Thankfully, after my first day the weather improved dramatically – Sunday was muggy, but sunny, and since then it’s just been sunny. On Sunday I just slept a lot, unpacked and went to Target – many of the students have cars and were driving to a big out of town store over the weekend, so I was able to stock up on cooking equipment, crockery and cutlery, storage boxes, and other essentials. I had already ordered my bedding* online, so didn’t need that, and in the mean time was sleeping in my sleeping bag liner and a sleeping bag that smelt strongly of diesel thanks to sharing the back of a Land Rover with a leaking jerry can in Uganda.
This also gave me a chance to see a bit more of Boston, or at least Medford. Apart from the detached houses, the main difference with the UK is the amount of green around – if you get to high ground and look over the city, rather than seeing a sea of rooves, you see green, with church spires and other tall buildings sticking through it. I think part of this is because the streets are wider, so the trees that line them grow taller, but it’s also that they just have more space – and, of course, we’re in an out-of-town leafy suburb – but in England, as I’ve just realised, suburbs aren’t really that leafy, except for some very gentrified ones. And elsewhere in Europe, suburbs are ghettos.
Last Monday, orientation started – we started out with a load of speeches about how we weren’t admissions mistakes (have to admit I’m wondering whether, as an exchange student, I slipped through the rigorous selection process and therefore am an admissions mistake) and the great background of the Fletcher school, and how we had to learn from each other, and so on. It was all very cheesy, but also very exciting and in between the bullsh*t they did give us some useful advice, like to pick courses on things you don’t know about early on, and challenge yourself to take courses that scare you – this is something that I’ve figured out by myself over the course of the last year in Geneva, but which I really wish someone had told me earlier, and saved me the trouble of taking pointless courses to work it out. We had introductions from the highups in the Fletcher school and in Tufts – the President of Tufts, the Dean and Academic Dean of the Fletcher school, and all the people with whom we will have administrative contact – it’s unlikely that I’ll have much contact with the President and the Deans, but knowing who they are is useful and, again, something that The Graduate Institute could learn from.
In the afternoon, we had an international students briefing, where we were told that 40% of the students were international, meaning 60% were American – again, comparing with Geneva, almost all the students are international – but I wonder what proportion come from Western Europe, which I guess would be the closest equivalent. Finally we had a welcome drink, and afterwards headed out for a student-organised event in Davis Square, near the campus – in an Irish bar that was nice enough, but rammed. I’m getting my butt kicked by jetlag, so it was one drink, and home to bed.
Tuesday, we were subjected to what I am forcing myself to think of as a cultural experience – splitting into small groups and playing teambuilding games. It was pretty cringy, but for the last bit we had brief conversations (like speed dating) with everyone there, which was a pretty good way to get to know some people I didn’t know before. Then we got a tour of the campus, which was interesting – it’s very green and beautiful (at least it is now) – with amazing views out towards downtown, and a fascinating medley of architectural styles (photos to follow). Then back into the auditorium for some more speeches, this time from the alumni office, before dividing into smaller groups for library orientation (boring, mainly because the format is the same as Geneva) and an IT orientation (summary: don’t pirate. You will get sued and banned from the network).
Wednesday we were back in small groups for a Q and A session (pointless for an exchange student) then sessions on reading critically and writing skills. I expected them to be pointless – I have a fair bit of experience of reading large amounts every week, thanks to the whole Oxford Degree thing, and I write well, but I did pick up a few useful tips, mainly on how to improve my skim reading. And I resolved to download an endnote equivalent – they have a licence to give us one programme for free, which I’m excited about as I hate footnoting with a passion!
Having had a night off on Tuesday, I was still pretty tired on Wednesday as I was still waking up at 5am every day – but Eddy offered me a ride to the pub, so off I went. I was slightly amazed by how many students have cars; Tufts is a little way out of town, so it is practical to have one, and all the stores are actually pretty far (minimum 10 minutes for the closest) so I can see why they need it, but it did highlight how far the US, even in interconnected New England, is dependent on the car. But I wasn’t making any snarky comments, as I was glad of the ride, and it inspired me to sort out my zipcar membership – a process that includes getting my driver record from an office of the DVLA that is only open between 9 and 12 UK time. Which is between 2 and 5 am here. Not fun. I got the record, but politely suggested that perhaps they could open in the afternoon once a week or so.
Thursday we had an introduction to the career services, which seem WAY better here than in Geneva, and a group exercise at the end of which we got the results from a Myers-Briggs personality test we’d had to do. I normally hate this kind of thing – they always tell me to be a librarian – but it was actually surprisingly useful, mainly as it focussed on personality types and what kind of jobs you will enjoy and what you’ll hate. And it did highlight why I’ve hated some of my past jobs and why I’ve had issues with past bosses! Perhaps I’m Americanising already, getting used to the idea of psychobabble being relevant! Then back to Blakeley for our last free lunch, before spending the afternoon studying for the economics equivalency test on Friday.
* Note for Americans: Crockery is plates and bowls and things, NOT a crock-pot or any of the other bizarre ideas people had when I said this. Bedding means sheets, pillows, etc, not the mattress or the actual bed.