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August 25, 2008
By John Trent
The beginning of any fall semester at the University of Nevada, Reno is a special time.
The warm morning air pulses with optimism as new students and their families scoot in and out of the residence halls, lugging just enough clothing and electronic equipment to necessitate the very real likelihood that a mid-semester care package will be in order.
For the students, it’s time to say hello to their new university.
For the parents, it’s hard to say goodbye to their children.
“One of my friends has two truckloads (of personal belongings to move into the dorms),” said Kahla Oosting, a freshman from Palmer, Alaska, who moved into Nye Hall last Wednesday with the help of two friends from Palmer and her mother. “I only have four bags. Hopefully I brought enough. My mom is going to ship all of my winter stuff.
“I’m the last kid (of four), in my family, and right now my mom is a wreck. She’s just a blubbering mess. I’m pretty sure she’s not going to leave, actually. She had a Truckee relocation packet sent to our house, and I was like, ‘Mom, what are you doing?’”
Even if there is sadness, it doesn’t last long. It can’t. The campus alights with too much possibility.
College, says Eli Reilly, president of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN), is a time “to not be ordinary. It’s a time to go out and meet new people, become exposed to new ideas — no matter how serious or terrifying they may seem to you. College is a time to just go out and do it, because it’s worth it.”
Everything on campus, from the old residence halls to the new residence halls to the classrooms to the freshly cut grass of the Quad, seems new. The first few days of the fall semester are a time to savor the gentle undercurrent that some things must get done, but that it’s OK to have some fun, too.
Take Jamie Wright’s reaction to moving into the University’s newest residence hall, Sierra Hall, on Wednesday. Sierra Hall is an interesting mix of old and new — the once and future residence hall — having served campus as first the College Inn, then University Inn, for many years before it was converted last year into a five-story, 297-student residence hall.
With a name like Sierra Hall, you would expect the building to have a view of … well, something regal. At least that was what Wright, a sophomore secondary education major from Las Vegas, was hoping for when she bounded through the door of her residence on Wednesday.
Wright wasn’t to be disappointed. She had found something magical. Her window looked out directly at the “N” painted on the flanks of Peavine Mountain to the north of campus.
“Eeek! Eeek!” Wright squealed joyfully to her friend, Spencer Dawson, a junior computer science major from Boise, Idaho, who was helping with the moving-in chores. Wright clapped her hands together like a little girl who had just triumphed in her school’s spelling bee — the winning word, no doubt, having contained the letter “N.”
“I was so scared I wasn’t going to be able to be facing the ‘N,’” Wright exclaimed. “I get to see the ‘N!’ Yeah!”
For all students, the beginning of the semester is a time to wear emotion in clear view, for all to see.
It took Reilly all of about five seconds to recollect his first few days on campus.
“Absolutely, I remember everything,” Reilly recalled in the bustling common area between Canada, Nye and Argenta Halls. Around him, new students scurried back and forth, carrying their belongings to their new dorm rooms. “Three short years ago I woke up at 2 o’clock in the morning and then drove eight hours here (from his hometown of Las Vegas) to get here at 10 a.m. for when the first res halls were to open.”
Reilly pointed to a nearby table, where students and their parents waited to check in.
“I stood in that line right there,” he said, his eyes scanning Nye Hall’s brick exterior. He grinned wistfully. “Then I went up to Nye Hall 603, which is right there … that was my first room at the University. A day like today definitely brings me back … a lot of good memories, and so much excitement.”
“This day was very daunting,” added Maritza Perez, a junior majoring in journalism and Spanish who was on hand during move-in day as a volunteer. “I specifically remember my family helping me out, my little three-year-old sister helping me out however she could.
“It was kind of sad, in a way, separating from your family for the first time. It makes me kind of homesick thinking about it.”
Yet that was why volunteers such as Perez and her friend, Holly Gerhardt, were there. Sure, they were there to help publicize the “G movement” — a new public relations campaign to raise awareness about Greek life on campus.
They were also there, though, to help.
“With every incoming freshman, I think they can be a little confused and scared about the new experience,” Gerhardt said. “We’re here to help them keep a lower stress level, and help them get settled in more quickly and smoothly. Seeing some friendly faces at the beginning helps calm their nerves, and helps them know that college isn’t as scary as they thought it might be.”
University President Milton Glick, who was also on hand on move-in day, visiting with parents and students alike, couldn’t have agreed more.
Asked why he was there, Glick had to poke some fun at himself.
“I’d help them all move in, but I’d probably screw it up,” he said, grinning.
On a more serious note, Glick said, “It’s exciting to be here, to feel the energy of the students. They’re bright-eyed, bushy tailed and ready to go. The beginning of any semester is a special time for our university. It’s opening day for us.”
Added Reilly: “The one thing I hope they all do, and the one thing I hope all our freshmen have when they’re seniors and they walk across the stage to graduate in four years, is the feeling that they have no regrets.
“They’re here to experience new things. For many of them, this is the first time that they’ve been on their own without a lot of parental supervision. Academics are important, but they shouldn’t forget to get involved and have a good time. Work never stops, but college does.
“You need to make the most of it while you’re here.”
John Trent is senior editor of news and features in Digital Initiatives.