The alarm sounded at 5:20 am, telling me it was too early to be up. To hell with all you early birds and the morning is for sleeping. After a summer of moving into my apartment in Tempe, selling jewelry, and lazing by the pool, I was finally going to become a Thunderbird.
I bought a suit specifically for business school, and I was deluded that it was custom tailored for success when it was on clearance. My thrifty decisions as a grad student have already started. I check myself in the mirror one more time. I look like a businessman would after a whole week of partying. Well, I’m not going to become Cinderella suddenly, so I grab my backpack, walk out the door, lock it, and pump “Gonna Fly Now,” aka the Rocky theme, through my headphones. This future leader has a bus to catch.
I arrive at the AE England building early, but there are still nervous people dressed in business formal fumbling through introductions present and accounted for. I was going to be one of them in a couple of seconds. The first T-bird I met was a man by the name of Scott. He was a vet and didn’t quite know what was going on, just like me! While we had the schedule, the Foundations remained a mystery (THUNDERBIRD MYSTIQUE YAY!)
Throughout the day, I met people from around the world with very different backgrounds. Sid from India: we bonded over our love of music. Fumi from Japan: I was trying to impress him with my broken Japanese. Denis from Uganda: we talked about suits.
Cohorts separated us, so I followed my fellow coyotes into our assigned classroom. Our first task was to present our life stories to the class. My question to my cohort leader was if I could put anything illegal in my life story. This triggered significant intrigue among the cohort. Why was I being so candid and trying to shock others? Did I forget how to interact in a university setting? Did I forget how to act in a human setting?
My life story started with a shroom trip, which contrary to popular belief, did not tell me to come to Thunderbird (a hefty scholarship did that). My trip convinced me to change my undergrad degree to something more international, starting me on the path of growing my global mindset. I don’t remember much of the reaction from the classroom, to be honest.
Throughout the stories, I found a pattern…that most of my cohort was younger than me. I later discovered I was the eldest, sending in spikes of ineptitude. Was I too old to be back in school? Why haven’t I got a career that pays more than 25k? Especially when I compared myself to the youngest in the cohort.
My leader, Kylee San Miguel, acted more maturely than I did. At first glance, I thought she was the “girl next door.” You know, the one you eventually choose to take to prom instead of the alpha cheerleader because she’s nice and down to earth. If you don’t know, watch the late 90s/early 2000s movie about an American high school (Das Tor editor Darcy recommends She’s All That or Never Been Kissed).
Later that night, we had our pub night at Cornish. I made friends pretty fast. I also noticed my cohort leader drinking a beer, which I didn’t expect with her good-girl demeanor. Two shots later, I learned not to judge a book by its cover, especially at Thunderbird.
Slightly hungover the next day, the Foundation activities continued. I had maybe 5 hours of sleep. I hate early mornings. The next day allowed us to mingle more with the other cohorts. There was a cross-cultural activity, a self-assessment of your role in teams…I can’t remember much, but it was a super long day.
This was my first time meeting a future Das Tor editor, Darcy Nelson. My first impression was, wow, she’s a bad drawer. My age revealed the second impression I had. I told everyone my age, and they all exclaimed, “WOW! You look so young, though!”
“I’m a vampire,” I replied. That elicited a laugh greater than what was expected from Darcy and a lot greater.
Later in the day, we were introduced to our G5 simulation. I was in sub-Saharan Africa. Challenge accepted. During the next few days, I knew my role was the strategy. How could I get each group to have a common interest? The plan created was beautiful.
When it came to team dynamics…it could get intense. There was one instance where I contemplated strangling my colleague with a lovely combination of arrogance and ignorance. I know we’re all students trying to learn about global affairs, but when did common sense become so forgotten? It didn’t matter; we didn’t get the votes anyways. RANT OVER.
Throughout Foundations, I got to become close with my coyotes. Nothing tested that closeness more than the Thunder Olympics. A chaotic, balls-to-wall event where we had to defend our lead in points. We were leading the whole time during Foundations because we cheered, were wild, and behaved. Thunder Olympics wasn’t our best performance. I fell on my face during dodgeball, trying not to run out of bounds. But it was a whole heap of fun.
While we didn’t win Foundations, I felt the whole experience was needed. Integration and comradery make our little school so special, especially when we have wonderful people from all over the world mixing. I was looking forward to starting school and becoming active on campus. The inspiration I felt from the cohort leader would eventually translate into me becoming a leader myself in one year.
TO BE CONTINUED…
*Note: The following article was originally written in Spring 2020 but was not archived and was recently discovered. The article details my Foundations experience in August 2018.