That life-changing weekend

People who live in university towns learn to stay close to home during this middle weekend in August. If you venture out on an errand, expect overcrowded parking lots and store aisles and waiting lines at restaurants. This is move-in weekend at the University of North Carolina’s main campus in Chapel Hill. This town of about 59,000 residents sees its population swell by nearly 30,000 when all of the students arrive.

Expect to see large cars and SUVs packed to the gunwales with gear, sharing interior space with moms, dads, siblings and the family dog. Parking within blocks of campus goes from difficult to impossible. Don’t be surprised to see vehicles parked on sidewalks, in hedges, blocking driveways and fire hydrants.

Dorms on campus swarm with activity. Smiling, energetic, T-shirted student volunteers do their best to direct traffic and help to unload from bulging cars everything from clothes to such essential stuff as stereos and small refrigerators.

Generations of experience have taught university administrators to be well organized for this annual chaos. First-year students already have been sent a 20-page move-in guide. On Page 9, they find their assigned move-in dates and times. This year, if your room number ends in an odd number, move in on Friday, Aug. 16. If it ends in an even number, plan to move in on Saturday, Aug. 17. But don’t show up at any time that pleases you. If your name begins with A to G, your assigned move-in time is noon. Those whose names begin with H through M should move in at 1:30. N’s to S’s move in at 9 in the morning, followed by those whose names begin with Y through Z, whose assigned time in 10:30 a.m.

That’s just the freshmen. Upper division students may move in starting on Wednesday, Aug. 14, pretty much all day, from 9 to 4.

Classes begin on Tuesday. That leaves Sunday and Monday to get acquainted with a new roommate, unpack, and hike across campus to cruise Franklin Street’s restaurants and bars.

Life in a university town vibrates with an energy and excitement like no other place. Every year at this time, the place is re-invigorated with a new crop of eager, young adults. As a faculty member for 22 years, I anticipated the start of classes joyfully, knowing that I was about to meet and swap ideas with a crop of new friends.

Lifelong friendships start in such settings. What a blessing.this is. Just last week I was privileged to share lunch with two of my former students who revisited Chapel Hill. One, a United Church of Christ minister and chaplain, graduated in 1980. The other, who graduated in 1997, is an accomplished writer of children’s books. We have stayed in touch through the years. We love each other.

This university has changed my life. And theirs.




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