Well, folks, the time has arrived. Social orientation for medical school is already underway, and the academic orientation is breathing down our necks. So we begin. (Please imagine some dramatic music to go along with this opening.)

Orientation, by nature, is one of my least favorite activities. Social or academic, I always wish I could just download the relevant information and skip to the part where we’re all settled. Instead, I’ll be spending countless hours, often sweating at outdoor events, going over the standard med student intake questions and desperately trying to think of something to say to spark a real conversation with strangers.

Source: Tory Shulman

Ninety percent of the conversations go like this:

Step one: Introduce yourself. For extra points, actually manage to remember the other person’s name.

Step two: Establish where the other person is originally from. Extra points if you know a detail about that location. More extra points if you’ve lived there yourself and can discuss local inside jokes. Minus points if you note that another first year is from the same place.

Step three: Establish where they went to undergrad. Minus points if you’ve never heard of the school.

Step four A: How long have they been in town? For me, this involves a short derailing of the conversation to explain that I have been in town for two years because I did a postbac.

Step four B: Having been shifted into a conversation about postbac, we fill in the missing years between undergrad and now. I politely correct their use of the word masseuse. I ask how they are liking the town and fill in my own favorite details.

Step four C: Where are they living in town? Bonus points if you almost lived there or looked at it on your apartment hunt.

Step five: At this point the conversation has probably gone on long enough that someone else has shown up and everyone has started over at step one. Ideally this is also where the conversation can begin to drift into new territory, but also runs a high risk of trailing off into silence if no one can think of a good segue.

The extra awkward part? Unless you have an eidetic memory, there is a decent chance you will run through this conversation more than once with the same person. Neither of you may realize it. I’ve taken to giving my apologies up front. “I’m sorry, you might have already told me this but….”

I should add that everyone I have met thus far has been lovely. Which is kind of a problem, because, with everyone on their best getting-to-know-you behavior, it’s hard to get a sense of anyone’s personality. Who is going to get my sarcastic humor? With whom can I unashamedly discuss my favorite geeky hobbies? Who is not going to stand for my long-winded explanations? Or will be offended by my work for Planned Parenthood?

In a few months I’ll have a much better idea. In the meantime, I keep doing the orientation dance and hope I can keep my foot out of my mouth long enough to come out the other side with a few friends to my name.