“Are you nervous?” he asked.
“Not really,” I lied.
Through the opened pair of double-doors before me, I could see the sea of people who were at that moment receiving a lecture on some advanced form of mathematics.
The classroom was amphitheater style, with seating for more than 300 University of Oregon students; it was so full that some students were even standing in the back.
Aside from in college movies, I had never seen anything like it.
“Then why is your leg shaking?” he replied.
A nervous twitch, an anxious habit. Honestly, I hadn’t even realized I was doing it.
“It’s what I do,” I responded coolly.
The friendly, inquisitive, and, at that moment, obnoxious student berating me with inane questions, I learned, was an international student from Kuwait.
He told me his name was Dashti.
He had previously graduated from a Kuwaiti college years before but wanted to advance his education in America.
He and his pregnant wife came to Oregon from Kuwait for a change in scenery.
Oregon was as much a change from Kuwait as a person could hope to get, I posited.
We discussed our enrollment into the UO, where we had come from, and how we both felt about being non-traditional students in a world where being 23 meant you had life experience.
It was a nice conversation, and it calmed my nerves just a little.
Understand, I was preparing to step into my first class of fall term, and I had no idea what to expect.
The lobby in which Dashti and I were conversing was beginning to fill with more and more students.
Even outside, I could see the students all mingling around in preparation for entrance into Columbia Hall 150.
At 12:50 p.m., the math class let out.
The noise of students exiting a classroom was familiar to me. At least, the noise of Chemeketa students was familiar.
The din that arose from COL150 was beyond loud. It was rock concert noise.
The sound of 300 plus people all beginning to speak at the exact same time is incredible.
I stood to wait for my turn to enter.
As the sea of heads rushed past me, I lost Dashti in the crowd.
That was three weeks ago, and I’ve not seen my new Kuwaiti friend since.
Making friends isn’t necessarily easy here, and I’m a somewhat talkative guy.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t look 19 anymore. Maybe my beard intimidates the younger crowd.
Either way, there’s anywhere around 1,000 students within rock throwing distance at any given time, but I go most days without speaking to, or being talked to by a single person.
I’ve been here for three weeks now, and the only person I speak to regularly is a fellow non-trad from Missouri who won’t leave me alone.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice enough guy, but I firmly believe that breathes must be taken between sentences.
Regardless, he’s a friend. One of few that I have.
I’ve ran into a few other Chemeketa students. We talk about getting together, exchange numbers and so forth. But so far, no plans have come to fruition.
This is a busy place compared to Chemeketa.
The coursework is heavy, the instructors are firm, and the time to complete it all seems to slip by unabated.
However, despite the challenges, I’m enjoying my time here.
The campus is enormous in comparison to Chemeketa. I still haven’t even seen it all.
Luckily, all my classes are within a two minute walk of each other.
Not all students are so fortunate though.
I walk to school and back home again every day also. It takes about 25 minutes, puts a nice burn into my leg muscles, and is hopefully making a change to my waistline.
I hear complaints of living on campus; I hear complaints of living off campus.
It’s the same old story anywhere you go.
But the fact remains that I believe my choice to apply to the UO was the right one.
The beauty that inspires creativity is in every place you look here.
Now, as the leaves are changing colors and falling slowly to the ground in preparation for the oncoming cold, the scene transitions once again; and it continues to be a stunning sight.
Moving past week three, I anticipate a hardening of the workload; but I no longer anticipate it with any anxiety.
I’ve seen the educational powerhouse in action, and it no longer frightens me.
Puddles the Duck, however, creeps me out every time. But that may just be my masklophobia.
More to come, thanks for reading.