The Thursday and Friday before instruction begins are perhaps the busiest and most anticipated days at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Students with families in tow - as well as assorted mini-fridges and bins overflowing with a semester's worth of clothing and personal hygiene items - seem to suddenly appear out of nowhere on Thursday morning as the University's "move-in" day commences.
The sheer numbers of move-in day are staggering: More than 2,600 students are assigned to the undergraduate residence halls this fall. It is anticipated that for the first time in the University's 140-year history, student enrollment this fall will surpass 19,000 students.
While Thursdays are historically about the bins of move-in day, Fridays are all about the pomp.
The University's 15th annual New Student Opening Ceremony was held on Friday in Lawlor Events Center.
The two days can be a joyous blur. Just as they were this year.
Kaitlyn Bradford, a freshman from Reno, could sense the energy on Thursday morning as she prepared to move into her residence hall.
"It's been tiring," she said, though she flashed a satisfied smiled as she spoke. "Just moving stuff into my room was a lot more tiring than I thought it would be."
Yet, Bradford said she was certain that any fatigue she was feeling as a result of hiking items into her room with the help of her aunt and uncle was worth it.
Thursday's move-in day, she said, had the feeling of something of a homecoming to her.
Bradford, who is majoring in nursing, said she had moved away from Reno for a time when she was seven. But, she said, "I always wanted to come back." The Reno High School graduate did just that, and said deciding to attend the University was an extension of the strong sense of connection she has felt with the community, and the campus.
"I always wanted to come back," she said. "It just feels like home to me."
Mack Taylor, a freshman from Reno's Galena High School who plans on majoring in electrical engineering, said a big goal on Thursday was simply to negotiate the many lines leading and in out of the residence halls, then finding some time to spend with two friends, who will be his roommates this semester.
"Just getting together with them and hanging out," he said.
Two of the hundreds of students who were on hand to help the new students move into the residence halls, Hailey Albert and Samantha Hix, said they could relate to what the new students were experiencing.
Both Albert, a junior majoring in nursing, and Hix, a senior majoring in community health science, had moved into Argenta Hall as freshmen.
"It's OK, don't be freaked out," Albert said when asked what words of wisdom she was passing along to the new students she was helping. Then she added, when asked why she was volunteering to help, "I think everyone thinks it's nice to have a friendly face at your side for five minutes while you're moving in."
Hix said the strangest item she had encountered that morning was a bowling ball.
"But we've only just started," Hix said with a laugh. "I'm expecting some more really weird things before the day is through."
In a more serious vein, Hix said she was hopeful the new residents would have a successful semester.
"Meeting people is probably one of the most important things you'll do in college," she said. "It's important that you get along with your roommates, and the people on your floor."
And any key advice for the freshmen?
"Get to class on time," Hix said without hesitation. "Since they're living in the residence halls, they should all have plenty of time to get to class on time." With no small bit of irony, she added, "That shouldn't be a problem at all."
Speaking of prompt, at exactly 9:45 a.m. on Friday, the University held its 15th annual New Student Opening Ceremony in Lawlor Events Center.
In addition to learning the words of the Alma Mater and reciting the Nevada Oath in their first official act as members of the campus' community of scholars, new students listened intently to keynote speaker Mary White Stewart, a professor of sociology and director of the School of Social Research and Justice Studies.
Stewart shared her own story, which included her own undergraduate experience at the University in the 1960s, and how, coming from untraditional background, she was able to find her way in life thanks to her education. She said coming out of high school, "My horizons were, understandably, low."
Yet thanks to professors who challenged her, as well as her own personal growth that taught her to value ideas and divergent points of view, she said she'd come to the realization that knowledge, and not necessarily information, is the key to an enriching and valuable college experience.
"Information is available on the Web," she said. "Knowledge is not. ... Employers will value you not because you have information, but because you have knowledge."
She encouraged the students to use their time at the University "as an opportunity to move way outside your comfort zone ... to not be who you always thought you were." She also said the students' time at the University was unique in another aspect, and therefore could be valuable in that, "This is also an opportunity that you may never have again to embrace diversity and differences. This is an opportunity to interact with students with different backgrounds than your own."
Provost Kevin Carman, in his remarks, drew a hearty chuckle from the crowd when he advised them to sit in the first few rows of their classes on Monday. He noted with a smile that, in one of the great campus mysteries, there is always "an infinite amount" of space in the first two rows of every classroom on the first day of classes.
More seriously, Carman told the students that if they were to become actively engaged in "the life of the campus" and to embrace the culture of student success that has come to characterize the University experience, "success is waiting for you at this wonderful university."
Carman stressed the value of graduating in four years, but also was realistic in his words of insight as to how to accomplish it. He noted his own experience as an undergraduate, where he bounced from biology to history to economics before landing back into the field of oceanography - a field that he truly loved.
He called his experience "a somewhat crooked path," but said such a path is often what many students will face during their college careers.
"My fervent hope," he said, "is that you find your purpose, and your passion."
For freshmen like Kaitlyn Bradford, it was a path that seemed to offer infinite possibility - with the semester yet to officially begin.
"I'm really looking forward to just getting to know the people, figuring out where my classes are and figuring out all the events that are going on," she said on Thursday. Around her, as a relentlessly energetic stream of students and families flowed by, headed into the residence halls with about every possible possession a person could ever possess, Bradford smiled. A moment earlier she had said she was tired. Suddenly she looked excited. A year of endless possibility seemed to beckoning. "There sure is a lot to do," she said.