my last semester at RISD.
This past week was the first week of classes at Brown University. After I had decided which classes to take (Chinese and Cog Sci), I undertook that classic RISD tradition of filling out cross-registration paperwork. It was a very cold January Friday. The wind was strong enough to give me chapped lips, but the road was dry enough to ride my bike to class. So when I arrived to the College Building (step one of four in my journey), I was short of breath.
In between gasps for warm air I managed, “cross registration forms?”
“You’ve got to go to the Registrar for that.” replied the department co-ordinator, who glanced up to make eye contact for only a moment before returning to her emails.
Desperately, I ask, “Would it be a horrible inconvenience if I asked you to print out two?”
A deep sigh, which seemed to say, Okay, I guess I can do that.
“Thank you!” I chirped.
A few moments passed as warm paper came out of the printer and I scribbled course numbers and my ID number. She signed the paper for me and made a photocopy. I took my copies and shoved them into by backpack, behind my laptop so that they don’t get wrinkled, and headed for the doorway. I was about to pass through the threshold when all the sudden I had a realization.
I walked back to the Liberal Arts office, “I just realized that’s the last time I’ll have to fill this paperwork,” I said. A moments pause while I think of what to say next.
“Thanks for your un-dying support, I guess!” I say jokingly and turn around to leave.”
“No problem!” She replies.
Laughing to myself, I leave the college building and re-mount my bike to conquer college hill.
This Friday was the second meeting of my Cog Sci class, Human Factors. Professor Spoehr (pronounced “spare” ), a friendly academic with white hair, had graciously offered me a spot in her class.
After scanning the room for familiar faces, I awkwardly walked up to the front of the room and ask Prof. Spoehr for her signature on my cross-registration form (step two of four in my journey). She signed, and I returned to my seat, placing the forms neatly back into my bag.
During class, Prof. Spoehr announced the final roster for the class. A friend of mine, Atty, sat at the edge of his seat. Prof. Spoehr listed the names one by one, putting their respective registration cards in one of two piles: registered, and not registered.
“Sam?” Prof. Spoehr called. “Damn!” Atty muttered quietly to himself. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit at the sight. Atty is one of the smartest people I know, and Prof. Spoehr didn’t know she was about to kick him out of her class. Then, the next name:
“Yes!” and a loud exhale.
“That’s the most stressful thing that will happen to you at Brown.” Stated Prof. Spoehr, who has become jaded by shopping period. On Wednesday’s class, she said, “It’s really funny to be the person reading my emails on the first day of class. You’d be surpised how many people send me an email saying how interested they are in Human Factors — while the first class is in session. Not gonna fly.”
I opened up my notebook and flipped to a new section for the last, first time.
After class ended, I biked two blocks over to the Brown Registrar’s office (step three of four in my journey). I walked over to the desk, forms in hand.
“Have you taken classes at Brown before?” asked Lisa.
“Yeah,” I pause to count in my head, “These are classes eight, and nine.” I smile smugly to myself.
“Oh yeah, you’re the guy who I share some kind of distant relative with.”
“Oh right, you’re a Mather, too” I said. About a year ago I had met Lisa Mather after seeing her name on a placard and introducing myself.
Lisa went back to photocopy my paperwork, and then returned with my version. I tucked it into my backpack and went back to my bike, to head down the hill.
After cycling down Angell st., I docked by bike in front of 20 Washington st., where most of RISD’s administrative buildings are located (step four out of four in my journey). I walked up to this registrar’s counter and handed forth my forms “Cross-registration” I said, with the familiarity of a construction worker ordering his usual sandwich at a deli.
The secretary handled my registrations for me and smiled warmly “You’re all set!” and I left the room.
Completing all four steps is an exhausting affair. You’ve got to traverse all four corners of College Hill. But, it left me with a slightly unsettling feeling knowing that I wouldn’t be performing this strange ritual again.
Just as I was about to leave, I bumped into Sarah Caggiano (Title IX Coordinator + Executive Director for Operational Initiatives).
“Hey! What are you up to here?”
“Cross-registration.” I said, “and I just realized it’s the last time I’ll ever have to fill out those forms!” I inserted a fake voice crack to communicate how melancholy the whole affair had left me.
“Oh man, now you’ve got me getting sentimental!” She said.
“Ha!” I laughed, making light of the topic. I waved good-bye and was off to return to my apartment.
“I’m over here getting sentimental, and all you can do is laugh??” Sarah remarked sarcastically.
My journey was complete. I had gotten all four signatures and officially registered for the last two classes of my college career.
These cross-registration forms are a microcosm of my time at RISD. Four years, four signatures. Half at Brown, Half at RISD.
I thought back to what I said earlier that morning:
“Thanks for your un-dying support, I guess!”
I couldn’t think of a better sentence to sum up what it’s like to be a member of the College Hill community. It has been a funny relationship I have with these four people. I see them only once every semester — so six times total. Every time, we only spend about two minutes together, but I have such a firm memory of them all.
I’ve never done anything for any of them. It’s a completely one-sided relationship. The process is mechanical, efficient, and smooth. Yet, each time it feels like visiting an old friend.
I got on my bike and started back home. The cold January air beat up against my eyes, drying them out.
That’s how I’m going about my last semester at RISD, I thought, blinking to make up for the wind, keeping my eyes open and noticing all these people around me that help me and ask for nothing in return.
Some of the quotes in this account have been bended because my memory is embarrassingly poor for a 21-year-old, but I tried by best.