Legally Blonde at Orientation

So, although classes have not officially commenced, don’t worry I had a full FOUR days of orientation to keep me plenty busy. Yay.

Registration for orientation began at 9:00am. So I showed up in the required "business casual" [Dressing up for orientation! Really? ...after day one nobody dressed up again! Ha!] and registered.

We were then divided into groups [called our “clip” groups] for brief introductions.  I seriously felt like Elle from the movie Legally Blonde. We all sat around in a circle outside on the grass and introduced ourselves--just like in the movie. And just like in the movie, everyone introduced themselves by sharing their name accompanied with phenomenal accomplishments. It was quite impressive…and intimidating. I felt like Elle who gets by thanks to her love of life, but doesn't necessarily have the "stereotypical" rockstar resume. Ha. I felt cool.

There are some of the most amazing people in my clip group though! I immediately became friends with these two girls—Sadie and Natalie. The three of us bonded as we ate lunch together. That afternoon, our group of twenty was further divided into groups of about five to go on walks and explore the area. The purpose was to observe what kind of resources, culture, problems, etc surround the campus—mostly to better understand the populations we will be working with in just a few weeks. My group walked down Riverside Drive and around the Upper West Side. It was a relaxing walk.

Monday night: Family Home Evening (an LDS Church tradition of spending time once weekly with family--or close friends--in order to foster love, strengthen relationships, have fun, and learn about gospel principles). My roommates had work/school, so I ventured to Family Home Evening on my own. It wasn’t very far. There really are some fabulous people here! Tricia Tanner—apparently someone I knew when I was maybe four while in Boston—is in my Family Home Evening group. Our parents were friends when they all lived back East. She’s doing social work at NYU—thus we have a connection beyond our parents.  Love that girl!

The name of orientation day two was “Self-Awareness Training”. The idea being that we cannot truly help others until we understand ourselves.

The morning was about understanding our place as a student community at Columbia University against the world community. We began in a large room with about 150 first-year students. The faculty then divided the room in half—one half representing 100% of the world, and the other half representing 100% of our social work class. They then would have numbers of people stand on each side representing different statistics. For example, they had 1 person stand on the “world” side representing the 1% of people in the world who hold a college degree. Then on the side representing Columbia’s School of Social Work (CUSSW) everyone stood. Talk about a huge difference. Other statistics they had us represent were about percentages of people who are Jewish in the world vs. at CUSSW; people who are Muslim; Christian. It was cool to see the stats visually displayed like that. After all, I am a visual learner…I think.

Next: they sought to make the point that in order to understand our clients we have to understand ourselves. In order to do this, they asked people to stand if they had ever done ______ (then they'd fill in the blank).

Some examples included:
"Please stand if you've ever made a racist comment". Most people stood—then when asked why some didn't stand, they said they felt that racism is only possible for those who have the power to oppress. From what I could see it was mostly African Americans who didn't stand—they said that as a minority they did not have that oppressive power; therefore, they could not be racist. I guess it really depends on your definition.

Another example, "Please stand if you've ever been arrested". It was hysterical as one of our professors popped up immediately—faster than everyone else who stood.

We had a short time for lunch—Natalie, Sadie, and I ate "brown bag lunches" on some stairs in the sun across the street from the CUSSW building.

In the afternoon we divided again into our clip groups of about twenty where we participated in a number of purposefully uncomfortable activities where we were often put on the spot, had to share meaningful experiences with strangers, and publically had to take stances on very controversial statements. It was the good kind of uncomfortable though—the kind that pushes you to dig deep and truly find your beliefs and stand for your true convictions. It was the kind of discomfort necessary for growth.

At the beginning of the session they asked us to be honest and open; they wanted it to be safe so that we could agree to disagree with each other.

One activity was specifically called “Agree or Disagree”. For this, a member of the faculty would read very opinionated statements on some pretty controversial topics. We then had to stand on one side of the room—either the side with the sign that said "agree" or on the side by the sign that said "disagree". We also had to be ready to explain our reasoning if called on. Neutral was not an option. Some of the things we had to decide were about whether or not families should have the right to have kids when they are poor, homosexual rights, whether or not legacies should be accepted at schools, beliefs on affirmative action, etc. At times everyone was on the same side of the room; other times we were split near equal. On occasion, however, I’d find perhaps just one other person and myself alone on a side of the room.

It was refreshing how accepting everyone was in that setting of differences. That’s one of my favorite things about NY so far—everyone’s different. And the best part is: all you have to do to be different is be yourself.  People are so real and so willing to be themselves. It’s great.

Anyway, another activity we did was called the “Fishbowl”. For this we had about ten people sit in a circle in the middle of the room to discuss different classes in society, and what that has meant to you, your family, and your lives. (Not really the typical getting to know you topic, right?)  The other half of the group sat outside the “fishbowl” or circle and observed. Those in the middle discussed their classes for about 15 minutes, and then the observers commented on what they observed. After that, we switched positions. It was kind of awkward to have to bring personal experiences to the table with a bunch of strangers; especially when another group of strangers were all sitting around observing. Still, it was eye-opening.

Sorry to go off so much about “Self Awareness Day", but I really liked a weird sort of way! I think it was my favorite part of orientation—as uncomfortable as it was.

Oh my gosh—one more quick story. This is a funny story! So at the very end of “Self-Awareness Training” they walked us through a guided imagery relaxation exercise. One of the deans of the college was in our group; she was in charge of leading this exercise. She had a script to read from—"close your eyes, start to feel your weight sink into the chair, feel your abdomen rise as you fill your lungs completely, blah, blah, blah..." Well just as we all were finally feeling a little bit relaxed (despite the cheesy script), the dean lost it. She absolutely lost it! She started cracking up so bad; she even snorted! Haha! It was so funny. She started laughing so hard, in fact, that she could not regain composure and had to ask a student to finish it. I felt relaxed simply from the good laugh she provided.

Tuesday night directly after orientation, Sadie and I met up with one of her friends. We pretty much just sat and chatted for a good two hours; it was fun. They both just did what’s called Birthright—a free trip to Israel for those who are Jewish. So we all bonded about our travels in the Holy Land. Then at 7:30pm I met up with one of my CUSSW clip friends, Eleanor, and her cousin Sarah to see the opera “Macbeth”. The MET Opera is does this neat end of summer thing where they project operas on an outdoor screen on the side of Lincoln Center for free. So really it was like a drive in movie…only not in a car but rather chairs…that and it was opera. But I loved it. Opera is a completely different experience than typical musical theater. But it’s absolutely fabulous!

More orientation.
More orientation.
More orientation.
Wednesday was definitely a whole lot less intense than Tuesday. They pretty much just had a number of panels and question sessions. Most of the info can really be found online, however, so it seemed rather mundane (no offense Columbia). The cool part about it, however, was that the sessions all took place in these classrooms that had long skinny tables in stadium-like seating, with attached cushiony chairs, AND (this is the best part) each seat had a microphone (think like UN-style)! What I'm saying, is if you had a question you had to turn on your microphone and speak into the michrophone! Ha! SO cool! It's the little things in life, right? Sadie and I spent most of the sessions trying to think of brilliant questions to ask just so that we could use the microphone. (Horrible I know…but so worth it. I swear I'm old enough for graduate school.)

We had a lengthy lunch break during which we explored more of campus.

Not to mention, we checked out the various libraries on campus...including the business library. It was refreshing—our program is 80% female, but the business school was definitely full of men. Lovely really. We also discovered the gym which is quite nice! My goal is to work out once a month. Ok I hope to work out more than that, but I have to set realistic goals otherwise I’m setting myself up for failure. Once a month is realistic! More than that…failure! Sadie and I also took the time to make an intramural soccer team called To The Face…I have unfortunately since discovered that with all of the Jewish influence in the area games are Sunday in order to respect Shabbat. My Sabbath and Holy Day as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, is Sunday. Therefore, I have demoted myself from co-captain to fan in spirit.

Late afternoon we ventured to the CUSSW caucus fair. I probably signed up for way too many…but they all sounded so interesting! Yay school! Ha! Oh, awkward caucus fair moment. Sadie and I were sitting on cushiony chairs eating potato chips and candy kisses while we people watched. We saw this male from our clip group vigorously flirting with a girl. So behind her back we caught his eye and were giving him cheesy thumbs ups and all; we were being encouraging really... Well the sweet kid, bless his heart, RETURNED the gestures in an almost flirty manner! Haha! The girl turned toward us obviously thinking he really was flirting with us, glared, and then quickly dismissed herself! Haha! Not our faults—we were discreet! But it was kind of sad! Ok…funny.

More orientation.
More orientation.
More orientation.The only part of the day truly worth mentioning was the fabulous cruise we took around Manhattan Island from 7:00am to 10:00pm. What a spectacular evening! Pre-cruise, many nicknamed it the “Booze Cruise”. Everyone was only given tickets for but two drinks, however, so it was hardly that. Ok...some hit up bars to "pre-game", but it still was rather tame. My clip group and I mostly hung out on the upper deck, eating and talking while we passed Lady Liberty and watched the beautiful lights of the city.
Below from left to right: Charles, Eleanor, Sadie, Me!

Lady Liberty

The beautiful city lights!

It was wonderful!

Yay! Orientation is over! I spent the morning organizing the remainder of my stuff. My room looks SO good now! Ah the beauty and serenity of cleanliness!

That night I met up with CUSSW girls (Faye, Eleanor, and Katie), church girls (Meaghan and Alicia), and my roommate Kelly to see another outdoor projected opera. This time it was “La Boheme”—it’s the operatic version of the musical “Rent”.

Below from left to right: Katie, Alycia (her heads popping over their shoulders), Faye (blue dress), Kelly (in the way back), Meaghan, and Me!

The whole performance I kept thinking of my microbiology professor at BYU last winter who a)hates opera, but b)used “La Boheme” to teach us about the disease TB. He just could not believe that this girl who dies of TB in the opera coul still sing with such a spectacular lung capacity til the bitter end. I quote him, “Not an accurate depiction of TB”, he’d say while shaking his head. He further then went on to say that finally after she dies--"Which takes literally the entire play," he shared--the audience’s applause was the loudest it had ever been! "While some would argue it was because the actress was so brilliant, I am convinced it’s because everyone was so grateful that she had finally died." Haha. Love his humor.  As beautiful as it was, I’ll be honest I liked “Macbeth” better. It was completely packed though! We ended up sitting on the ground! Our goal is to get seats for Monday (closing night) of “Madame Butterfly”. Oh the beauty of free arts!

Oh…and we got ice cream on the way home at the most popular NY/Cali chain: Pink Berry.

Relaxing morning filled with apartment rock out session to Backstreet Boys.
1:00pm picnic in the park with Phil, Sadie, Dan, and Eleanor from my CUSSW clip group.
3:00pm adventure across the Brooklyn Bridge with church girls Meaghan and Kelly.

So awesome!

Then we met up with Tricia and Alicia for dinner at Grimaldis. Grimaldis is an extremely popular brick oven pizza place over in Brooklyn! So popular, in fact, that the line went outside the door and all the way around the block! We got in line at 5:30pm and were seated at 7:30pm! Oh the pizza looked phenomenal…but I couldn’t eat it (gluten). They had other good food too though. That and Grimaldis is really more about the experience; and I love a good experience!
Waitin in the line. From left to right that's Alycia, Me, and Tricia.

The line from the door.

The Grimaldis experience.

After our pizza adventure we went and got ice cream from the ice cream factory and ate it on the pier overlooking the Hudson with the city lights as the backdrop.


We then got to walk back across the bridge with all of the beautiful lights shining all around!
It was definitely ro-tic! Romantic without the man—romantic!

Relaxing morning.

Church. Oh—turns out my Dominican Republic roommate, Carly, is in my ward! She did her internship out here this summer, and then got hired on to do advertizing! Yay! Love her!

Waffle party! So turns out my roommate, Laura Debo (she’s AMAZING by the way), has a Mickey Mouse waffle iron too! Naturally we had to have a waffle party! So tonight we had a bunch of people over from church (including my friend, David Hughes and his friend John Morgan—ps: Bekah they both say hi) for Mickey Mouse waffles! We provided the waffle batter and syrup, and everyone else brought toppings. Yum. Delicious. Superb. I LOVE food!

And that’s my week. There are so many AMAZING people here!

Happy Labor Day tomorrow!

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