Orientation, community... and Marmite

August 19, 2009

A week into Orientation, the concept of ‘community’ referred to in my previous post has become more tangible as I had hoped it would. I think the past week has given us all a better understanding of what community means here and why it is so valued. I won’t go into detail about the make up of the Class (an excellent account of that is already here) but having spent time with various groups of classmates over the past week (in project groups, workshops and in the discovery of what on Earth a clambake is), the veil has been lifted on a group that is not only diverse, intellectually curious and all that good stuff but also - well - just plain interesting. Having experienced more than my fair share of what can only be described as cringe-worthy team-building activities and workshops in the past I was, frankly, approaching one or two of our Orientation events with some reservations. Indeed, a particular experience from my former life on the payroll still haunts me to this day: the workshop in question resembled an extended real-world, tongue-firmly-out-of-cheek episode of "The Office", complete with awkward facilitator and hesitant audience. However, the sessions at Yale have really surprised me. Whether we were discussing diversity or the School’s Honour Code, opinions - conflicting or otherwise - were shared freely and openly. Discussion and debate on the topics we’ve been covering extended far beyond the allotted time for each session and everyone appeared to have an interesting point of view and/or unique experience to share. It’s already shaping up to be a challenging and engaging community. Adapting to life in the US is something that I’m really looking forward to getting to grips with over the next few months. I am the only British national in the Class of 2011 but many classmates have either lived in the UK or visited once or twice, so there is plenty of common ground. Despite a slightly embarrassing incident at a coffee shop, where it took me 5 attempts at ordering a cafe latte before I was understood (still not entirely sure what I was doing wrong but it makes for a good story), everything has been incredibly easy. Also, one particular event has made the transition a little bit easier: whilst browsing the offerings at lunch on Tuesday, I overheard an employee from the Dean’s office sporting a familiar accent. I surprised myself by launching into a rather eager plea for the whereabouts of a store that sells Marmite (for the uninitiated, please take a look here - it might just change your life) and was rewarded with an email a short while later detailing various stores in the area that carry British supermarket staples...the lady in question has since become something of a hero in my book. Tomorrow we are spending the day in New York City and classes begin in earnest next week (815am Monday morning to be precise) so there will be plenty more soon.

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Mark Butterworth