It's always tough to say goodbye--and even tougher when the object of farewell is a fancy-free, mostly-inclusive orientation. But alas, the days of midweek bowling, free meals, and Yale-subsidized happy hours have come to a end, displaced by a long-anticipated but none-the-less surreal first week of classes. For me, at least the effect has been jarring. Who would have thought that the end of Orientation could be so disorienting? But here I am, exactly 7 lectures into my SOM education and last week's carefree bar-b-ques and beach trips seem as distant as Saturday mornings spent watching cartoons and downing Frosted Flakes. The Hall of Mirrors once jammed with hungry ice-cream lovers and sundae bars is now home to diligent first years, bent over Accounting texts and spreadsheets. We've already been assigned homework problems, problem sets and more reading than I've been able to keep track of without my planner; study group meetings are in full swing; and the CDO is already spouting the "R" word. (For those of you a bit more removed from B-School than I am, that's recruiting).Don't get me wrong--I always knew this was what I signed up for and where we were heading, but I never thought we would get there by Wednesday. I suppose the rumors about business school are true--the gates open, and you really do hit the ground running. While I could do with a few more hours of sleep (which is maybe why I mysteriously slept through two alarms this morning), the intensity of the last few days continues to highlight what makes SOM and the Class of 2011 special. A case in point. Yesterday, I was stuck in the "dungeon" until 11 PM--that's SOM's windowless, basement study area, not its torture chamber. My first set of Accounting problems was due the next morning and I was still trying to navigate the differences between balance sheets and income statements--anything more complex seemed well beyond the scope of my abilities. It may have been late and a drag to still be doing homework, but I wasn't alone. I had plenty of company to commiserate with and get help from, and I truly tested the waters on this whole "community" thing as I struggled through debits and credits. As a former English major, English teacher, and lifelong word nerd, the term "journal entries" has a very different connotation for me (and the mere mention of "accounts" sends shivers down my spine). Luckily though, my classmates are both practiced accountants and patient teachers. I sat in a small group study room with a few other Accounting virgins and got a private tutorial in the basics of financial statements and bookkeeping from one of my peers. He didn't have to stay that late and break down the abstractions of Chapter 2 into examples we could relate to, but he did. On a related note, when an Economics assignment was posted online early this past weekend, one of my classmates emailed the whole class to draw it to our attention and offer her book on loan to anyone whose texts had not yet been purchased or delivered. The book passed through some 8 pairs of hands by Sunday evening, a far cry from the alleged "book-hiding" of other grad programs and schools. And that's what makes the intensity of this first week bareable, worthwhile and even a bit invigorating. So, Orientation? It's been nice knowin' ya. I see an even brighter future, and definitely, a new beginning.