Last week was Orientation Week at AUC, however, it was one of the most confusing experiences that I have had here so far.
When I first arrived to campus, I was struck by it’s sheer size. While it is probably about the same size as my home university, it seems much larger since it is literally solid stone with no grassy areas and is composed of immense buildings flowing into one another.
After my initial moments of being overwhelmed by its appearance, I set off to accomplish various tasks in buildings scattered throughout campus. This was very difficult. To begin with, most buildings are not labeled very clearly and if they do happen to have a name carved into it’s side it is not the name that people call it. For example, “Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Hall” is called “HUSS” and will be printed in the orientation packet as this. This makes it impossible to locate most buildings on the campus maps. When a building is found on the map, that is when the real thinking begins. Why? Because the maps are all backwards. I found that out the hard way.
I was warned that the academic buildings are also confusing, so a fellow student and I set out find our classrooms. I am so glad that we did. While the classrooms are numbered, I question the distribution of those numbers. For the most part they follow numerical order, yet I have stumbled across a hall with room 1079 wedged between rooms 1009 and 1005. In addition, one of my classrooms was not to be found. We went into a courtyard with all the rooms that were in the 60′s yet there was no 66. We looked at a map next, but the room wasn’t on it! My room did not exist. We asked an orientation leader and even he could not find it. Finally, a group of girls sighted it and called us over to a corridor that could only be accessed from outside of the building.
On top of the physical confusion created by the campus layout, there is a different administrative style to deal with. For example, I signed up for a class registration appointment and when I arrived there I saw that signing up for an appointment in advance was useless. There was another sign-up sheet in the room on which the real schedule was run. Unfortunately, no one notified me or other students of this when we first arrived. We sat around, waiting for our names to be called before we realized the insignificance of our appointment cards.
However, we were lucky that there were actually people there. Earlier, another student was sent to discuss her Survival Arabic course enrollment in a different building, but no one was in the room or even the entire building for that matter. We discussed this absence with some orientation leaders and they blamed it on Ramadan. Everything here slows down because of Ramadan and its expected that people will be absent or running on a different schedule. We are constantly told to wait to do things until after the Eid (the final day of Ramadan). It’s very frustrating since we are told to get X,Y, and Z done and once we have finally figured out how to get there, we are told to come back later.
The first day was the most frustrating. As the week went on, I just accepted that this is how things would be. I just have to adjust myself to a slower sense of time and go with the flow.
Classes begin tomorrow. I am really excited since all my courses are interesting and I will get to meet more Egyptian students. I heard that both the bus schedule and the class times have been changed to accommodate Ramadan. Some people got an e-mail explaining this, others like myself, have not. I’ll figure it out on way or another.