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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CH. 2: The Joke

So after a long, drawn-out application process and a brief orientation, it was time to begin my life as a Rattler.  Of course you hear your friends’ expectations, but I truly met this experience with zero anticipation of what was to come.  

The night before was sleepless to say the least.  Would I really be the only white person in my classes? Would I be the subject of countless racial jests?  Na├»ve questions of course, but one can never know what they would be thinking in the shadow of their first day of graduate school; much less my situation.

The dawn of that first Monday hit and my nerves had calmed down a bit.  As I stepped into that muggy early morning dew, I was ready for the challenge.  My first class, News Writing and Reporting went off without incident.  My second featured a Skype session with our professor as she was working for the state department in D.C.

Only having one more class to knock out on Tuesday, I already felt in command of my surroundings.  However, my increased sense of self confidence would return to haunt me.

As the clock hit 5:30 Tuesday afternoon, I strolled into what I thought was my Research Methods class.  A few of my classmates followed with a look of confusion on their faces.  “Why are we looking at a 1000-level biology syllabus,” we wondered?  The location of the class had been changed to a room downstairs, so we made the trek down the hallway to our final destination.

After a few jokes by the professor about how smart graduate students REALLY are, we began the introduction portion of the inaugural meeting.  The objective was to get to know your classmates better, but with only four or so journalism students in the class of 30 it was quite unnecessary.

One by one, they all stood and divulged the most boring information known to mankind: name, place of origin, college of undergraduate study, and why they came to FAMU.  “Oh boy!” I thought to myself.  “Here’s my chance to say something clever in a moment of monotony.”

“Hi, my name is Jonathan Lowell, I come from Panama City, and I completed my undergraduate degree in English at Florida State University…..and obviously I came to Floirda A&M for the DIVERSITY!”

Crickets……..

Oh no! What have I done?! Why did I choose this moment to make myself look like “the funny white boy who got jokes”?

I shrank back into my chair and said nothing for the duration of the period.  I had done so well in making a good impression on my peers, and in one statement, may have ruined it all.

Luckily, my classmates are all adults and brushed off my flat attempt at humor.  I learned to earn the respect of my peers through dedication and hard work, and to implement racial commentary sparingly.

…But if there’s one piece of advice I can impart to anyone reading this, it would be:

Save the jokes for week two!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Preface

Before I begin to tell you about the journey I have now started, I feel I must give some back story. While working in the Governor’s Club one evening, I was approached by the CEO of FAMU’s credit union. He too is a cancer survivor, and we began to discuss our struggle. He asked what I planned to do after I graduated in the Spring. I told him I had been working in the sports information department, and may be interested in pursuing some form of sports journalism. He revealed to me that he had many contacts in FAMU’s School of Journalism and Graphic Design (because after all, he is in charge of their money).

So after taking the GRE and filling out all the necessary paperwork, my wait began. The application was due at the beginning of June, and I was told that I needed wait until certain faculty returned from sabbatical.

June passed, no answer. I was working 40 hours a week in the summer, and growing very impatient with my plans for the fall. Should I stay with this job? Might I take some sort of class to keep from going crazy? My good friend Melanie Boehm suggested I join her in taking an LSAT class in the fall to prepare for the entrance test for law school. I have always found the idea of following in my father’s footsteps an attractive one, and was seriously considering this plan of action. After consulting with my good friend (who showed me immense support although I eventually chose not to accompany her) I found out that the deadline to sign up for the class was July 24th. The afternoon of July 21st we had a brief text message conversation that went something like this:

“So are you taking the class? :)”

“Still not sure, Mel. I’m waiting on FAMU to e-mail me back, and I haven’t heard from anyone since I turned in my application in June. I’m gonna go check the fees, and book prices.”

“Ok well go check on the books and stuff and call me back.”

I went to open up my e-mail and this is what I found.

Inbox: “Dear Mr. Lowell, Congratulations!”

I wrote Melanie back: “So, not two seconds after I got off the phone with you I got the email that says I’ve been accepted into FAMU.”

Melaine: “Go for it!”

So began my journey into life of a white student at an HBCU.