Of orientation and miscommunication

22-08-2018

Two years ago, on a hot Sunday in August 2016, a very blond, very pale and very anxious 18-year-old first year Psychology student started her orientation week. That was me. Now I am more brown than blond haired, less anxious, a bit older – and still unbelievably pale. A lot of things have changed since then, but this week, as every year, hundreds of new first years have started their university experience as I did two years ago.

My friends are now the new orientation-parents and my then-orientation-parents have already finished their degrees and moved on. And after reflecting on this time two years ago, I can openly say how glad I am to never have to do my Bachelor introduction again. Humans are social animals, but when God distributed the ability to small talk, I was getting coffee. I can have hours of conversation without ever growing tired of talking or running out of topics, but put me in a party environment and ask me where I’m from and that’s it. Linguistic ability gone.

Like in a malfunctioning relationship, I would like to tell the orientation week It’s not you, it’s me. Neither the concept of orientation nor the people who organize it are to blame. I’m not made for large groups of people, I get insufferable without a decent amount of sleep and I don’t drink alcohol. Not because I generally hate the concept of fun, but because my concept of fun is different.

I would, however, always make the decision to participate again, even after really not liking it. Why? Because inability to small talk, not drinking alcohol and anxiety in large groups is something I shared with some people in my orientation group. People that, over the past two years, became my friends. And even the people in my group who liked to party were kind, understanding and are, to this day, people I like talking to in-between lectures.

I made it through the orientation week feeling as comfortable as I can possibly feel in this situation. Because it was okay to party, as it was okay not to party. I never felt forced to change who I am to fit in, because I met people who fit in this situation in so many different ways. That is what I would like to tell all the anxious first years who are afraid of starting from scratch in a completely new city: in Nijmegen there is a group, a person, and a place for everyone – you will find yours and, most probably, establish memories and relationships that stay with you for a lifetime.

Every two weeks, Antonia will add the songs she writes about to the Spotify playlist below. This way, she creates a soundtrack to her time in Nijmegen. Click left and right for more songs.

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