7:40am on a Saturday morning, twenty-nine sleepy people gathered in front of Carmichael Dorm. Our excitement overpowered our exhaustion, however, and we piled into cars headed to the Aqueduct, a pretty, wooded conference center. Breakfast was ready for us and we chatted happily as we ate. I remember thinking we all looked quite official facing each other at tables with notepads and pens at every seat. We had awhile to chat as we ate before the program began.
After a few words from Dan Gold, our fabulous future Resident Assistant, Justin Tabor, led us outside to play the notorious camp game, The Human Knot. We split up into two groups, crossed our hands over each other and held on for dear life. I remember looking back and noticing the looks of amusement on Dan and Steve Levine’s faces while they watched us struggling to untangle ourselves. For what felt like an hour, we tried any way we could to unwind our bodies, twisting, hopping, stepping, shoving, and possibly cheating. While invading others’ personal space is always fun, we were somewhat relieved when Justin summoned us back inside. For about an hour, Justin led us in a discussion about how we can respect each other and get along while living in close quarters for seven weeks. Justin clearly has a handle on conflict resolution since he served as an RA this year for an entire floor of freshmen this year.
After Justin’s talk, Dan Gold gave us tons of helpful travel tips about health, food, safety, transportation, and Singapore in general. I felt a little overwhelmed after realizing I would have to figure out immunizations and more applications, but as program director, Dan proved to be a very knowledgeable source of information. We broke for lunch around noon to eat a Mexican-themed meal of fajitas, salad, and (!) lemonade. After lunch, Dan wrapped up his part of the program and handed the floor over to Professor Steve Levine. He brought us outside to a refreshing, sunny day. We discussed articles we had read about current events in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, and we all got a sense for Professor Levine’s teaching style, after which we got a sense for his Frisbee-throwing style.
Then, history grad student Dana Brinson engaged us in an interesting conversation about our fears. We all wrote down a couple of things we were afraid of when thinking about going to Singapore and she addressed all of them, asking us to suggest solutions. We realized we all had similar fears about homesickness, adapting to a new culture, Real World-like drama, and taking advantage of our limited time in Asia. After a brief question-answer session with Dana and Justin, we once again piled into cars and drove back to UNC, full of new information and thoughts about our upcoming journey.