[This is a repost of grandson Jerod’s post about welcome week at Lipscomb University.]
Welcome to Welcome Week
August 23, 2016
Move in day. Scores of minivans stuffed with Ikea furniture and Target paraphernalia jostle for access to the front entrance of the residence hall. Overenthusiastic upperclassmen in matching polos begin grabbing our belongings and declaring to us exactly to what degree we are welcome in this building. As my family shuffles to the elevator I overhear this exchange between some dad and his wife:
Wife: “I just don’t think he has enough things to last a semester.”
Guy: “You’re not moving into that dorm room, he is! And he doesn’t want all of that junk!”
I meet my roommate briefly as we haul in all of my stuff. Our moms begin chatting about how likely we are going to starve without this or that appliance. My new television does not work, but I don’t think I need a television at all, so I don’t mind (for now).
For dinner, families and students are separated, so I have to enter the line by myself. My mom begins tearing up at the thought that I will have to eat dinner alone. We are served chicken fingers, nothing else. I could have used some celery or maybe an apple. Anything with nutritional value would have honestly been a better meal than chicken fingers.
After my family leaves (yes, I cried), my roommate and I spend the evening engaging in light conversation. I go to bed early, ready for my first night 4 hours away from my family.
I’m still on Eastern Time, so I get up extra early; however, I don’t have anything to do (theoretically, this is when I am supposed to meet my lifelong friends, but nobody is standing around outside my room waiting to friend me, and I do not possess the charisma, charm, and energy to find people (introversion, y’all)), so I decide to fix my TV. I get lost three times, visit 3 separate stores, purchase 4 items, return 4 items, including my original TV and all of the items I purchased before, and get stuck in rush hour traffic for at least an hour and a half.
But, I now have a working TV and a much better sense of direction in the area where I live, so I got that going for me.
Dinner is hamburgers and hotdogs. If I don’t get diabetes by the end of the week, then I will certainly have some serious digestive complications.
I get up early and run for the first time this week. Today is the beginning of the official welcome week festivities. There are no scheduled activities for this morning, so I must meet people organically, which means I won’t meet people this morning. For lunch, we get to eat in the cafeteria. I fulfill my freshman role as the loner who wanders with a tray looking for someone as lonely as me.
The welcome week introduction session is just as enthusiastic as I feared.
In the evening we participate in the “Olympics.” We are randomly assigned teams based on nations in the Olympics. I am given a sticker with the Chinese flag on it, but there is no team China. After finding some other dude with the same problem as me, I ask for help. I am told that I actually have the Japanese flag (oh, I’m sorry, I guess the nation of Japan forgot to inform me that they had adopted the flag of their biggest rival), and that I, therefore, needed to join team Brazil, which already has about 10 more members than any other team. I sustain a terrific contusion to my left hip after a dramatic fall during a dizzy bat game.
The flags of China and Japan may be easily confused. For reference and comparison, we have placed them together. (Photo Cred: www.wikipedia.com)
People stay up too late again.
I’m not getting enough sleep.
In the afternoon we visit the Parthenon, but it costs 6 bucks to go inside, so I just play Pokemon with some dudes in the park. I reveal my country roots when I stare at the tall buildings the whole ride there and keep commenting on the traffic and how rich everyone is around here. 
Just like the real thing, except, y’know, not ruined. Also please leave sacrifices in the lockers provided outside.
I get back to my dorm at 10 after visiting some relatives and find that a party is occurring right in the lobby, and that my student ID does not work as a key to the residence area (q.v. note 3 for the full saga). This is problematic because I am now forced to go to a party with loud music. The band has two drummers, two rappers, and one trombone player. I have to admit that they were really cool and that I showed off my sweet moves down in the mosh pit with complete strangers.
A blurry photograph of a generic “safe” college party.
I don’t go to bed until after 1 am.
We have constant informational meetings from 9 until 11:30. One guy comes up and talks about making choices in college and speaks more sense than anyone I have heard yet. He presents several videos and statistics on pornography. Afterwards, I tell everyone around me about my struggle with pornography and the redemptive grace I found in Jesus. I get a lot of awkward silences and no one wants to make eye contact with me.
After a quick snack lunch, we head to our service day areas that we signed up for earlier in the week. I volunteered to go to a local lake and do maintenance work. The maintenance work consists in adding mulch to the trails. We form a mulch brigade along a 1-mile trail, passing full wheelbarrows to the next person and sending back empties.
I decide to sprint all of my transfers, to the protest of my calf muscles and odd stares of everyone near me.
We were supposed to carpool to the lake, so I drove one of my new friends plus two girls who I don’t know. On the way back I learn that one of them knows my second cousin and the other knows my great aunt and uncle very well. 
We have a fancy dinner tonight. It feels like prom, except I’ve known these people for 5 days instead of 10 years, and the food is terrible.
This evening we host a hypnotist. It gets really freaky, really fast. It starts off as silly jokes and tricks. After a while, though, the show starts to resemble a mass brainwashing exercise. The freakiest part, however, is not the people on stage doing embarrassing stuff; it’s actually the people in the crowd who get hypnotized. These people are not supposed to be in the act; they are passive; they are supposed to observe. Several leave their seats and walk up to the stage. One even climbs up in the balcony and leans perilously close to the railing. The hypnotist has to be told when these people show up, because he is constantly checking the people on stage to make sure they are safe and don’t do anything embarrassing. Watching these zombies wander towards the stage is like watching a television viewer wandering onto a set in the middle of a scene.
“Who’s excited about college?”
The hypnotist is constantly declaring how “good” it feels to be hypnotized. After several people scramble to the stage and fight for the right to be hypnotized, I begin to think critically about what people will subject themselves to in order to “feel good.” There are now several videos out there of these people engaging in ridiculous acts that would cause you to seriously question their judgement and character in a normal setting, yet not a single victim regrets their participation because it “felt good.”
It rains a lot. Not much to do today besides meetings. I skip a lot of things today because I am tired of the summer camp feeling on campus and am ready for some academic challenges. Oddly enough, today we are assigned a reflection piece for our first class that requires us to explain our greatest academic challenge in attending college. I finish it very quickly this evening and resist the temptation to say that my greatest academic challenge will be keeping myself interested in the easy course material.
We have a Mountain Dew festival on the campus lawn. This event has been hyped up since the time I took a campus visit last fall and represents the last organized, “summer camp” kind of activity before the real school year starts. I get completely soaked in soft drinks of all varieties, including diet Pepsi, which is terrible because diet drinks are unquestionably terrible. I enjoy myself for a good hour, but then I become conscious of that uncomfortably sticky feeling that can only come from having a sugary beverage soaked through your underwear, so I ditch the last hour and hurry my way to the showers.
I begin to realize that without structured activities, I really have nothing to do besides write this piece and read The Brothers Karamazov. What I dreaded most about a Welcome Week was the constant events and awkwardly forced meet and greets, but these have ironically become the things I look forward to the most in my day.
I visit with some friends that live in the area instead of hanging out in the dorm by myself.
I finally get to sleep in.
I have now been here for an entire week, but it feels like a month because of the novelty of my experiences and the substantial amount of activities that were crammed into 7 days.
This evening we participate in our initium ceremony, basically the opposite of graduation. It has a really cult-like vibe, with all the candles, robes, dim floor lighting, and whatnot. As I finally get over my initial amusement of the whole thing and start to use the ceremony as a time of reflection upon my entrance into an institution of higher learning, we are instructed to listen carefully to the lyrics of “Home” by Phillip Phillips. 
So, my welcome week experience is now complete. I have now been, theoretically, initiated into a larger community that will support me for the next 4 years. I say theoretically because I do not believe (and did not believe before I arrived on campus) that a healthy, loving community can be formed in one week through icebreaker games and other structured activities. However, even though I often times felt as if these activities were shallow and not worth my time, I do believe that I have set the roots for quality friendships with several classmates and have introduced myself to enough people that I will always have someone to sit with at a meal or talk to before a class. And that’s where the real value of a welcome week lies, in simple introductions rather than the abstract idea of community that is preached to us throughout the week. While I haven’t bonded for life with new friends in seven days, I am much more prepared than I was before this week to embark on a new stage of my life journey and to face the very real challenges that lie before me in my first year away from home.
 At this point, I would like to make a note of the general demographics of this campus. Almost everyone here is white and Christian. Also, there are significantly more girls than guys. Just imagine swarms of girls in short shorts and long t-shirts that come down almost to their knees, and phones that they carry in little things that hang off their wrists (another note: most of them are also extremely pretty, but that is not important (well, it is for me, but maybe not for you)).
 Somewhat related: if I mention that I am interested in becoming a doctor, I can hold any girl’s attention with whatever I say for at least the next 3 minutes.
 We have now arrived at the time for the full saga of my ID card woes:
I had noticed when I first arrived on campus that my card did not work on any of the doors, but the doors weren’t locked yet, so this was not a problem. However, once the doors started to lock, I had to stand at the door like a schmuck and wait for someone to pass by in order to get to my room. I asked my RA (Resident Advisor) about it and he told me to visit the security office in the morning. Morning comes, I visit the security office. Security lady tells me to ask the head resident of my dorm. He’s not there. I come back in the afternoon and he’s still not there. I ask the dudes at the front desk where he is, they don’t know, tell me to go back to security lady to fix my problem. I go back to security lady, she does some computer thingy, tells me it works. I go back to my dorm, it doesn’t work. I go back to the security lady. I would like to point out that the security office is at least a quarter of a mile from my dorm. Finally, she just makes me a new ID after making some phone calls. I get back to the dorm. IT STILL DOESN’T WORK! Well, actually, this time it does work, I just don’t know how to open the door to the dorm because I’ve never had a working ID. For never was there a story of more woe….
 Oddly enough, this is only the second weirdest song I’ve had played at the end of a formal ceremony. My school played “I Can’t Feel my Face” by The Weeknd at the end of our graduation, a song about being high on cocaine.