New semesters are always crazy. When new students come together, in a new country with a new culture, and new classes with new faculty, involved in new activities with new programme leaders, it is bound to be just that…Crazy!
This year, my student arrived in the middle of England’s cold snap. Being from upstate New York, I know many of my American comrades would think anything above zero was bathing suit temperature. Londoners on the other hand, myself now included, were reduced to walking icicles.
When I told the students to bundle up when leaving Heathrow, they mumbled in somewhat self-righteous tones, that they had come from New York and knew how to deal with cold temperatures. In a quick retort I simply said, ‘You may be from frosty New York, but that doesn’t make it any less freezing outside.’
Off we went to the coach and on to their flats in central London. When I announced a neighbourhood walking tour they managed to pull out their trusty winter jackets and brave the elements as I walked them from ATM to grocery store, post office to tube station. However, the relief was tangible when we walked through the warm doors of a local restaurant for a Thai feast.
Though the next few days were undoubtedly filled with orientation packets and advice about what to do, where to go and when to see it, I think that the first day is what sets off a student’s semester. With dedicated faculty and supportive staff I think students can rise above those crazy first hours and create a foundation of wonderment and learning that will carry them through the semester and leave them changed for the better at the other end.
That being said, I am curious about other programmes’ orientations. Do you feel that hands-on (or hand holding) orientations are intrinsic to a positive experience abroad? Or do you prefer to through them in at the deep end where they’ll either sink or swim?