This year, I was an OIS counselor for a second time, because I love spreading the love for Yale and because I’m a bit of a creeper. I retired from my post last night, before face-sucking internationals at Sigma Nu during the program’s graduation ceremony.
OIS stands for Orientation for International Students, a program that, according to the Yale College website, “is designed to ease international students’ transition to the United States and to familiarize them with academic life and culture at Yale.” (The same website says OIS includes “many recreational activities” like picnics, soccer games and movies — which is a lie, but the first statement is very close to the truth.) OIS is a highly entropic sequence of inappropriate icebreakers, talent shows, shopping trips and (at least for the past three years) the exact same .ppt by Dean of International Students Jane Edwards about apples and your college life resembling a “W.”
I love it. Everyone loves it. Even the skeptical, brow-raising freshmen — the future tenants of some ill-carpeted property on Lynwood Place — succumb to the irresistible feeling of community and belonging that spontaneously and inexplicably generates from the combination of people from more than eighty nations. No one refuses to play “Contact,” a game that still makes me, the counselor, feel uncomfortable. Not one person opts out of the unique opportunity to ridicule him or herself in the ethnic fiasco that is the cultural skit performance. East Asians smoke hookah. South Americans talk about the rights of domestic workers.
OIS is always a success.
I decided I wanted to be a counselor as soon as I was done being a counselee. I drooled at the idea of influencing so many students’ first impressions of college in the United States and the opportunity to pass on the valuable knowledge I expected to collect after choosing a major, a haircut and a sexuality. I did it. It felt great. And as OIS 2009 came to an end, like Tinky Winky would say, it only made sense for me to do the whole thing “Again! Again!”
But I must have grown old and bitter.
The enthusiasm was still there, in all freshmen’s faces — glowing brighter than an albino vampire from Stephenie Meyer’s wet dreams on a sunny day. The internationals’ questions and broken English sentences were hardly novel, and were very similar to my own two years ago. Still, the first thing I told one of my counselees after she said she was from Gaza, Palestine was: “You mean, Israel.”
She didn’t slap me.
Fortunately, she ended up being very kind and open-minded. Or at least open-minded enough to reduce her anger to a spiteful eye-roll and reply: “Hey, at least our struggle is with another nation.”
I’m from Venezuela. We’re friends now.
But what’s with the attitude? Even if that was hands down the most dreadful thing I said in the four days of the program, it was hard to point out exactly why was I being such a peengina. Soon enough, though, after some careful pondering, I felt the viscous, warm truth flowing down my spine — mid-college life crisis.
As I begin my junior year, it kills me — the unspoiled, tutti-frutti-scented life emanating from the eyes of inadvertent freshmen. My ears bleed at the sound of “What’s SSS?” and “Where’s the Wenzel?” and “Who’s Justine Kolata?” And the skipping. The skipping has to stop.
At the same time, the debate going on in my head is oriented 180 degrees away from the preoccupations of the incoming class: Have you saved the world yet, Gabriel? Why aren’t you looking for a job? Do you even have a plan? Are those purple briefs? ONLY FOUR SEMESTERS LEFT!
Freshmen enter their dorms ready to quench their intellectual thirsts and feast on carnal pleasures. Been there, done that, respect that. It’s just hard to look beyond the façade, empathize and not be a huge bitch.
For that, I quit. Class of 2014, I’m sorry. Class of 2015, you’re welcome.