Back to the Roots

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As we near the end of the semester, a chance to take a quick trip back to the beginning was handed to me through one of the many assignments that pave the way toward summer break.

Do you still remember how it all began, how I was introduced to Quinnipiac?

Right, the marvelous summer of 2007. My very first trip to the U.S was indeed marvelous and life changing. From Newark airport, I began a slow descent into the heart of Manhattan. I could probably have walked without losing any time, but the bus ride I had chosen brought me to Grand Central eventually.

Despite some 15 hours in transit, I felt energized when I sensed the pulsating streets of downtown Manhattan under my feet.

But I hadn’t reached my destination yet. Registering all the wonders of life around me, I headed for Grand Central Terminal. The train ride to New Haven gave me a first chance to observe life in America.

I stood in front of Ezra Stiles College at Yale University a good two hours later. This was it – I realized in that moment that the adventure had begun.

The six weeks in the Elm City impacted me much more than I would have dreamed when I first thought about applying.

Just a few minutes after a taxi had dropped me off at 19 Tower Parkway – yes, I still remember the exact address –, I met the young man who would become my roommate and a dear friend.

I had thought I was arriving late (flight delayed three hours, bus ride took another three instead of 40 minutes), but a few more people arrived around the same late hour. The five or six of us were escorted to the housing office. Somewhere on the campus, another student arrived and added himself to the group.

Iván was his name as I learned when we heard that we would share a room and received our keys. We walked through the quiet summer night to the place that was supposed to become our home for the summer – Pierson College.

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The short glimpse of the city that I was able to catch during those few minutes sufficed to make me see the beauty New England had to offer. This feeling quadrupled the moment I saw Pierson’s red-bricked façade.

The weeks flew by. Similar to this experience here at Quinnipiac, the beginning was the hardest part. I recall that – after the cheerfulness of being at such a prestigious university had passed – the differences to home started to sink in. I was glad that it was just a six-week program.

But my feelings changed again. I enjoyed the program, the academic challenges, the exploration of the English language, and the atmosphere on campus. In fact, I was sad when it was time to say good-bye.

I hadn’t seen Quinnipiac in person when I had made the decision to come. But my impressions from that summer, together with the warm words I had heard about the school from my professors at Yale, sufficed to make me comfortable with the idea to spend this next chapter of my life there.

I’ve seen bits and bobs of both New Haven and Yale since I’ve arrived – especially in the beginning. But it wasn’t until yesterday that I rediscovered the love for them both.

I was surprised how uncomplicated the process of finding a story for my final project for Broadcast Journalism was. Coming from three similar projects throughout the semester, I had anticipated to get denied access to events and people at least once.

But when I found the Yale Sustainable Food Project, everything went smoothly. Except for the weather forecast. The warning that there might be rain in the air throughout the afternoon made me nervous about the shoot on their farm – an outdoor location.

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It was cold and windy, but there was no rain. Seeing the cherry blossoms enriching the landscape of the city and the old houses in that neighborhood brought that feeling of the summer of 2007 back. The two and a half hours on that farm, exploring what they do, shooting video, and meeting new people made that day special.

With Joe back at home to be there for his mom, my usual “partner in crime”, I was glad and relieved at the same time to hear that another classmate was willing to help me get all the equipment to the desired location.

There was something for everyone. Kathy had no experience with operating a camera and saw what she might have to get used to in the future. And her company and the chance to share this experience with someone made it both easier and more fun for me. A big thank you!

In-between all the final projects, I just wanted to get this one out of my way. Now, I might even have found an idea for my master’s project. Maybe it just took a chance to leave the library once in a while and get out there, maybe it was the reminder on 2007, maybe it was a combination, but I’ve reached a point where I feel about Quinnipiac the way I felt (and still do) about Yale back in 2007.

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Roar!

 

The two months I had already spent within the Quinnipiac community had familiarized me to seeing people touring the campus. That didn’t happen at my university – at least not in a way that I would have noticed. And we had been warned that Saturday, March 29, 2014, would be a special day for the university – we should expect thick traffic and an increased number of tours all day long.

But the undergraduate admitted student day still surprised me.

Light rain was in the air when we approached the main entrance to the northern parking lot. Cars had already formed a line. A public safety officer signaled everyone to keep going.

A bit further down Mount Carmel Avenue, Joe was finally allowed to steer his car onto the parking lot. We had passed the business school building. We were even way past the athletic center. With lavish lawns in front of us, Joe singled in on the parking spot that a public safety officer had assigned to us.

Joe said that he had never parked so far away from campus. Truth be told, it took us maybe two minutes to cross the parking lot and reach the business school, which houses the school of communications. Back at my undergraduate institution, it took me ten additional minutes to complete the way from the subway stop to the building that I had to reach.

We estimated the number of people that might or might not roam the campus today. Just imagine: Quinnipiac has roughly 5,000 undergrads. Broken down to the four years, that makes 1,250 students per year. If only 50 percent of those show up to day and bring parents and one or two siblings, you’ve got a pretty packed campus.

A first few tours could be seen as we came closer to the entrance to the school of communications. Rain was still light.

I was even a bit surprised that we were relatively left alone while learning all about backtiming, thumb suckers, and other terms from the world of broadcast news.

But the day had just begun. The routine trip to the cafeteria in-between Broadcast Journalism and Media Law and Ethics opened my eyes to the action on campus.

I counted at least five flocks of people in the triangular of school of communications, library, and student center. A tour guide tried to gather his people and fought for everyone’s attention. The library was the next stop for them.

Great. Move people – you guys block every single of the seven doors that stood between the cafeteria and us.

It wasn’t better inside. The salad bar, my usual stop, was fine. But the other stations were buzzing. The seating area, once reached, mirrored the scenery. But we found a table, eventually. Having picked a seat with campus view, I followed the continuous stream of tours that brought the weekend campus atmosphere to life.

On our way out of the student center, we squeezed ourselves through the waiting masses that listened to the guide’s explanations about the university’s dining services.

Just a few moments later, we waited patiently for the group of maybe twenty people to clear the narrow entrance to the school of communications. Perfectly timed, we were able to slip through during the brief gap until the next group was ready to exit the building.

Phew, back into our classroom – finally. This admitted students day was quite a party. But the best was yet to come.

Our classroom had one distinctive feature. Besides being located almost dead center in the building and besides being loaded with technology, it had glass fronts that enabled everyone passing through the building to see what’s going in in the room.

While we analyzed journalistic practices as seen in “When the Levees Broke”, a documentary about hurricane Katrina, and talked about HIPPA, FERPA, copyright issues, and privacy issues in journalism, the spectacle began.

The only problem was: It wasn’t us watching. We were the subjects of interest. People stepped close to the glass fronts, staring at us. They listened and stared.

One group left and the next one took over without delay – a perfect relay. Yes, come on closer. We love being stared at. No, sir. Please don’t leave so soon. Keep watching for a minute or two. Ain’t it interesting enough in here for ya?

It felt like groups stopped by the glass front on an ongoing basis during the entire class.

I’ve ever wondered how it must be for an animal in a zoo exhibit to live with all the staring people. We had to show off and live with the stares as much as they have to. Just be careful, folks, don’t get to close. You never know when a tiger bares its claws – roar!

Greetings from Home

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I had been waiting on a letter for weeks. Mom had told me that she had penned a few updates about home. I checked my mailbox daily, but found it empty most of the time – except the occasional commercials, of course. I wasn’t surprised, however, that the letter hadn’t completed its journey after some five weeks.

The reason for that needs some explaining.

What is the main criterion for paper purchases? Right, it should be as inexpensive as possible. But when someone dives into the ancient world of fountain pens and liquid writing ink, the rules of the game change.

Most inexpensive paper products have one characteristic in common – poor paper quality. To be fair, as long as ballpoints or pencils are used, no one will notice that.

But laying down lines with liquid ink makes the difference clear. The ink bleeds through to the back of the side – making it impossible to utilize both sides of a sheet of paper. And the line spreads, which makes for a very unpleasing visual experience.

However, there are still companies out there that care about fountain pens and paper quality. And although most of them are based in Europe, it’s actually much easier to get hold of such items from U.S. retailers. That increases when we are talking about purchasing writing ink in bottles.

So, while still being in Germany, I had ordered some paper and ink samples from a U.S. online retailer. It wasn’t the first time. It shouldn’t take longer than five to 10 days for a package to make its way over the Atlantic.

Five weeks had passed before I had a notice from customs in the mail, telling me that I could pick up a package at our local customs office. With such small orders, packages shouldn’t be kept there, but all right.

I was, however, quite surprised to find myself confronted with questions about the nature of the colorful fluids contained in small plastic vials.

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When did it happen that people stopped coming in contact with fountain pens?

I explained to the customs officer, that what she saw were samples of different writing inks and a few inexpensive fountain pens. The ink samples could be used with those pens, but they could also be used with every other fountain pen. So, they were not necessarily tied to those specific pens.

She seemed skeptical, almost as if I had shown her moon rocks. But she was satisfied and completed the paperwork.

With that experience in mind, I’m no longer surprised to experience delays in the delivery process of letters or packages between Europe and America.

But when I found this lovely postcard in my mailbox, I was surprised.

It originates from Sylt, a small island in the North Sea. My parents had just returned from a one week vacation on that island – meaning the card had completed it’s journey in record time.

It was a surprise that made me smile.

As for the card, it shows a seagull that represents the director of the tourist board. The little guy sends greetings to the reader. Being typical creatures for that part of Germany, they are often utilized to advertise for such islands, resorts, or individual restaurants or hotels.

Thanks, Fiete, I enjoyed seeing your surprise greetings in my mailbox.

Quinnipiac Celebrates Earth Day

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Quinnipiac students interacting with natural elements during Earth Day Fair

Quinnipiac University invited members of the community to celebrate Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. The Earth Day Fair took place on the university’s Mt. Carmel campus. Students, professors, and people from the community roamed the campus lawns. Among the attractions were pottery demonstrations, the Animal Embassy, an exhibition of a biology class, and a beekeeper.

Earth Day is a global event that tries to raise awareness of environmental issues. Peace activist John McConnell founded it in 1969. While the event was limited to the U.S. during the first years, it has become an international phenomenon over time. The Earth Day Network, founded in 1990, has brought Earth Day to communities all over the world.

Based in Guilford, Conn., pottery maker David Frank welcomed the opportunity to celebrate Mother Earth by “offering an opportunity to see pottery be thrown and seeing the finished product.”

Frank said that this year was his first Earth Day participation at Quinnipiac. But, the veteran ceramist went on, “I have done things (events) at Quinnipiac in the past and I have done shows in the past. I’ve made pots for my living since 1969, so I’ve done a lot of shows.”

The Animal Embassy tent was almost constantly surrounded by a large number of people. The organization is a safe haven for adopted and rescued animals across the spectrum. In addition, the Animal Embassy is all about educating people about animals and “the diversity of life on Earth.”

Holding a small corn snake in her hands, Jenn Torres, animal care and education specialist with the Animal Embassy, explained further. “We rescue them and any chances we get to re-release them, we do.”

“This is an un-releasable snake,” she said, speaking in a rapid voice, “because this one was born and bred in captivity. It was given to us because (the owners) were bored with it, they didn’t want ‘em anymore – just ridiculous.”

Surrounded by people, she pointed toward her intern, who was holding a massive rabbit in his arms that caused astonished looks from everyone. “That rabbit,” she said, “they didn’t think it was gonna get this big. Maybe researching the animal you get would be a good idea.”

Talking about one of the gray tree frogs they had brought to the fair, Torres said, “It is a naturally occurring frog. Some lady was really nice, (she) saw it crossing the street, got out of her car, put it in her pocket, and brought it to the Animal Embassy and was like, ‘I don’t want it to die’.”

Torres and her team took care of the frog, implemented it into their educational programs over the winter, and plan to release it back into its natural environment next week.

Another popular element of the Earth Day Fair was an exhibition put together by Professor Dennis Richardson and his biology class. The course about Invertebrate Zoology is intended, according to Richardson, “to get people interested in invertebrates. And, you know, people are afraid of ‘em, but if you think about it, most animals on this planet are invertebrates. And they’re really kinda cute.”

“Did you guys all hear the cockroach hiss?” He asked the crowd.

“No,” responded a woman in the audience.

“Come on over,” Richardson said. “I’ll show you why we call them hissing cockroaches.” The woman stepped back with a horrified look on her face. “Oh come on,” he responded playfully. “Come on guys,” said one of Richardson’s students, trying to draw the people closer to the table.

“They don’t fly,” the professor took over again, “ (and) they don’t run. And you have the cockroach banana bread, no, I’m just kiddin’.” The people around him laughed in relief.

He found the creature he was looking for and called everyone to come closer. He gently touched the back of a cockroach and thus elicited a hissing sound.

“I don’t like that.” Said a woman from the audience. Another woman asked where these creatures could be found. “These are native to Madagascar,” Richardson said, which caused sighs of relief from the crowd.

“What we have here,” said Richardson while walking over to the next table, “is two of the most common house spiders that you see around your house. And there is absolutely no reason to kill these guys.”

He explained the common cellar spider (aka daddy long-legs), a usual guest in most American basements. “Have you ever heard anything of the daddy long-legs, of their biology?” He asked around, and continued without waiting for answers. “They say that it’s the most deadly venom on earth, but that’s just absolutely not true.”

While Professor Richardson finished his presentation by talking about scorpions, the adjacent beekeeper’s stand sparked interest from visitors.

“There’s been a lot of issues for the last eight years with bees,” said Mark Creighton, Connecticut’s State Beekeeper and Bee-Inspector. “Bees are on decline, many bees are dying, and we wonder why, right? Well, our agricultural practices have changed.”

Creighton continued, talking about the introduction of new chemicals into the environment. “We don’t know the synergies between all of those chemicals. And see, in a hive, the wax is like a sponge, so it absorbs all the chemicals from the environment.”

Besides these more educational elements, the fair offered organically grown food, a henna tattoo stand, information about the State Park, and a raffle.

Quinnipiac’s Chief of Public Safety, David Barger, roamed the campus as well. Being there “to check on the event and enjoy a cupcake,” the Chief summed up the Earth Day Fair as “a great event, something that the entire Quinnipiac community could get involved in.”

This One’s From The Heart – Part IV

 

Part 1: This One’s From the Heart – Part I

Part 2: This One’s From the Heart – Part II

Part 3: This One’s From The Heart – Part III

And now the conclusion…

It was a rainy Wednesday in the New Haven area. Joe and I had just completed a reporting day. What had started in the morning in Hamden with a visit to the Public Works department had brought us all the way to East Haven. A church that listened to the name St. Clare was our destination.

I still remember the nervous heartbeats of that day. The announcement that I had to take on the challenge of JRN 524 Broadcast Journalism had caused mixed feelings.

I wasn’t particularly keen on exposing myself on camera. And all the clunky equipment establishes a barrier that makes some people shy away.

But I was keen on learning all about shooting video and experimenting with different camera techniques. In addition, I was excited to get to know professional editing software.

Although I saw the negative aspects clearly, I was glad that I had to take the class – I wanted to learn, and I wanted to leave my comfort zone behind. *

Joe: “Can you see anything? The snow bank blocks my sight. I can’t see a thing.”

Me: “Sorry, nothing but a white wall.”

Joe: “Guess, I just have to be extremely careful…”

When we had finally left the church’s parking lot, the pressure of the day began to fade.

Me: “Phew, that was actually exciting and fun. I think I’m gonna like this class much more than I had anticipated. And I find it surprising how open some people are, how willingly they talk to you on camera.”

Joe: “Yes, didn’t I tell you? That woman in the pink sweater? She was amazing. And that guy at Public Works? He wouldn’t wanna stop talking. It’s fun. But I’m more worried about how we are supposed to get Final Cut to work…”

Me: “We are gonna be fine. Trust me, Final Cut won’t be a problem. It’s just a matter of getting used to it. We’ll learn by doing it. I’m actually excited to learn how to operate Final Cut.”

The conversation kept going while Joe steered his car up North – back to Hamden, where Final Cut was waiting.

Joe: “You know what, I’m hungry. Let’s eat something before going to campus.”

Me: “Sure, I haven’t had anything since breakfast. Any idea where and what?”

Joe: “You tell me.”

Me: “Me? I don’t know any places I could recommend…”

Joe: “Wait, I’ve got an idea. You like wings?”

Me: “Like in chicken wings? Sure.”

Joe: “Great, I have just the right place in mind. It’s a chain, which I try to avoid, but they are special.”

Me: “Why is that?”

Joe: “Buffalo Wild Wings. It’s a sports bar with lots of screens and sports events you can watch while eating. And their wings are delicious.”

So we stopped at Buffalo Wild Wings and continued talking about sports.

Earlier that day, Joe did a phenomenal job diverting me from my worries about the upcoming St. Clare blood drive by giving me my first lesson in Baseball 101.

But the oddest thing happened at Buffalo Wild Wings.

I glanced around. Joe hadn’t exaggerated. There were screens all over the place. They were so big that they could divide the screens into quarters and screen four different events simultaneously.

I didn’t notice it at first, but when we had completed our order, I inspected this one screen closer. No way… I knew that the Champions League round of 16 took place today. But I was surprised to find European football screened at such a location.

Me: “Joe, watch. That’s a live match.”

Joe: “Where?”

Me: “Top right corner of the screen dead ahead. It’s football, or soccer as you might say. The competition is called Champions League. That’s a tournament where the best national teams from across Europe compete to find Europe’s best team.”

Joe: “Who’s playing?”

Me: “Two good teams. The guys in red are Arsenal London. They are currently on top of the Premier League in England. But I doubt they will stand a chance against Bayern Munich, the guys in the black jerseys. They are en route to the quickest German championship in history. They are fifteen points ahead of Dortmund. Bayern won the Champions League last season – they played Dortmund in the final, which took place in London.”

Joe: “So, Bayern are a good team?”

Me: “Probably the best team in the world at the moment. Won the triplet of Bundesliga league title, national cup, and Champions League last season, and they have just gotten themselves a new coach, Pep Guardiola, who was in high demand before he signed up with them. He won some fourteen titles during his four year stint at Barcelona.”

Joe: “Tell me a bit about what is going on there at the moment.”

Me: “Absolutely, now it’s my turn to make you more familiar with European sports. Well, Bayern will most likely dominate ball possession. 70 percent and above isn’t unusual for their style. What Arsenal have to do is to destroy their game, meaning they focus on their defense and try to keep a clean sheet.”

Joe: “That’s what I heard about soccer. Sometimes they just wait and do nothing.”

Me: “Unfortunately, I have to admit that it’s true. It’s gotten much more common for teams that face a much better opponent to focus on a passive gameplay. It’s frustrating for fans and those better teams alike. Chelsea London won the Champions League in this style two seasons ago. If those defenses work and the active teams aren’t on top of their game, it can get boring. The best thing is if the active team scores early because that means the game has to open up.”

I was cut short by the action on screen. Bayern had just scored for the first time. Talking back and forth about both American and European sports, lunch went by quickly.

I enjoyed the journalistic endeavors of the first half of the day, but I also enjoyed how we took turns in bringing our sports closer to each other’s hearts.

I was on campus when the following text conversation happened last Wednesday.

Joe: “Where will u be around 2 p.m.?”

Me: “Library. Study group questions, blog posts (urgent), first notes for final projects, you name it.”

Joe: “Hahaha me, my mom, Kathy and you are going for lunch and we’re picking you up around 2/215. Then we will bring you back home/to the library.”

Me: “I’ll let you know how it goes.”

Joe: “No choice.”

Joe: “You’re coming with us to New Haven for Pizza.”

Since resistance was futile, I packed up and left my comfortable library chair when I had received the go from Joe. I walked over to the meeting point we had agreed on – the bookstore.

I hadn’t even fully realized who was standing in front of me when I received a big welcome hug from Sherrey, Joe’s mom.

Still surprised me, although I had received similar treatment on my second day in the country when the leasing agent of my apartment complex welcomed me the very same way.

“Nice to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you. Thanks for being such a good friend to my son.” She said quietly.

From then on, it was anything but quiet. Joe’s mom began asking me questions as soon as we had turned around in front of the bookstore. Joe had told me beforehand that I would know where he got his voice from once I had met his mom. But I knew from whom he had his openness and welcoming warmth.

This soothing mixture of curiosity and familiarity marked the ride to New Haven. The closer we came to the Elm City, the more I was ready to leave the study world behind me and enjoy this break.

I felt at home during that lunch. Enjoying my first New Haven-style pizza, I followed the quick exchanges between Kathy and Sherrey and shared some of my own background information in-between.

Sherrey: “Tell me more about your family, Kathy.”

Kathy’s eyes began to sparkle when she began sharing.

Kathy: “Well, I’m married with kids. Frans, my husband, is from England. We have two boys, Justin and Cais.”

Sherrey: “Two boys? How old are they? What are they doing? Where are they? Still at home?”

The conversation stayed afloat for minutes, until Kathy and Sherrey had exchanged all the details. The arrival of two big pizza plates resulted only in a brief pause of the talk.

When we left the restaurant, I realized that two hours had passed since I had left the library. It was a lengthy lunch break, yes, but one that made me feel more comfortable in my new environment.

When I waved goodbye to Kathy in front of the restaurant, I knew that the best is yet to come.

* Disclaimer about dialogue and some details in this post: Not accurate, but that’s how the situations felt for me and how I have them in my memories.

This One’s From The Heart – Part III

 

Part 1: This One’s From the Heart – Part I

Part 2: This One’s From the Heart – Part II

And now the continuation…

Food is a delicate topic across the globe – especially for those of us who have just stepped into a new environment. Names, smells, flavors, even entire food items don’t match with what’s in one’s memories.

Me: “What exactly are Pop-Tarts, Joe?” *

I stood in front of hundreds of small blue boxes that all looked the same. I knew the brand, but the product depicted on the box looked unfamiliar. On first sight, they all looked the same, but they weren’t. I read “strawberry” on one box, “raspberry” on another, “chocolate fudge” on yet another one.

Joe: “You’ve never had them? Well, they are usually for breakfast. It’s pastry with a filling. You can either eat them right from the box or, which is what I would recommend, toast them. They are pretty American.”

Me: “OK, I’ll think about it. Don’t look too healthy, though. Besides that, I don’t have a toaster.

Joe: “Fair enough. You don’t miss all too much. And yeah, there are healthier options out there.”

We continued our round through the aisles. The cart was still empty. When we passed the tea section, I was taken back in time.

I was studying the tea boxes. The aisle was much quieter than the rest of the supermarket. I was looking for a specific type of tea – Earl Grey, my favorite. I had picked the least expensive one the first time around, but couldn’t get comfortable with this brand’s taste.

“Florian?” I heard a woman’s voice calling. At first, I didn’t realize. Why would someone call me? I didn’t know anyone in here. But the voice came closer and sounded familiar. I heard it again. I left the tea-world and turned around. Who was that?

A familiar face came in sight. I was surprised. What are the odds that I would meet someone I know in a supermarket in a town that was still new to me.

Me: “Hey, Kathy. That’s a surprise.”

Kathy: “I know. Nice meeting you outside the classroom. I’ve just stopped by to get some essentials. I don’t really like this kind of supermarket. The lighting is so bright, which makes me uncomfortable. And they don’t have a good variety.”

Me: “It’s a bit confusing, I agree. But I found some bread that looks familiar.”

I fished a rectangular package out of my little basket.

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Me: “See, that’s bread I can relate to. It’s not exactly what I’m used to, the taste is still a bit off, but it comes pretty close.”

Kathy: “I hear you. When we lived in England, it took me a while to adjust, too. No worries there. It will get easier.”

Me: “It’s something about the smell. It’s hard to describe. I’m more used to the smell of freshly baked goods. Here, it smells like a chemistry lab.”

Kathy: “You know? There are much better places to shop for food. There’s one a bit closer to New Haven. It’s a bit more expensive, but they have dedicated sections for food from around the world. I go there to find cornish pasty for Frans. I’ll have to send you some links.”

Me: “That would be nice, thank you.”

“Excuse me.” The polite interruption by another shopper reminded us that we had blocked the teas on display.

Kathy: “Uh, before I forget. I just talked with Frans about this. We would love to have you over for lunch or dinner one day. He’s out with Sikorsky a lot at the moment. But it should be better in March.”

Me: “Wow, that sounds great. Thank you, I would love that.”

Kathy: “Great, I’ll keep you posted. I gotta go know. It was nice bumping into you here. Have a nice night.”

Joe pulled me back into the present.

Joe: “Over here are all the coffees. Can be a bit overwhelming at first.”

Me: “Don’t worry. I’m not into coffee anyway.”

We continued our trip through the vast resources of the supermarket.

Joe: “Soda. That’s familiar to you right?”

Me: “Yeah, different name, but the world is pretty Americanized in that area. But you’ve got quite a lot of options here.”

Joe: “Ha, just thinking of something… Root beer. Do you know what it is?”

Me: “No, I mean, the name rings a bell, but never tried it. I don’t even think that it’s sold in Germany.”

Before I had a chance to ask for more information, Joe continued.

Joe: “Never? Whoa, that’s gonna change – today! It’s a soda, you’ll love it!”

We continued our shopping spree and arrived at the checkout counters with a cart that was filled to its brim.

Joe walked to one of the mini fridges positioned in-between the checkout counters.

“That’s still on me,” he said to the clerk, handing him a bottle. “He’s fresh from Germany and never had root beer before. I thought what would be better to make him familiar with the country’s food than to let him try root beer.”

After he had the bottle back in his possession, Joe passed it over to me. “Enjoy, Flo. I’m excited to find out what you say about it.”

I had learned of some typical American foods and had been familiarized with procedures in here. It’s always the little things that make the difference. How to weigh fruits and vegetables properly, what’s a decent cereal option, how to operate the self-checkout system, and how to get all the stuff home, to name just a few.

Thanks for making the transition into my new environment so much easier. The safety net just got stronger.

To Be Continued…

* Disclaimer about dialogue and some details in this post: Not accurate, but that’s how the situations felt for me and how I have them in my memories.

This One’s From The Heart – Part II

 

Part 1: This One’s From the Heart – Part I

And now the continuation…

After two weeks in my new surroundings, I was finally able to step into the Quinnipiac community. The beginning classes alleviated the doubts I had begun to develop. Let’s go for a “pub crawl”…

Looking out of the window, I had a bad feeling about the day that was awakening. Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, began with snowfall. I was looking forward to my first exposure to Quinnipiac campus life – I wanted to get started. But the triage of text, email, and voicemail message around 2:20 p.m. confirmed my fears.

“Quinnipiac will close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21, because of the snowstorm. All classes scheduled at or after 5 p.m. are cancelled.”

Me to snow: I hate you, do you hear me?! Go away and leave me alone!

Snow has been a bad kid this winter, but it allowed for the semester to begin three days later.

First contact is always the most difficult part. I approached the glass front that hid room number 253 in plain sight. My pulse accelerated with every step I made.

As I came closer to the door, I saw people sitting inside. *

It was quiet inside the room. A quick “hi” here, an acknowledging nod there, but everyone seemed to be waiting for the professor to enter and give that relieving introduction.

But things warmed up quickly…

I removed my headphones and a conversation faded in. It was taking place in the room on the other side of the glass wall that I was facing. The topic was sports. The computer’s clock told me that it was time for me to leave the computer room and join the gathering in the room next door.

We were only three. The two conversationalists kept going. A warm “hi there” greeted me in-between two topics. I followed their arguments, trying to learn more about American sports.

The minutes flew by. Once in a while, Joe paused the conversation with the professor. He turned his chair around and faced me. Determined to let me in on the secrets of American sports, he explained what they were talking about.

Eventually, the sports talk group grew. Instead of trying to follow the conversation between two people, I now had to deal with three people talking about a phenomenon I didn’t understand.

“Hey there,” she said, trying to break through the sports barrier. I turned around and replied, “Hi, Kathy.”

Phew. Nothing against a bit of exposure to American sports, but several small dosages seemed to be more effective than a single big one.

Kathy sat down, retrieved here laptop from her bag, and said, “sports, don’t they have something else to talk about?”

While the sports talk picked up where it had left of when Kathy had interrupted ever so friendly, she pressed a button to turn on her laptop.

With a smile, she asked, “How was your week, Florian?”

The startling beep sound that revived her MacBook was the starting signal to a warm conversation. Now it was an active place with a sports conversation going on in one part of the room and a “normal” conversation dominating the other side of the room. Both coexisted in harmony.

“All right,” the professor eventually said, “I think it’s time to get started. His relaxed voice called everyone’s attention to the desk with the impressive backdrop of four flat screens. Class began, but the warmth stayed. The topics changed, but the feel of the conversations and the atmosphere did not.

“Do you need a lift home?” asked Kathy after class had ended. Before I could start answering, Joe chimed in, “No, I’ll take care of him.”

“Oh, that’s great,” Kathy replied, “you are a good friend, Joe. But if anything comes up, just let me know.”

We walked out into the winter night, arranging for a group project meeting on the way. We hadn’t even reached the door when we had found a consensus. So the topic changed once again.

“If you need a lift to the supermarket, Frans and I would be happy to help you out,” Kathy said. “That’s lovely, thank you,” I replied, “but Joe and I are headed that way right now.”

If I had doubts about the path I had selected, they were gone. I was in a safe environment, surrounded by good people. Quinnipiac had built a safety net underneath my high wire. Thank you, guys!

To Be Continued…

* Disclaimer about dialogue and some details in this post: Not accurate, but that’s how the situations felt for me and how I have them in my memories.