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Notes of nostalgia: ode to a foggy first day of classes

Aug. 29, 2016 was my fifth day on Miami’s campus after I’d first set foot on the red bricks and moved into Thomson Hall.

My phone lit up, abuzz with my alarm at 7:00 a.m. I’d been using a “sleep clock” app that a Buzzfeed listicle called a “college essential.” I’d read an array of similar posts to help me develop some sense of preparation for my first-ever undergraduate courses. The alarm ended up being helpful – it woke me up at seemingly the perfect time.

I was concerned about my wake-up time, of course, because while I’d had a great time watching “Pirates of the Caribbean” with people I’d never met before the previous night, I’d foolishly signed myself up for an 8:30 a.m. class. 

I sat and scrolled through my phone for around 45 minutes before deciding it was time to get ready. I groggily tapped around to find my schedule so I could see exactly where I’d be heading.

At orientation, my SOUL had told us not to walk around campus with a physical map of campus out because then we’d really look like first-years. So before classes started, I’d studied said map and written down directions in my notes app from Thomson to each academic building I’d need to navigate toward.

Feeling somewhat refreshed by 8:15, I ate a blueberry Pop-Tart (because my parents weren’t there to make me eat breakfast before school) and made my way through the foggy morning to Pearson 116 for MBI 111.

I walked that route through Western campus, past Cook Field and eventually crossed High Street to reach Pearson, sitting down in an intimidating lecture hall. Eventually, I started making small talk with the girl next to me – we were pleasantly surprised to learn that we’d also be in FRE 201 together right after microbiology. 

I thought I’d won the lottery, making a friend who would be in not just one, but two of my classes. For a day one connection, I’d struck gold.

As my inaugural Oxford autumn became my first blustery Ohio winter, I couldn’t help but notice how each class became its own world, a microcosm of student life and an unpredictable grab-bag of intellect.

My French professor led us in a meditation in the wake of the 2016 general election, I got to talk to my MAC 143 professor about “Big Brother” before a relevant lecture and I fainted during a documentary about prions in microbiology. Every day, I encountered irreplicable moments with classmates who were strangers before the semester began – and, in most cases, would become strangers again after we’d turned in our final assignments. 

Over the past four years, I’ve hopped in and out of a number of different student organizations, attended over 40 different courses and studied abroad in Luxembourg with over 100 different Miami students. 

That’s a lot of familiar faces.

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I’ve now seen eight semesters worth of first days of classes go by. Rooms full of unknowns have become chambers of recognition where I can walk in, see an old friend and feel much less intimidated and out-of-place than I did as a first-year.

Jan. 27, 2020 wrapped up my last-ever first day of classes. While my sentimentality wants to mourn my last chances to watch my classrooms become communities, I’m mostly just glad I won’t have to do another awful first day icebreaker.

gormanwm@miamioh.edu 

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