Everyday Life · Law School - 1L

On Law School Orientation…

Hey all!

I have been on a super long hiatus for a while now.  My last post was over a month ago, but… before that post it was two months of not posting.  It seems like an improvement to me.

So many things have happened since my last post.  As many may know, I am currently enrolled in law school.  Strangely enough, one of the biggest hurdles to law school came in the form of orientation.  Sounds harmless, right?  Orientation used to just be boring.  You sit in a room with other people while professors/advisors tell you things that you already know.  Maybe there’ll be coffee.  In law school (and, from what I understand, grad school in general) it becomes boring and bone deep terrifying.

I had mandatory orientation on August 20th.  The whole week beforehand was not well spent.  I had nothing packed, I had no idea what I was doing, the professors hadn’t posted the syllabi, I hadn’t even looked at the book list, and the reality of what was happening hadn’t set in.  But I knew I needed to be in Champaign on August 20th and I knew that I would be homeless when that happened.  My apartment wasn’t going to be ready until August 22nd.  On orientation day, we were going to take our student directory photos and I had a plan for that too:  I was going to have my best friend straighten my hair so that no one would recognize me from the directory.  I mean, my name was going to be listed as Luz and Luz had straight hair.  Marcie has crazy curly hair.  My plan was perfect (it wasn’t).

Before I knew it, it was August 19 and I was at my last day of work.  I had gotten to work at little late because my hair appointment ran overtime, which is kind of expected when your friend is the one doing it.  The last day of work was pretty anticlimactic, but my emotions were all there.  I drove down to CU (Champaign-Urbana) by myself after hanging out with my mom.  On that drive, the panic set in.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Sure, it was only an orientation day, but it was the orientation day.  I would be surrounded by my peers for the next three years.  I would be surrounded by professors that I would actually have to build a relationship with.  I knew no one.  I knew nothing.  My biggest fear in all this was that I would get too scared and back out.  Law school was my first big risk and a part of me really wanted to take it.  The other part was panicking.

Luckily, I had a friend to comfort me the whole 3 hour drive to CU.  Thanks, Maddogg (she has WordPress)!

I stayed at my friend’s place that night and got up bright and early in the morning to get ready, fix my hair (because the beast does not like to be tamed), and find some place to park for the day.  Parking in CU is ridiculous.  I parked over a mile away from the school and had to walk that mile in direct sunlight, but at least it was a beautiful, sunny day.  I made it there, slightly sweaty and slightly grumpy, and registered.  I grabbed some coffee and stood in line to get my directory photos taken.  I wanted to get that crossed off my list first and foremost.  My hair was only going to get worse as the day progressed.

I made awkward conversation in line with people in my section and small section.  I got up to the front and then the photographers turned us away to take the class photos.  After that, we listened to lectures from the dean, from the SBA leaders, from advisors, from a local judge and various people.  That was all pretty typical orientation stuff.

The problem didn’t start until we went to lunch, which they called “Lunch with your Section Professors.”  I thought it was very creative.  We ate while the professors spoke about their classes and expectations and answered questions from the section.  Now, at the earlier orientation stuff, they were telling us that law school didn’t have to be the difficult horror story that people have told us it is.  We needed to learn time management and just had to stay focused.  At the lunch, the professors took that byline and threw it out the window.  A few came right out to say that it wasn’t undergrad anymore and they had high expectations.  Even to attend office hours, they expected more preparation than I’d ever done for my classes in undergrad.  That might be more of a reflection on me and my classes, but I was terrified.  So terrified I couldn’t finish eating my lunch.

Afterwards, we had our “first class” in Legal Writing.  I misread the email and didn’t know about the class, but that didn’t end up coming back for me.  However, it wasn’t a great confidence booster after the emotionally tumultuous lunch.  We went to another lecture and I learned that alcoholism is a big problem in law school and the profession as a whole.  It felt good.

Okay, in all honestly, that was the most helpful lecture of orientation.  It talked about psychological issues that may surface during law school and how to handle them.  I learned some very useful tips to talk myself out of an anxiety spiral.  It spoke to issues that I’d been trying to deal with over the summer and that I knew would be harder to handle during the school year.  I am truly very grateful for that part of the lecture.

After that, we were ordered to have our pictures taken.  It really irritated me since I was taken out of line and there was zero time to get the pictures taken with all the program they’d scheduled.  I was actually late to the rest of the programing because I was taking that picture (which turned out horrible).  Because I was late, I also got separated from my group and ended up in the wrong lecture with a bunch of LLMs.

By the end of orientation, I was done.  They had a reception afterwards, but I didn’t want to stay at it.  Besides being scared to go to law school and having all my anxiety rush back at full force, I really had trouble connecting to people in my group… and people in general.  Along with having doubts about attending law school, I had doubts about being able to make friends with anyone in the school (which they emphasized in all the orientation programing).  The orientation itself wasn’t bad (the photos were and they definitely heard my frustration with it on the feedback form) but I was feeling so crummy by the end of it.  I was, again, afraid that I would chicken out.  If not chicken out, then fail in an epic and expensive manner.

Thankfully, that was only orientation.  Right now, I am about to enter Week 4 or my 1L year, which would make 1 month.  I am eternally grateful that everything from orientation is behind me.  I got lost in my own head that day and it really affected how I reacted and perceived things.  I took some time afterwards and talked myself down.  In the end, there was no point of being scared of possible failure.  I hadn’t even started law school and I was terrified of failing out.  I don’t have to worry until November about failing out.  😉

There are still moments where I get scared (not orientation day scared), but I always try to remember what I’m doing this for.  I’m doing it for my community, for my family.  Then the fear goes away.

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