This post was written by Joe Humes ’19. He’s reflecting on his first week in the program at the conclusion of Orientation Week.
It all started on the bus. That familiar feeling of butterflies fluttering through my stomach as Burlington’s #2 bus made its way astutely up Pearl Street. It felt like many first days before it: the first day of high school, the first day of my last new job, etc. but also brought those old nerves to a totally new level. I mean…this is grad school. This is our final step on the journey to a fruitful and meaningful career. We all know objectively what we hope to get out of the program we’re stepping into, so that’s not the scary part.
The truly daunting part of this experience is the slew of intangibles that you don’t prepare for: the people you might meet, the things you might say, or the unexpected things you might learn. I think I speak for much of my cohort when I say that the first steps into Kalkin 110 on Monday were some of the most exciting and terrifying steps of my life.
I don’t know about the rest of my classmates, but as I sat down in the lecture hall on Monday I genuinely thought we were gearing up for the stereotypical Orientation Week. I expected syllabi, icebreaker games, and a few basic conversations about the program. I had no clue that we would be getting a totally different experience.
“This week was like Orientation on steroids”
This week was like Orientation on steroids. We’ve already had hundreds of in-depth conversations about teamwork, sustainable development, renewable energy, and orangutans. We used LIFO to jump inside each other’s personalities for a morning and we got way too close to each other on the UVM ropes course in an afternoon. To top it all off, we’ve already had an utterly fascinating corporate meeting with an executive from Ben and Jerry’s (or Seventh Generation). It all was completely unexpected, and it’s been completely incredible.
I realized something very interesting over the last four days. I usually get to Kalkin a little early and have a few minutes to listen to some Phish and sip coffee as I wait for everyone else to arrive. On Monday, I felt like this group had the potential for chemistry. I noticed above-average chatter and smiles around the classroom. On Tuesday, I noticed the room was slightly louder as everyone switched their seats and met more people. By Wednesday, the room was rumbling like Grand Central Terminal as we greeted each other like lifelong friends. On Thursday, it was so loud I didn’t even try to listen to music.
And that’s when it hit me: this week was about forging us as a unit. The subject matter is what it is and we’ll either learn it or we won’t. It’s the conversations we’ve had this week and the activities we’ve done that will build the unbreakable foundation between us. I realized the true goal of Jones, Hart, and Fusco, the three-headed captain of our cohort’s maiden voyage, was to spark a unified fire between us that will guide us through the wild ride ahead of us. Now, as I sit tranquilly on Thursday night with a Switchback in my hand, I think our entire cohort will agree that they’ve unquestionably succeeded.