The Three Foundations of One Thunderbird: Part 1

The alarm sounded at 5:20 am telling me that it was too early to be up. To hell with all you early birds. 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. I had the delusion that it was custom-tailored for success when it was actually 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 all of the sudden, 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. In a couple of seconds, I was going to be one of them. The first T-bird I met was a man by the name of Scott. He was a vet. He also didn’t quite know what was going, just like me! Foundations, while we had the schedule, remained a mystery (THUNDERBIRD MYSTIQUE YAY!)

Throughout the day, I met people from all 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.

We were separated into cohorts, so I followed my fellow coyotes into our assigned classroom. Our first task was to present our life story to the class. My question to my cohort leader was if I can 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 actually 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 found out I was indeed the eldest, which sent in spikes of inaptitude. 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, whose name I promised not to disclose, acted more mature than me. At first glance, I thought she was the “girl next door”. You know the one that 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 a late 90s/early 2000s movie about 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 noticed my cohort leader drinking a beer as well 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 of teams…I can’t remember much but it was a super long day.

This was my first time meeting the future Das Tor, Darcy Nelson. The first impression I had was wow, she’s a bad drawer. The second impression I had was revealed by my age. 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. Like a lot greater.

Later in the day, we were introduced to our G5 simulation. I was sub-Saharan Africa. Challenge accepted. During the next couple of days, I knew my role was 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 who had the 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? Didn’t matter, we didn’t get the votes anyway. RANT OVER.

Throughout Foundations, I got to become close with my coyotes. Nothing tested that closeness more than 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 and we were wild and we 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 are what make our little school so special, especially when we have wonderful people from all over the world mixing together. I was looking forward to the start of school and becoming active on campus. The inspiration I felt from my cohort leader would eventually translate into me becoming a leader myself in one year’s time.


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