Barnard Open House…and Jet Lag?

I’m still smiling.

When I first walked through the gates with baby blue and white balloons floating around, as well as friendly faces of women wearing bright, yellow shirts, I knew right away that I was going to have a blast.  More then 24 hours later, I left with a fantastic feeling complete with commitment, excitement and pride.

I wasn’t necessarily afraid that I’d get too intimidated by the overwhelming female population at a single area, let alone a single school, as I’m familiar with a co-educational environment where the males tend to dominate.  What I was worried about, though, was not being to make many friends: since most of my friends are boys, I’m not used to befriending people who…aren’t guys.  It perhaps made me a little misogynistic (and hypocritical) because I sometimes saw the girls in Hong Kong to be rather materialistic and whatnot, in which we probably had nothing in common whatsoever.  Walking into Barnard and meeting the first few women there convinced me that here, it would be different.  I’ve never met such a tremendous group of spirited, caring but intelligent women at the same time before, and for the first time I felt like I fitted in with “a bunch of girls.”  But they aren’t girls, they’re women.  That’s the difference, and it makes me so happy.  Above all, it felt human and authentic.

To be fair, being at Barnard is a more international experience than one that I’ve had at my school, where only one person in my entire graduating class is not Asian (if I may put that bluntly, KC).  If it wasn’t international, it was definitely diverse.  My three roommates consisted of a French girl, a half of a twin, and a lesbian; my other friends were of various ethnicities and denominations, such as Indian, African-American, Taiwanese, Greek orthodox, Jewish…the list goes on.  There were even varying interests and talents, from dance to writing to physics to sleeping.  One of my roommates could do some spiritual healing thingamajig that she didn’t even believe in, while another was a professional magician who pulled off what she called “parlour magic” that blew all our minds — I mean, she completely changed that card in her hand with a snap of her fingers.  How does that even work?  I’ve never seen such an eclectic mix of people before, and it’s something I want to be a part of.

Prospective students aside, the current students I’ve met were fantastic women too.  Two of them were my hosts, and they were so lovely.  (Growing up, I always felt that my older peers looked down on their juniors, treating them as either invalid or burdens.  It was something I tried to set out and change by connecting with the younger students, in which many of my classmates probably think is pointless and ridiculous.)  When my hosts welcomed my three roommates and I with open arms, it felt so nice.  Getting to know them and their experiences at Barnard before we went to sleep gave us an insight of student life in an informal sense, because they talked about how they bonded with who became their best friends, the classes they take, and their experiences with studying abroad.  The bonus was that I’ve been in a room where just about everyone had a crush on Jared Leto, which was just awesome.  Watching them continually turn their alarms on and off after 9AM (I was awake due to jet lag) convinced me that the habit I’ve been forcing myself to change is actually completely normal, and that it would probably still continue even in college.  I was reassured.

I met another current Barnard student at the Philosophy class I attended, who appeared to be very excited that a “prospie” was sitting right next to her in their classroom.  Before the lesson, I learnt more about the Philosophy professor and what their classes were usually like.  I’ve never been in a place where the older students were so warm and welcoming to the younger students, even if we weren’t officially their juniors yet until fall.  It is an unfamiliar feeling, but it’s comforting.  I didn’t realise that it was what I was looking for all along.

I also got the chance to attend any lesson of my choosing, of which I chose Introduction to Philosophy.  It was the class that I wanted to take, and since I got to the class selection booth earlier than most of the students, I found that class ticket and excitedly ran away (not before thanking them).  While I was a little lost at the beginning of the lecture (the first ten minutes was a recap of the previous lesson.  In other words, I wasn’t there for obvious reasons), I found myself catching on with the discussion about Strawson, determinism and reactive attitudes.  The professor encouraged us to express our opinions throughout the lesson, asking for opinions to stimulate the debate that is what I believe to be the beauty of Philosophy.  He was also really warm, like just about everyone I met at Barnard, allowing me to email him with my myriad questions pertaining to the 15 pages of notes I wrote during the class.  I left the classroom feeling…just good.  There’s really no other way to describe it.

More importantly, I really liked how many of the students didn’t treat me like I was different only because I’m from Hong Kong: I used to go to a summer camp, where everyone was fascinated by me for the sole reason that I was not “one of them.”  They made it clear that I was different, only approaching me to ask me questions about Hong Kong.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate that…attention, but it made me less convinced that I could possibly be one of them.  At Barnard, it was different.  Prospective and current students alike would go, “Wow!  You’re from Hong Kong?  You must be very jet lagged!”  I felt accepted, because it was as if coming from Hong Kong didn’t matter, as it wasn’t the only factor that contributed to my identity to that community.

This entry is getting a little long, but there are a few more things I’d like to mention that you don’t necessarily have to care about: should I also mention that we got free food?  It spoiled us a little bit, but the most valuable thing was that I made new friends through all three meals — what else is there to do when you’re waiting for food?  The panel sessions about career development and studying abroad were also informative, and it’s reassuring when countless alumni and staff members claim to be given job offers shortly after graduation due to the availability of internships throughout Manhattan in several areas, such as writing for television shows or magazines, or shadowing at local hospitals…among others.

In just two days I’ve met many great people who I’ve exchanged contacts and took countless photos with.  It was so nice to know that many of them were committing to Barnard after Open House, especially when they were a little sceptical about Barnard before coming in this weekend.  We’re so similar, but yet so different, and it’s just a new kind of diversity that I never got to formally experience until today.

Thanks for stopping by.  Don’t be a stranger.  That’s a wrap.

Slightly

PS.  I am indeed jet lagged.  It’s why I’m writing this at 4AM, EST.

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2 thoughts on “Barnard Open House…and Jet Lag?

  1. Hahaha! And the one non-Asian person in your graduating class is Eurasian, so I’m not sure that really counts.

    I wonder about the lack of diversity in our graduating class as compared to Barnard… Is it just a population size thing, or is it the pressure to conform, to normalise, to hide any signs of diversity (I find it extremely difficult to believe everyone in our school is heterosexual, for example, but there aren’t too many people who are ‘out’, so to speak)?

    1. Well it’d be hard to tell you’re Eurasian, so that’s a reason why it wouldn’t necessarily “count” ;)

      Being at our school for fourteen years, I’m convinced that it is anything BUT the population size. Our graduating class went from about 500 to 36, in which every few times there would be only one non-Asian/Eurasian who came and went before you arrived. Ethnicity aside, it’s perhaps some form of peer pressure, judging the certain people in our school who don’t take different people lightly until it comes to homework. Hiding signs of diversity is something else, because we never know. Then again, maybe it was simply the way we were brought up that makes it look like we’re all robots: e.g. being instilled the idea that you have to enjoy certain things like basketball or playing the piano.

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