I've never thought much about the literal meaning of the word "orientation," but today, I understand. Our AUCP orientation began at nine this morning; as such things usually go, we were presented with information after information and I can only hope that I didn't miss anything too important. That was all well and good, and it's great that I can now rattle off prices for bus passes and medical visits. The real proof of my orientation, though, was that I did not once get lost.
I wound up leaving the house slightly late this morning due to an incorrect clock, a forgotten notebook, and a confusing lock on the front door. I was one of the last to arrive at the American Center, but I did so without having to second-guess my route at all, so I'll call that a victory. (Never mind that the route requires only one left turn out of the driveway and then one slight left at a fork in the road. Let me have my little moment of pride.)
We lunched in groups with French students, several of whom led us to a restaurant called (I kid you not) the Burger Bar. Admittedly, my burger was delicious and covered in pesto and mozzarella and nothing like the standard American burger, but...it was a burger. No matter! I have months ahead of me to eat all the French cuisine I want, and I can't complain about any opportunities to converse with the French.
The plan we'd been suggested was to go by Monoprix after lunch to buy notebooks and whatever else we needed, but all we had time to do was go by it without stopping. So, after two and a half hours of the TEF (Test d'évaluation de français, which I'm praying will place me into the translation course) and another thirty minutes of the IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory, one of those cultural surveys that's designed to make you feel uncomfortable about your own opinions even though it claims benevolence) I left the American Center on my own and ventured back to the Cours Mirabeau and Monoprix.
I made a quick stop at an ATM that I'd spotted yesterday while walking with my host parents, and proceeded to the Cours Mirabeau from there. I found Monoprix, where half of Aix was crammed into the shelves of notebooks; I found a couple of notebooks, even with 100% recycled paper like a good Oberlin student; and I found a few other AUCP students who wanted to go to la papeterie Michel but didn't know where it was. Having seen it on the way, I accompanied them there and immediately regretted it because seriously, Paper Product Heaven. So dangerous. Today, though, I returned home with only a Monoprix bag.
Orientation. It reminds me of compasses and navigators, not of academic introductions and lists of prices. And really, today did more to orient my mental compass than my scholarly attitude. I'm sure I'm going to have to direct my attention to my studies soon enough, but for now, my little navigational successes give me all the satisfaction I need.