There is a pretty good chance I slept the entire car ride. When we finally got in to the neighborhood, I looked around at the three-bedroom rental house and went back to the car to grab more boxes and the dog. Most of our stuff would stay in those boxes in the basement for at least another year, as we knew this was only a temporary arrangement. After the beds and other furniture were moved in, I remember walking outside and seeing a toddler in a bumblebee Halloween costume walking around the cul-de-sac as the sun began to set. She was walking around with her mom and dad to the other houses, but was very inquisitive about what was going on at ours.
That was fifteen years ago.
We woke up the next morning and rode to the not-so-neighborhood high school of 1,200-plus students. The school I had attended the previous Friday had less than 150 students, and my class year was somewhere below 30 in all.
I sat down that morning in the counseling office -- previously, this would have practically a closet, now I was sitting where there was a staff of five -- to figure out what to do about my whole academic situation.
"Alright, let's get you on to class ... Looks like you've got History and English matched up ... uh, Spanish is usually a Freshman course, but there are other folks that take it late ... Precalculus here, Chemist-- ... what exactly is Agricultural Science?" she asked.
"Uh, it's kind of a biology plus shop class. I didn't like it much."
"So, are you wanting to do the shop part of it or the biology?"
"I'd rather not go to a shop class, ma'am."
"Let's put you in Ecology. That sounds close enough."
I was then assigned a student office worker to be shown where my classrooms were and given a locker. Class had already started, so she and I tried to walk a bit faster to wrap up the tour. She asked about my last school and other small talk as we went, but at this point I was already dizzy from trying to remember which left turn we had just taken so I would be able to make it back. I was not holding up my end of the conversation.
"Alright, here is your first one. If you get stuck later on, go back to the office main building."
"Back that way over there?"
"No, go back down that hallway and up the stairs."
I walked into an American History class already in session, to which I got a startled "Can I help you?" from the instructor. "Um. I'm in this class, I suppose," I replied. A few students giggled, she sighed and pointed to an empty chair. She went right back to the lecture, never asking my name. Now sitting in a class room with 30 people, I did some mental math to realize none of them were likely going to the same place I was in a few minutes. I listened to the lecture while paging through the handbook and print out I had been given of my schedule.
We took the bus home that afternoon, loaded up with the books I needed and a list of stuff I did not yet have. I had also written a reminder that I needed to immediately go back to the counseling office to do something about the Precalculus class, as my odds of passing it were nil. It turns out that what I had been taught previously was not exactly on par with what they were teaching in Nashville. I did get lost quite a few times that day walking around the school, but managed to make it to class either as the bell rang or late enough that I could get by with a "Hi, I'm a new student here." I intended to use that excuse as long as they would let me.
Every time something new or different comes along in life, I still think back to that culture shock. And I figure everything will turn out fine.
That bumblebee is probably halfway through college by now.