mere thirty seconds that they gave us was worthless and did not give enough room for any meaningful conversation to start off a friendship.

My cluster had one last meeting before we concluded today’s activities. My proctor, CJ, had us each say something about our day, and we went around in a circle on the forced topic of choice. He then discussed some of the procedures for tomorrow. We are to meet at 7:50 AM to go to breakfast together, though only for that day. CJ also told us about what to expect from our schedules. Our teaching assistants are to meet us at the dining hall after we eat so that they can guide us to our classes. From what I understood about the schedule, we are only having two one-hour sessions of free time each day, and we have very tight boundaries on campus. We have to stay in groups of at least three if we want to go beyond the boundaries for anything we need, such as the convenience store, though this is only for certain days. I don’t know if I have enough time to go to the convenience store or to do laundry in the next few days, and I have a relatively pressing need to do laundry since it’s been nearly a week since we departed.

I need to find a way to thrive in this highly structured environment, which I think does not suit me well. I need time to make friends on my own, too, though I don’t know if that’s going to work. I’m a bit nervous for tomorrow, the first true day of VSA. We’ll see how well I do. I didn’t take any pictures today because I was focused on the experience and on adapting to the new environment. Hopefully, tomorrow, I’ll take more pictures for the blog and for some protocols of the ILC.

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