On the 20th of August, two very confused and tired people from Oregon arrived at Philadelphia International Airport, trying to navigate their way to Glenside, Pa., in a haggard daze. These two people were my mother and I. We had never visited Arcadia’s campus before, or the East Coast for that matter. As I exited the airplane into the terminal, a wave of humidity instantly hit me—which let me tell you is quite a change from the dry mountain air I was used to in Oregon. So, of course, the only thing I could think to compare the climate to was the word tropical. The bugs were creating sounds that we imagined would come from creatures bred in some far off land of Papua New Guinea or some dark corner of the Amazon. The plants and trees were different and exotic looking. It was hot and foreign.
“I’m in Pennsylvania,” I thought, my mind reeling. I kept thinking of a map of America, and it was so strange to know that I was so far east and so far away. “The people seem fairly similar in their mannerisms.” No, I did not believe that the local people were strange green aliens, but I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of culture or personality. I heard a lot of Philadelphia accents for the first time that day. Most people pronounced “water” as “wooder,” and the whole flow of things around town and the university was very different from what I had known in Oregon.
Two days later my mother helped move me in, and orientation started. Plastic Target bags were strewn about, and a grand mix of dish detergent, shampoo bottles, and pillows were scattered all over the room in spite of our dearest efforts to organize in the short amount of time we were presented. I met my roommate and her family the previous night. It was such a crazy thought to have only met someone in person one time, and then the next day work together to create a space that we would be sharing for the next four months, before I leave for the First-year Study Abroad Experience (FYSAE) in the spring.
I strung up my floral bunting on the top of the wall, dressed the bed in a soft blue comforter with white floral patterns, and hung up my poster that says carpe diem featuring a picture of a blue glittering bird with a golden crown perching on a blossoming twig. I sat my stuffed animal piglet near my pillows and draped my fairy lights at the foot of the bed, and we left my new domicile for many meetings that the day had in store for us.
During that first day, I met so many wonderful people through entertaining exercises and games. By the end of the day we had high-fived the entire Class of 2018 plus all of the orientation leaders and RAs, nearly did a flash mob, and became official Knights. At that point our feet were falling off, our faces hurt from smiling, and our voices were gone. What a crazy and fun introduction to Arcadia University! Although I was a bit afraid of being so far away, I really did feel welcomed and safe, and that made all the difference for me on my first day of college.
Before I knew it, the time to say farewell to our families had arrived. I remember feeling pretty disoriented from all of the changes around me, and it was difficult for me to completely take in what was happening. The moment my mom hesitantly turned away and walked off, I was alone in Pennsylvania. I stood there, in this distant land that we only hear about in story books containing tales of the revolutionary war with old men wearing white wigs, a place where militias were formed by the brave and the rebellious. How terrifying. I put on a brave face though as I tried to blend into the slightly different culture and adapt to the new “tropical” climate.