Week 52: Pre-Orientation Preparations

For much of the week, everything was focused on the upcoming Orientation weekend. For pretty much the entire week, I was constantly answering emails, text messages and Facebook messages, all to do with Orientation. Emma, my fellow co-director, was much the same; she was going through a similarly stressful experience, but managing to put together a whole host of other elements of Orientation.

To make things harder, most people were exhausted after a very crazy wedding over the weekend. Additionally, the smoke detector in Emma’s room developed a fault, which we would need the landlord to come and fix. It was beeping incessantly from Monday to Wednesday, which meant Emma was running on far less than ideal sleep. Further, my laptop was still in the repair shop until Thursday afternoon, so everything had to be done from the computers in the GSCR.

On Monday, it was time to finalise the Orientation timetable. The rewrite of the Python script used to allocate scholars to activities was complete; I just needed to add in a few special edge cases. I had a draft copy ready to print on Monday evening. There would still be a few cancellations or changes in preferences here and there over the next few days, but for the most part, the version that I printed would stay unchanged.

I was also running errands all around town. On Monday, I collected some of the stationery requirements from the stationers, and would gradually collate more as the week went on.

There were plenty of meetings over the week as well. On Monday evening, we had our large Orientation briefing in the GSCR. Almost all of the returning scholars, including those on Council, showed up to be told relevant information about what would be happening over the weekend. We managed to get almost everyone present, there would be a few people who would need supplemental briefings later in the week. Emma spoke for a bit about the atmosphere we wished to instil amongst the new scholars, and a few words on how to intervene as a bystander in case something doesn’t seem right. I then spoke about the rough schedule for the weekend, including how each of the activities would be run. We had tried to make sure that most of the returning scholars were designated as a leader for at least one of the activities, meaning they would get to act autonomously from us in the actual running of the events. We had a bit of wine and a few cookies to share afterwards.

On Tuesday, in addition to the mess of organisation, Emma and I met with Rebecca, Michelle and a few representatives from the Gates Trust: Jim, Luisa and Celine. We went through a number of elements of the Induction Day and Orientation Weekend with the Trust, explaining the components we needed from them, and the redundancies we had put in place in case anything would go wrong. They were all very supportive of the work we had done, and were given the go-ahead to proceed.

By Wednesday morning, most of the elements were now put in place. Annalise, who had been home in New Zealand for the past few weeks came around to pick up the boxes and bags she had left at our house. She had moved out of one college accommodation when she left, and was now moving into another. With a trolley and bike, we managed to haul all of the boxes across Jesus Green to her new place in a total of two trips each. When we had almost finished, I got a Facebook message from a new scholar asking for some advice. Leena, the scholar in question, had broken her ankle days before coming to the UK and was on crutches. She told me that her Uber driver refused to take her past Harlow in North London. I told her to go to the railway station in Harlow and catch a train the rest of the way. Knowing how difficult it would be to navigate the streets of Cambridge with crutches and suitcases, I arranged to meet her at the train station to help her get in.

I dropped by the Trust briefly to pick up a box to take to the GSCR, then went out to the train station and caught a taxi back into town with Leena. There, I met with Annalise again; who was at the same college as Leena. Together, we helped Leena with her bags checking in to the Trinity accommodation, which happened to be Annalise’s old apartment building. After, Jacqueline joined Annalise and I for lunch at Trinity College. The last bit of the afternoon was spent setting up the slide show presentation for the Induction Day.

On Thursday, the final day before Induction Day, I had to meet Michelle in the morning to iron out a few outstanding issues, then spend the rest of the day running errands. Much of the final preparations were done in the GSCR: packing the tote bags with Matt and Emma, then printing out all of the name badges, cutting up all of the flyers, picking up my now repaired laptop and so on. Various members of the Orientation Committee came in and out during the evening where they could to help with various tasks. We packed everything we needed into boxes, some would be used on Induction Day, others would be taken up in the car the night before, more would be taken on the bus itself. From there, for fire safety regulation reasons, we needed to take the furniture out of the middle room of the GSCR and tidy up most of the rooms to make them appear presentable.

With everything seemingly in position and ready to go on Induction Day, I headed out to the Granta Pub, where the Gates Social Officers Margaret and Eddie were putting on a pub night, and many of the new scholars would be in attendance. I took the opportunity to introduce myself to a few of them, and start a few conversations. As a co-director, I got many questions about life in Cambridge, and I tried to answer a few of them best I could. Eventually, I had to return home to get a bit of rest before the real fun would begin on Induction Day…


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