After my kinda sorta first day of school at the University of Ghana, Accra, I was not quite sure my  how first day of school at Massey University in New Zealand was going to go. I haven’t been nervous for a first day of college since my first day of college!  Back when I was a tiny freshman and I had to navigate the big college all by myself, I was a little stressed. In fact, I almost flipped out at a guy that was just trying to be helpful. He was cute too. Oops. I had been waiting in front of my lab class forever and I started wondering where the professor was when  finally I  got so fed up that people started to notice.  A guy came up to me and asked if I needed help. I told him my situation, in what was probably a frantic high pitched voice (I was a little more uptight back then…)  Turns out, labs at my home University hardly ever start during the first week of school. I had been waiting for no reason. Even worse,  the lab door had a sign on it that said “Labs will start next week.” !  Sorry cute guy  on the first day of school that I threw my arms up at and stormed away from. I really should have been more understanding of the situation. And calmer.

Anyway- back to today- for the first time (in what seemed like forever) I was nervous about the first day of school. Like…really nervous…butterflies in my stomach…may flip out at another cutie patootie trying to help me by giving  me correct information nervous. The day before the first day of school, I did the typical freshman thing and walked around campus trying to find my classes, only I did it more than once. The first time was to find each building, then, I decided to walk from my dorm and walked to Monday’s classes, in order. Then I went back to my dorm and walked to Tuesday’s classes- in order (continued by the same for all the other days of the week), so that I knew exactly what I was doing. I hoped. That way, if it was 10 million degrees outside and they asked me to come back in a couple hours, or if the professor didn’t show up, or if people stared at me, or if it turns out that you can’t just register for classes online- I was prepared, or at least, I knew where to walk next…but I still had butterflies. I was even more nervous because here, unlike the US, and unlike Ghana, the class times and locations change daily. One of my classes I have at 10am on Monday, 9am on Tuesday, and 3pm on Friday- all in different class rooms. Way to make it difficult.

Turns out, college is exactly the way I remember it being. All you have to do is have to register online and show up to class. I have real textbooks, and the library has free wi-fi that I am welcome to use during breaks (which I didn’t do because that would have messed up the path I had memorized to get to my next class).  The no stop, pre-determined route method also meant I was the first one to all my classes. And when I got to class, I almost didn’t remember what it was like to have a professor show up on the first day! Ah-mazing.

After hearing the introduction to my first class I learned that it would be all about infectious microorganisms. Fantastic. It was exactly what I needed/wanted/loved (I know- I have some weird obsessions).  And even better- the professor was not only present, but funny. Yay!!! Now I just need to make friends (I couldn’t possibly have done that while I was nervous- last time I overreacted and stormed away from the first boy I met in college…haven’t had a date since).

Anyway,  Immunology lab. Here, in New Zealand, they do have labs in the first week of school even if it’s scheduled before the first lecture – and I read my class instructions about 50 times just to make sure!   When I arrived at the lab, my name wasn’t on the list. I just about fainted. UH-oh, and the day was going so well. Visions of Ghana flashed back in my head. However, the lab assistant told me not to worry. She’d just add me to the list and get me the supplies. Whew-ee- crisis adverted. The first day of school anxiety started to subside. Maybe school in New Zealand wasn’t going to be that bad.

I don’t know if you have ever seen The Incredibles, but my professor reminded me a lot of Edna- he even had the hair cut down. Edna designs superhero outfits. Youtube it. Anyway, my professor was fabulous. When I walked into the lab, and my lightheadedness was just about gone, the same lab assistant freaked out on me and said I couldn’t bring in my bag. For the second time in 2 minutes, I felt my balance waiver. In came my professor to the rescue.

“Don’t worry hunny, just keep your bag with you- how could we expect you to know not to bring it in here on the first day?”

“SHE’S BREAKING THE RULES! I’M GOING TO GET INTO TROUBLE” the lab assistant replied promptly

At this point I felt like I was just going to fall over because my body didn’t know whether I was in trouble or saved, and the going back and forth was confusing me.

“Hold your horses, she’s (me) just going to hold onto it, until I find somewhere for her to put it.” He replied to the lab assistant. Then he leaned over and whispered to me, “We all know some people are less than honest”. Meanwhile, the lab assistant was acting very frustrated and still trying to explain the trouble of me having my bag to my professor who was obviously not going to listen. After the whisper in my direction, he interrupted  the lab assistant by saying “I’m not being difficult, I’m helping”, and walked away.

So, I stood there, awkwardly in the middle of the classroom, with the frustrated eyes of the lab assistant upon me, alone. Thankfully, about 30 seconds later other people walked into the lab with their bags as well. The lab assistant looked livid, and the professor walked back out chipper as can be and said “Follow me everyone, we’re going to lock your bags in this room” whispering to himself,  “Honestly, how would they know not to bring bags on the first day? Honestly.”

After that, the lab was amazing. We had to prick our finger and squeeze a drop of blood onto a slide, stain it, then examine it to find different types of white blood cells. Funny enough-I refused to prick my finger in Africa when my professor wanted to test for my type-but in New Zealand, it seemed a little less risky. I had never done this lab with my own blood before. It was wickedly cool. I could look under the microscope and see what my blood looked like. My blood! From my finger! I saw what was going on inside me. It just doesn’t get any cooler. I think my lab partner thought I was a little ridiculous, because she wasn’t nearly as impressed, and did an awkward laugh when I tried to explain the magnificence of it. After the lab was done, I stayed there for an additional 20 minutes looking at all the slides we made. When have I ever stayed in a lab longer than I was supposed to?

When all was said in done, the only thing I needed to get was textbooks. The nervousness had not yet completely subsided because I was scared of what the cost of a semester’s textbooks would do to my bank account. When I went to the bookstore at the mall to find a book to read for pleasure every book I picked up was between $30-40!  Books in New Zealand are expensive! I mean, the book I was reading when I left the US  I bought for $14 at the airport, in New Zealand, at the mall, that same book was $36.99!  And considering that the last science book I bought in the US cost me $220.00, what did that mean for the text books I had to buy in New Zealand? I almost didn’t want to know. But, when I walked into the discount textbook store in town today, my books ended up costing me $210. Total. Three science courses and I still paid less for all the books together than I would for one book in the states.

Honestly, I may never come home.