Freshman Freakout

Freshmen move in was this weekend, which leads me to the horrifying suspicion that my senior year of school is really, truly starting soon. I feel more unprepared than I have felt for anything that I can remember.

This year, I worked as a tech for the incoming frosh–I helped them troubleshoot troublesome mobile devices, connect to the wifi, and set up their email. Since my normal job consists mostly of windexing tables in a room that has computers, I was mostly there to deal with the easy cases and charm moms while the professionals fixed the most difficult machines. This all would have been great (paid!) fun, had it not been for the fact that I had to be at school at 7 am on Saturday morning.

Let me tell you about the last time I was at school at 7 am on a Saturday:

Oh wait, I can’t. Because it has never happened. I got up at 5:30, and it was still the same color as it had been when I went to bed four hours before. It was the sort of thing where my body wasn’t even tired–just disoriented.

So, of the four hats I have worn for freshman move-in (freshman, RA, transfer student, and tech), this was certainly the earliest. To my employer’s credit, everyone felt so bad about the hours that they gave us a great breakfast buffet to choose from. And at least I wasn’t a manager–they had to be there at 6:30.

As for the actual tech support, it was not as bad as I was worried it was going to be. The senior techs were sharing horror stories before the weekend began (think pirated foreign-language copies of Windows that use non-Roman alphabets), but we were mostly dealing with OSX, thank god. The few foreign-language screens that I saw were in Korean, and they were mostly phone–changing it to English was easy enough.

The Korean phones did lead to one of my favorite Emory-tastic moments: a Korean international student having her phone set up for email by a Chinese international student tech. The discussion was in English, the screen was in Korean, and the router was in Georgia. Everyone walked away happy.

We were expecting the bad cases to happen on Saturday in the chaos of move-in. We were deceived. Instead, they dropped out of the ether on Sunday morning, when we had grown complacent.

One case in particular stood out: it took (all told) about $200 worth of labor to fix, and about four hours of in-person work. It was exhausting, and everyone was on edge by the end of it. A senior staffer took the case and had exactly the right personality to convince the folks involved (a student and a set of parents) that a) everything was going to be okay and b) we understood why they were frustrated. It seems like that would be easier to convey to people, but it is so, so hard (and so, so critical in university work). For bonus points, he did it without ever agreeing that we had broken the Office suite licensing on the computer (which we hadn’t, but which the parent blamed us for).

Many toasts were given in this man’s honor. I had a lovely chat with one of the parents about my major. Everything was okay.

The freshmen are kind of weird to see beginning their first year as I’m beginning my last. (At Emory. Not in, like, life.) They are so keyed up and so convinced that anything that does not go right right this minute will end in tragedy for them. They will never get the classes they want, and they will die alone. More importantly, they won’t get into med school.

And I sympathize with that, sort of. They have no way of knowing what parts of the 900 things that they’re being told will be important, and what parts of the 900 things will never come up after orientation weekend. And there is no sense of perspective: this is the thing that they’ve been training for since they were four, and they can’t fuck it up now. (It is the same way that many folks I know were about grad school until about three months ago when we all moved off campus and lost the will to care/adopted pets/started drinking legal beer.)

It was good to see the freshmen in all their wigged-out, keyed-up glory. It was a nice reminder of why I should get excited about the school year (and a terrifying reminder that it’s coming up*). It was also a good indication that the things that seem like Super Big Deals (see: my thesis) right now are going to be laughably stupid in like six months.

So, weekend tech employment: granting perspective and approximately $120. Not a bad tradeoff, even if I will never do it again.

* After I wrote this sentence, I realized that school starts in three days and nearly fainted. What? How did that happen? I am not ready.

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