Orientation

Regretfully, I left NYC and Julie to come back to DC on a Sunday night. It was quiet and I had to carry my bags up to my house since the shuttles weren’t running. I went in for a scheduled meeting with my future boss and co-workers at DAI, so we could discuss my job responsibilities: re-doing the intranet and internet web sites, helping with events and the newsletter, and other technical jobs. I seek to learn about USAID and how it works, and to have some experience with the relationships between contractors and government in a public-private development initiative. That said, I don’t want to just continue to build web sites for people. Next semester, I hope to take on an internship that lets me work on policy and strategy. The people I met were really nice and I could tell that I had a lot to offer them and they had a lot to offer me. So it’ll be good. I’ll probably start working in a couple weeks.

One of my housemates finally arrived, Eric. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Honduras. Graduated from Xavier. He’s from Kentucky and can be stiff sometimes but then bust out some OG moves the next. Pretty funny. We literally spent six hours at IKEA picking out furniture and getting utensils and shit. I ended up getting a whole bed frame, a queen-sized comfy bed, a wardrobe, a small three-drawer, and a large desk. Later I bought a good office chair, cooking stuff, and sheets. I even got these weird-shaped pillows that really support the head and neck when sleeping on one’s side or on one’s back.

Then Eric went to Dallas to meet some friends and I spent the next two days building my furniture, which was a bitch because I didn’t have a proper Phillips head screwdriver. I had to use the one on my Leatherman, which tore up my hands but which proved its durability and usefulness. God bless multi-tools.

I ended up taking the middle room on the first floor, engineering tension rods with curtains to use to block off the door-spaces. It is a little awkward the way the furniture is set up (the wardrobe blocks the view into the backyard) but there’s no way you can match those super-cool IKEA designed rooms on their site. However, paint and lighting seem to go a long way towards making a room work. I have this off-white light that makes everything look drab — it does, however, have a dimmer switch.

So now I’m all moved in. I love my desk, and the bed is just unbelievably comfortable. I love the way it feels. Which is good, since the mattress cost so freaking much.

Another housemate, Paul, arrived. He did his Peace Corps service around Russia. We went out for pizza and beer and I found out he used to play rugby and football and we both get pretty loud discussing politics. He’s a Berkeley guy.

My other housemate, Mat, arrived the night before orientation. He was doing election-monitoring in Kazakhstan. Finally the guy who lives in the basement, Avery, is the son of the owner of the house. His parents are both doctors, and he’s pre-med. My other housemates are all in my MSFS program. Avery lives a separate life for the most part.

I went to a get-together before Orientation, organized through my Facebook MSFS group. Got to talk to tons of people. Sooo much socializing. It’s nutty. I also met a couple students at a coffee shop near the campus, unexpectedly. They recognized me from Facebook. So meta.

Orientation was amazing. Ninety-something students in total, all with diverse backgrounds. 52% male, representatives from about 34 countries, only a few Ivy Leaguers (they probably stay within the Ivy League). People who were in joint programs remarked on how the business and law orientations were nowhere near as fun and interesting. MSFSers tend to be sort of eccentric and wily in a way that you’d never see in business and law students. I met a ton of people with great senses of humor who would say things that even I was taken aback by. Some of the students are already pretty intimately networked into the DC crowd, which is pretty hard-charging. I already have a wallet full of business cards and know people with connections into a lot of the major organizations. It’s a completely different world.

Every student stood up to introduce himself early on. We gave our backgrounds and an interesting factoid. There were so many funny answers given, and many accents. My favorites were the Egyptian-Palestinian girl with a British accent who apologized for swearing like a sailor, the guy who said he’s been arrested in four countries but not the US, and the dude who looks like Matthew McCcoucounhonoghghey who says with a straight face that he wants to be a treasure hunter. I immediately thought of Sahara and Steve Zahn.

It was funny that so many people came up to me and said they recognized me as the Facebook guy, since I started our program’s Facebook group pretty early on. Now it’s sort of my legacy (at least early on) and when I stood up to talk, I said people might know me as the Facebook or tattoo guy. I also said how excited I was to start the program, not being able to sleep the night before. One of my friends was like, “Aww, it’s like a little boy at his first day of school!!” Embarrassing!

The MSFS staff ran the orientation flawlessly. I did not enjoy the class of 2008 Q&A panel as we’d already heard panels for open house and information sessions, and people tend to ask questions unique to their situations. The alumni panel was funny because the global commerce and finance guy who works at Morgan Stanley spoke in a completely different language than the non-profit and development representatives. His goal? To create a new financial security and start an “eco-boutique”. There was a guy who worked at the Grameen Foundation, Muhammad Yunis’s outfit. Another guy had bounced around a lot and was just starting the Foreign Service.

These sessions ran a bit too long and the room got hot sometimes which was painful because we were all dressed up. I looked pretty damn awesome, by the way, in my suit and tie. I learned two main things from them: your concentration is not necessarily limiting to your career, and take more finance classes for quantitative background.

The panel of the concentration heads blew my mind. These guys were seriously intelligent people. And you could tell by what they were wearing what their concentrations were. The guy without a tie was the int’l development guy. The impeccable suit and detailing was global commerce and finance. I liked him because he talked quickly and efficiently. Time is money. The two foreign policy guys wore Washington think-tank suits and one had really poofy hair. They had that professorial look.

The highlight of the first day was the open bar with wine, beer, and food. School-sponsored drinking is awesome.

The dean of our program (Robert Gallucci) looks totally like Hugh Hefner with his silver mane and laid-back demeanor and even had babes hanging around him at the end-of-orientation cookout that he threw in the courtyard outside the Georgetown chapel, a beautiful little scene. Beer and burgers was awesome.

We did a group dynamic exercise where we had six people or so discussing from our different departments what we should recommend the president discuss in a meeting with a foreign president. We were critiqued by a member of the faculty. My group got Ambassador Pamela Smith, and she was much nicer than I heard some of the other staff were. She said I took early control of the group and looked at the issue from what the other country would be receptive to hearing. She said I did not address my specific issue enough (I was the defense attaché). Fair point, although my briefing was a little ambiguous, stating only that a shipment of a “major good” was arriving. Not precisely a defense-related issue but more of an economic one, so I argued that instead. The Ambassador was incredibly insightful and just from this short exercise, we learned the art of the deal and of diplomacy and how we would be received by others. Several members of my group were excelsior, bringing up very delicate points and being very rational in their approaches. I was quite impressed.

People are going out every night for drinks and socializing but I’m about done with that. I want to get to work. My classes: international trade, international finance, globalization and intersocietal relations, and international relations theory. The last class is taught by Victor Cha, who is Bush’s senior advisor on North Korean policy. The globalization class has 11 books assigned, so that is going to be a bitch to keep up with. I anticipate the trade and finance classes to be very difficult conceptually since it should be calculus and statistics related. Blah.

My goal is to stay out of trouble (i.e. not socialize too much, live like a hermit, not flirt) and push the technology aspect of international development — I really think I have a key advantage there compared to the other students who are not as technologically adept. Furthermore I want to take extra finance classes because everyone says how necessary it is and because I think the bottom line is that I’m a social entrepreneur and love to deal with business. I’m a businessman at heart but I want to affect social changes through it. We’ll see how that turns out — we’ve been told that our initial interests will be nothing like our interests at graduation, just because of the exposure to what’s out there that we’ll receive.

I’m super-stoked.