Schenectady County

‘Happy and sad,’ Union freshmen move in

On Sunday, the parking lots near Union College’s freshman dormitories contained lots of out-of-state
Union College freshman orientation in the Nott Memorial on Sunday afternoon September 6, 2015.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Union College freshman orientation in the Nott Memorial on Sunday afternoon September 6, 2015.

On Sunday, the parking lots near Union College’s freshman dormitories contained lots of out-of-state license plates.

The college’s freshman class of 2019 — some 571 of them, hailing from 31 states and 17 countries — began arriving Sunday morning in a migration that continued throughout the day.

They arrive before most of the rest of the campus, giving them two days to settle in before most of the upperclassmen return, and three days before classes begin.

Freshman move-in day is an event with its own set of traditions, and as at most colleges, Union’s student athletes heft boxes onto upper dorm floors for their new college-mates, while cheerful student advisers who know the ropes explain the campus. And among those settling into new surroundings or seeing children off, a few sighs and a few tears.

“Emotional,” mother Kathy Beckman of Columbus, Ohio, said, when asked how she felt. “Happy and sad and excited.”

Her son, Jackson, said a school counselor recommended the historic Schenectady school, which is known for its strong engineering programs as well as the liberal arts.

Freshman Peter Richmond, 18, of Newington, Connecticut, who plans to study engineering, said he had “mixed feelings” as he moved in.

“It’s all new,” Richmond said as he walked toward his new home for the year — fittingly enough, Richmond Hall. “But it’s very organized. There’s a lot of structure.”

The private college founded in 1795 has been through the freshman arrival and parental separation process many times before, and college officials know how to ease the associated anxieties.

“Yes, we have it down,” said Kate Schurick, the dean of first-year students. “It’s hectic in the sense that you don’t know what you don’t know. We do our best to partner with the parents. We realize this is nerve-wracking.”

On arrival day, the college offers sessions at which parents learn about the school and its services, while the students get orientation classes geared to their needs elsewhere.

Larry and Jennie Grob of Chappaqua, Westchester County, said the college made the separation process easy, though they admit they were ready, too.

“Our son is totally ready. We’re ready for him to be here,” Jennie Grob said.

“Everyone is very helpful. They make it easy to say goodbye,” Larry Grob said.

The incoming class was selected from a record nearly 6,000 applicants, according to the college. In addition to representing 31 states and the District of Columbia, there are 17 countries represented. Overall, the college said 70 percent of the freshmen were in the top 10 percent of their high school class, making it “one of the most academically gifted classes.”

Not all the new students were going through the separation-from-home process, even if they were moving into a new home.

Joe Young of Hanson, Massachusetts, was recruited to Union to play for its top-ranked hockey team. At 21, he’s older than most arriving students, and he’s been on his own longer — he has played junior hockey in New Jersey for the last three years.

“It has its challenges, but I’ve already been out on my own,” Young said.

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