I’m a sophomore on campus feeling like a freshman all over again. It’s only my second class of the day, and I’ve already embarrassed myself. I woke up at six to get my MCard only to spend an hour waiting in line, and I barely made it to my first class of the day. I don’t know how I found the building and even less how I found the class, but I made it just in time to walk through the door alongside the professor. He proceeded to direct most of his questions at me for the rest of class. After class, I managed to get lost walking from the School of Kinesiology Building to the Modern Languages Building, and once I finally arrived at MLB, I found two eyes fixed on me and a voice coming from behind a blue surgical mask.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” he said and pointed at the chair next to mine.
I could only stare at him in awkward silence. All of the English I had learned over the years abandoned me since I barely used it the entire summer, having spent my time in Egypt with my family speaking only in Arabic. I managed a nod that I think was more of a nervous reaction to the situation. He didn’t end up sitting next to me. When is the deadline to drop a class again?
The printer my housemate ordered is not supposed to arrive until next week and with my luck, one of my professors is convinced that we cannot possibly learn by reading articles on a screen. So on my quest to find a printer on campus, and to overcome the challenge of figuring out how to print, I spent most of my MCard credit since the papers I was trying to print went to different printers. On my way home one of the papers I had to read for my next class blew away from the rest of the stack; it was printed front and back so I can only hope that the quiz won’t cover anything in those two pages.
Whoever said you can get to anywhere on campus within 10 minutes or fewer is wrong. Well, yes, you probably can get to any building, but getting to class on time is a different story. After arriving to lecture after the professor again, it was time to go to my next class in the School of Dentistry Building. I arrived at the building in seven minutes, but after 15 minutes of looking around, I still could not find classroom G311. I will never forget this number for the rest of my life because of how many times I asked people about it. Sure, there wasa floor plan with the classroom clearly labeled and arrows in every hallway pointing to the classroom’s direction, but I can neither read a map nor did I know where I was in relation to things on the map. So I arrived to my discussion 15 minutes late, disheveled, out of breath and irritated. I introduced myself after my embarrassment, and then sat in the only seat available in the front. I’m an economics major, so why do I have a class in the Dental Building anyway?
I only went to Festifall to join one club since I did not want to overwhelm myself and have my email spammed like last year. However, when I finally found something I was genuinely interested in joining, I was discreetly interrupted from putting my name on the interest form.
“Do you know someone interested in this organization you’d like us to know about?”
“No, just me,” I tried to play it off, confused.
“Ummm… are you, you know, affiliated with the region, or just trying to learn about it?”
“Oh, welcome!” he exclaimed, clearly embarrassed.
I was trying to join the North African Student Association, and I don’t know if it was my dyed hair, the mask covering half of my face or both, but I was asked these questions instead of being able to quickly scan the QR code to sign up like the people before me. The man ended up being really nice about it, told me about himself and reassured me that I would be able to meet other Egyptians as well as get to know people from many other nationalities, but it still left me with the desire to connect more with my traditions and culture.
I lived a big part of my life in a small town where I was often the only foreigner people had ever seen, and so I had tried to be more like them, less of a foreigner. Back then I would have been happy to be mistaken for something else other than Egyptian, but this encounter made me want to connect to my roots, to stop trying so hard to act or look like someone I wasn’t. I see a lot of diversity here on campus that I haven’t seen in the 8 years I’ve lived in southwest Michigan, and that makes me more comfortable to be proud of who I am. This year in particular after spending my whole summer in Egypt, I miss the feeling of familiarity which often comes to me when I hear my mother tongue or when I have the opportunity to speak about my native region. So I really hope I can find this through NAASA.
I was on the bus for a total of 53 minutes. The intention was to take the bus to Target, look around for a bit and then take another bus back. However, my friend and I ended up taking the same bus there and back without even stopping at Target. We were not really looking to buy anything in particular, we just wanted to practice taking the bus, and so we put the route on Google Maps, found the right bus, got on and counted down the stops. In theory, after stopping at Meijer, we should have stopped at one more stop before arriving at Target. Except that did not happen, and after Meijer, the bus started heading back right away. So we just sat there, confused, frustrated and a little scared that the bus would not even stop at the same spot on the way back. When we finally got off, we vowed to never take the bus again with just the two of us and went home in our separate ways.
Or at least that is what I tried to do. I had counted on my phone — and its 2% battery — for directions all the way back, which was a terrible idea. My phone lasted a total of five seconds before dying, and my hope of ending the day on a good note went with it. I’m lucky enough to live on a relatively well-known street so I was able to ask for directions on the way back, but I am definitely in need of a power bank. Or a map to study Ann Arbor’s streets.
I am a sophomore on campus feeling like a freshman, but the kindness I saw makes up for every single misadventure that happened to me this week. I want to thank all the people who helped me get through this week by giving me directions, and for being patient and understanding whenever I abruptly stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to make a turn. Thank you to the bus driver who did not laugh at me for not being able to swipe my MCard right the first time and for missing my stop, and to the man who helped me find the School of Dentistry Building. I am forever grateful to the girl who sat next to me in my economics lecture and to the one who invited me to eat lunch with her after class.
I hope reading about my first week lets you know that it is not uncommon to feel out of place and out of the loop. Remember that you are not alone and there are so many kind people on campus. And, be kind to others too. Life as a semi-new Wolverine is hard and it is inevitable to sometimes feel like we’re still out of it and need a refresh button.
But we made it through the first week.
MiC Columnist Mariam Alshourbagy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org