Zoya Azhar ’20
The International Student Pre-Orientation program (ISP) ran from Aug. 25 to Aug. 31 and was an exciting and exhausting line-up of events, which regularly left us participants feeling both informed about Smith and overwhelmed by all that we still had to learn.
Move-in day was relatively quiet. We were assigned to an orientation group and given the option of touring campus. I was lucky enough to run into my Head Resident as I was hauling bags up the Capen house stairs, which immediately diffused some of my apprehensions about the new environment. I would soon learn that nearly everyone on campus is willing to help out and guide me in any way that they can.
The second day brought with it stuffy weather and the Scavenger Hunt! This was one of the most fun activities of the program as none of us expected it to be as informative as it was. We split up into groups and tracked down the giraffe graffiti in Neilson Library and visited the Mortimer Rare Book room, which I never knew existed nor that it housed early manuscripts of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf’s works. We also had our first experience with the PVTA bus, taking a trip to Holyoke Mall.
Apart from aiding our exploration of Smith, ISP was extremely helpful when it came to simplifying and streamlining processes to do with immigration, tax forms and health forms, which I had been anxious about. We were also introduced to the Jacobson Center, and a workshop on college writing put to rest all of our queries about what level of work to expect.
I also enjoyed seeing members of Capen house arriving to the house as classes came closer. Storage bins and suitcases appeared in hallways and finally, I was not the only one on the third floor!
In the few spare moments I found in the schedule, I visited the Smith College Museum of Art with a new friend from Germany, dug into a French toast donut on a night-run to Glazed with Capen friends and discovered Smithie hang-outs like Herrell’s and Faces. Karaoke Night is a vivid memory of all of us singing (read: yelling) “Let It Go” as we cleaned up the Cutter-Ziskind dining hall after nearly three hours of music, dancing and ice cream. I don’t think any of us will be forgetting the Frat Boy skit from the Talent Show any time soon.
In my opinion, ISP is definitely best appreciated in retrospect and I say this because my favorite part of ISP happened after it ended, during the regular orientation BBQ on Chapin Lawn. A small (steadily growing) group of us “ISP kids” found ourselves gathered on the steps of Chapin house as the domestic students mingled on the lawn. Out of habit, we had found each other during the meal, to swap anecdotes and jokes.
It was at this point that I truly understood why ISP has been such a successful program year after year. Without realizing, these people I was surrounded by had gone from “familiar faces” to valuable friends — a close-knit support group that I knew I could fall back on.