Everytime I turned around, it seemed, at the second day of orientation yesterday, some event or conversation had me contemplating the various demographic groups to which I belong.
The first event was a continental breakfast. While being served bagels is not that unusual, being served rugelach, a Jewish pastry, is something I haven't before experienced outside my grandma's Bronx apartment. While normally it would have been a novelty, I got the distinct sense that Jewish delicacies were far more the norm here. In fact, I realized that while being Jewish and being female normally rendered me a minority in most communities, at BU it was not necessarily the case for either categorization. There seems to be quite a few Jewish students - and lots of other Jewish people in the neighborhood as well (hence being able to get Jewish deli conveniently) - and these days law student populations tend to be at least 50% female, if not more.
The aspect where I am distinctively feeling like a minority is with respect to my age. One of the staff members told me that about half the students entering the law school had taken at least a year off. But that means that at least half are coming straight out of their undergraduate education, and of the other half who took time off from school, they may have only taken a year or two. A year or two is not insignificant, but it's not the same as the seven year pause I've had between academic careers. I've hit a stage in my life where I don't want to fool around. I've learned lots of life lessons, and while I'm sure there are more to be learned, I'm eager to put those I've mastered into practice at school. I'm not sure if I'll have much patience for younger students still on the steeper part of the learning curve of life. (It's not that I couldn't empathize, but I don't want to be reminded of the angst I experienced when I went through that. I am happy to have the period from 22-24 resigned to the past - transitioning from semi-adolescent student to fulltime grown-up wasn't as easy as people had made it sound.) I also have little patience for what seems to be a youthful tendancy to equate drinking alcohol with "fun".
In a sense the latter item isn't particularly dependent on age. There are a few older students who like to go out drinking, and I also know there's a lot of younger people with no interest in it (I was one of them when I was younger.) But after last summer, I have no tolerance for the selfish, out-of-control behavior of drunk people. And I have little motivation to join in this alleged fun. I can spend my money on other things that bring me greater enjoyment, and why would I want to jeopardize my physical (and mental) well-being with with the consequences of drinking? It's not that I'm a teetotaler; I can enjoy alcohol in certain situations. But never where the purpose of the occasion itself is to imbibe. When I drink I drink like a Frenchman, using alcohol only to lubricate the social experience, not to define it. These other students seem to like to get plastered for sport, and I fail to see the appeal in that at all.
After the general orientation events I went to a meeting of OWLs (Older, Wiser, Law Students) and that made me feel much better. Some people were younger, only a few years out of school, and some were older and a few were married with kids. But it was nice to connect with other people who saw life and law school more similarly to the way I do. It helped overcome the feeling of isolation I was feeling earlier as I milled around during the social events at orientation. There seems to be this prevailing aura of high school settling in over the experience, and I really want nothing to do with that. I'm hoping that OWLs will provide the opportunities to escape it.
Within OWLs (and I'll extend this invitation to anyone who's not part of it) I want to start a "30 Club." I will turn 30 during the academic year, in late April at a completely unfortunate time (during finals preparation.) Nonetheless, I don't want the occasion to slip by without a celebration, so what I'd like to do is get all the people who will turn 30 during the school year so that we can take turns feting each other.
The final area where my demographics came into play was my geographical diversity. Today I finally realized the benefits of being connected to more than one community. One of the orientation speakers was a professor who had spent time at Cal. I related strongly to some of the details in his story, understanding exactly what he was talking about when he referenced the Berkeley experience. Then a subsequent speaker brought a life-size cardboard statue of Derek Jeter (NY Yankees shortstop) to drive home the point she was making. It was a pretty daring thing to do in the midst of Red Sox territory, and afterwards when I dropped by her office to introduce myself I used our mutual Yankees fandom as an overture to our conversation. Later at another social hour I began lots of conversations with East Coast people and West Coast people (and even a French woman) by citing something from that place that we had in common. It's always easier to make connections with people when there's common ground, and it seems I've got a lot of ground covered.