They had lifted the ban on the abroad program my first semester at the University. To spread the news, they had requested that all students on campus assemble at the Dome before the 9 a.m. classes were to begin. By 8 a.m., we had started to fill in one by one. Blue uniforms brushed against blue uniforms. Blank faces passed blank faces. No one spoke. We had well mastered the protocol.

By 8:30 a.m., the Dome was completely filled. The Dean’s dark face moved onto the screens. Her blue dress covered every inch of her body, leaving her face and hands the only things visible. Her black hair was pulled up into a sleek bun. Her glasses fell half-way down her nose. She wore no smile.

“Greetings, my bright students,” she began, her voice crisp. “Before I begin, I would like to thank all of you for joining me. Please be seated. This message will be brief.”

In unison, we sat down. We folded our hands in our lap. We sat up straight.

“As most of you will know, the abroad program for the University has been banned for the last ten years. The RED has been working continuously with scientists, researchers, and the Force to ensure the safest possible measures in regards to transportation and facilitation. As of today, I am to inform you that the ban on the abroad program has been lifted.”

All eyes cast onto the screens. Our feet pressed firmly against the concrete ground.

Someone behind me whispered. A few more whispers followed.

“The islands of Terrie, Ulsey, and Hargen are accessible for travel. Applications will open in late September, and the participants will be chosen in late December. Our program allows for a month-long experience. Only upperclassmen will be asked to apply.”

The air seemed to heighten. As the whispers escalated, clasped hands began to unfold.

The Dean rose her hand up. “If you would, my bright students, give me one more minute of silence. There is a cause for alarm and warning.”

The Dome quickly abandoned its heightened aura. The whispers were faint.

“The RED does not encourage any student to travel with ill-informed intentions. The three islands are not a means of entertainment. They are for research and major-related purposes only. Be it known that the islands are, in fact, highly dangerous to both the mental and physical body. In reference to the incident ten years ago, you may not return in the state in which you entered.”

The whispers were no more.

“However, if you are going to apply, prepare yourself for a life-changing and educational experience.” The Dean waved her hand. “You are dismissed. Please head towards your 9 a.m. classes in an orderly manner.”

We stayed rooted in our seats five seconds after she stepped down from the podium. By 8:45 a.m., the Dome had begun to empty. Blue uniforms brushed against blue uniforms. Blank faces passed blank faces. No one spoke.

How efficiently we molded back into the protocol.