Ripe with the uncomfortable tension of making first impressions and testing new surroundings, crowds of nervous teenagers shuffle haphazardly from seminar to seminar. Fall approaches, and orientation is upon us.
I can only remember bits and pieces of my orientation at Temple. Most of it, I imagine, was erased by the butterfly-in-my-stomach feeling of trying to make people like me within 15 minutes of meeting them and assuring myself the next four years would be as euphoric and carefree as Hollywood and older relatives’ nostalgic recollections had told me.
Now, all I know are the things that are different from 18 year-old Dan. I no longer have a girlfriend. I used to view meeting new people as an exciting adventure. I now look down at my phone if passing an acquaintance instead. My budding optimism has ben replaced by a deeply rooted cynicism that makes me purse my lips every time I see those ugly, oversized chairs next to the bell tower.
So in an effort to regain that youthful eye and continue in the quest to entertain myself on a deserted campus, I’ve decided to observe and infiltrate as many of Temple’s orientations as possible. Creepy? Check. Pathetic? Probably. But for the same reason you watch teen com-dramas, you’ll read the rest. Or you won’t, and you’ll continue to just watch Gossip Girl.
They key to integrating yourself into these strange social constructions is mimicking the same terrifying uncertainty that these kids and you at one point went through. When showing up for the day’s activities, be sure to start things off by asking questions like, “What classes are you taking?” and, “Hey isn’t college going to be so weird?” This assures everyone you’re in the same boat they are. Donning one of those cherry red drawstring bags doesn’t hurt either.
After establishing yourself as one of them, make your naive anticipation apparent. Bring up how excited you are to graduate in four years, since you’re sure the cursed “Temple Plan” of at least five is most definitely a myth. Comment on how you’re sure the quality of food at the J&H cafeteria will most certainly be the same on the day 50 freshman show up as it will be on a cold day in February after a long day of classes. Sure it was tough lying to myself, but I am the kind of journalist who makes sacrifices for my profession.
But after a day’s worth of plastic chairs, handouts, and following enthusiastic Owl Team Leaders, it’s time to get social. Here’s where you make your mark, after the schedule ends and future Owls leave their dorms to roam the Liacouras Walk without direction.
From there, slip in how your older cousin is in a frat and can totally get us in to parties. Or even better, talk about how you can’t wait to live in an off-campus apartment just like a real adult. You’ll throw countless parties, without the cares of making sure roommates pay their bills on time or dealing with overbearing landlords.
I have to make note of my cynicism, if only because it’s a mask for my jealousy. After seriously observing incoming freshmen in their natural state, their palpable feelings of newness and wonder fill me with envy. These are feelings that I thought would last until I threw my cap at graduation. Unfortunately, it turns out that the older you get, the more you’re forced to actually grow up. Shocking, I know.
So as I look to pass the time between jobs here at North Broad this summer whilst dreading the oncoming workload of upper-level classes and countless unpaid internships, part of me wishes to reunite with the Dan of drawstring backpack days.
Ultimately, our time in college is brief. And although the past few years have hardened me since the expectations that were set on those first days at orientation, I can take solace in knowing I still have time until the real world begins. Now that’s really going to suck.
Daniel Craig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @Ohh_Danny_Boy.