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May 31, 2005 - Image 31

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-05-31

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The Michionn Dail, - ripntatincitinn O(n - 4 n

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I

Orientation homesick blues
ELLIOTT MALLEN IRRATIONAL EXUBERANCE

- July 24, 2004
reshman Orientation
is an experience we'd
all surely love to for-
get. Living for three days in
a room with two people I'll
probably never see again,
going on a long and ardu-
ous campus tour for the
eighth time and getting up
at seven in the morning so
that I can learn how to use the library are all
parts of my life I'd prefer to block out. Howev-
er, it is impossible to do so with swarms of the
yellow-folder-toting youth roving around Ann
Arbor all summer. Orientation does nothing to
actually orient one to real college life, and at
best serves as a surreal escape from anything
resembling reality.
Orientees are always easy to pick out. By
day, they're distinguishable by their signature
brightly-colored-name tags. By night, they're
the only people traipsing about Ann Arbor in
groups of 17. These kids are afraid to do any-
thing alone. They are told right away that the
focus of orientation is to make new friends by
any means necessary. The result is the forma-
tion of massive groups of incoming freshmen
that have known one another for only a couple
hours. They all understand that traveling in
groups of less than five or (God forbid) alone
will result in being a social outcast throughout
the entire four-year college stint. Being in these
groups does little to yield actual friendships,
let alone any kind of meaningful conversation.
The orientees latch onto one another, hoping
that safety in numbers will protect them from
becoming pariahs at age 18.
I'm under the impression that many incom-
ing freshmen lack the practical skills needed
if one is to live somewhat independently of
one's parents. For example, I work at the deli
bar in the cafeteria of East Quad, where ori-
entation kids stay. This bar contains all kinds
of delicious sandwich ingredients. However, it
is strictly forbidden to use these ingredients
on hamburgers, as there are hamburger top-
pings in the dining room and a sign explicitly
stating just that right in front of the deli bar. I
strategically placed this sign directly in front
of the ingredients, blocking them from those
who would dare use them on their hamburg-
ers. This was apparently too much to handle.
One girl read the sign carefully, gazed long-

ingly at the forbidden sliced cheese behind
it, then woefully at her cheeseless hamburg-
er, then at the cheese again, then at the sign.
She consulted another girl as to what course
of action she should take. This girl then read
the sign, looked at the cheese, looked at her
burger, back to the cheese, back to the sign.
A third girl did the same. Somewhere in the
distance, a cell phone rang. The three finally
decided that the most reasonable thing to do
would be to move the sign out of the way in
order to take the cheese. These are the future
leaders of the free world.
Orientees seize the Diag at night, as it is
the only Ann Arbor landmark they are even
remotely familiar with. It is a place that
defines college, and they'll be damned if they
don't squeeze as much college into their three
days here as they can. A common fixture on
the Diag at night is a young male orientee with
an acoustic guitar surrounded by his 17 person
cluster. The girls fawn over his off-key rendi-
tions of Goo Goo Dolls and Dave Matthews
songs, occasionally trying to sing along when
their swooning subsides enough. This is what
college is: sensitive boys with acoustic guitars
playing heartfelt covers under the shadows
of ridiculously aristocratic buildings. He's
the type of guy who will one day be the frat
brother whose hair is a little bit longer and a bit
more tousled (deliberately and painstakingly
tousled, but tousled nonetheless), who has Bob
Marley posters on his wall, who unbuttons his
polo shirt an extra button, who occasionally
smokes the cheapest weed he can find in order
to maintain his rebellious image. "He's differ-
ent from the others," the naive girls will say.
"He likes Phish." This spectacle on the Diag
does not last, however, as the musician's reper-
toire is exhausted after five songs.
Orientation gives a false impression of col-
lege life to a group of kids still deeply rooted
in high school. Nobody starts college in the fall
prepared for anything except being registered
for a few 100-level classes they didn't really
want to take in the first place. Orientation is a
bizarre limbo somewhere between high school
and the imaginary, unattainable ideal of col-
lege life. The rough descent back into reality
comes in the fall.
Mallen can be reached at
emmallen@umich.edu.

Here's how...

SAM BUTLER it. ,'E iSOBx Nov. 15, 2004
rScuse. Me.
r~"~ ~
fl,

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