August 16, 2012 — With boxes still unpacked and a bed not yet assembled, Nicholas Richardson’s 11th floor room at Hecht Residential College wasn’t quite in the condition he wanted. But with urgency and excitement over the start of his new life as a University of Miami student, Nicholas busily moved about his living quarters, arranging his desk and putting away clothes.
He rushed into the hallway and grabbed a pair of support rods leaning against a wall, handing them to his father, Frederick, who was assembling his son’s bed. Nearby, his mother, Fern, began placing clothes into her son’s closet, starting first with the dozens of neckties draped over her arm.
It was move-in day for Nicholas and hundreds of other University of Miami freshmen. Accompanied by parents, friends, and relatives, some 2,000 new students arrived on UM’s Coral Campus on August 15 and 16, checking into the Hecht and Stanford Residential Colleges, whose lobbies were festooned in orange and green to welcome the University’s newest Hurricanes. They toted suitcases, laptop computers, books, and other items they’ll need for the new school year.
“I’m going to miss living with mom and dad and not having them around to wake me up in the morning for school,” said Nicholas, 19, who plans to major in business. “But I know I’ll adjust.”
The Division of Students Affairs, Department of Housing and Residential Life, and other units helped make Nicholas’s adjustment to college life go smoothly the moment he arrived on campus last Thursday from his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia.
Staffers and student volunteers were stationed all around the area, answering questions and providing directions. Workers from Information Technology helped students with Internet connections and virus protection software for their computers, and ’Cane Cards were issued on site for students who had not yet obtained one.
“We have extensive resources to help freshmen and encourage them to connect with their resident assistants, who are often their first contact,” said Chris Hartnett, associate director for residence life, who lived in the Mahoney-Pearson residential area when he was a UM freshman.
Noting that sharing a college dorm room can be a challenge for some students, Hartnett said that his department offers a roommate search program in which students create a profile of themselves and are then matched with students who have similar interests. The system also allows students to connect with each other before they arrive on campus. About half of UM’s incoming freshmen select their roommates using the program, according to Jon Baldessari, director of housing and residential life.
Some students, like 18-year-old Shannon Stainken from Ridgefield, Connecticut, go on Facebook. Using the social networking service, Stainken and her roommate, Etoile Smulders, found out that they had a lot in common, such as shared interests in marine science and traveling, and decided to become roommates. Last Thursday, as Shannon settled into her new digs in Hecht Residential College’s McDonald Tower, she said that she and Smulders had already worked out many of the details of sharing a room. “The biggest adjustment for me will be making sure I know where I’m going,” she said.
Shannon Stainken, from Ridgefield, Connecticut, gets her room in order at Hecht Residential College’s McDonald Tower. She used a UM Facebook page to match with her roommate.
Nicholas is already quite familiar with the Coral Gables campus, having participated in UM’s Harambee Program, an initiative in which accepted students are hosted by a current student and spend a weekend living in a residential college dorm, meeting faculty and administrators, and touring campus facilities.
He still needs to adjust to living on his own, though, said his mother, Fern. To help in the transition, she taught him how to make tacos and packed several boxes of Kraft Easy Macaroni and Cheese for him.
“He’s our only child,” Fern Richardson said. “We’ll miss him a lot.”
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