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Nearly a month after move in, first-years reflect on college transition

UNC first-year Denzel Foster poses for a portrait outside of Hinton James Residence Hall on Monday, Oct. 1, 2023.

As Denzel Foster drove to Hinton James Residence Hall for the first time, his newly-bought trash can flew out of the back of his truck.

He was in a rush to arrive for his noon move-in appointment on Aug. 16. Foster, a first-year, said he accidentally locked his keys in his room after moving his belongings into the residence hall with his dad. 

“I could’ve been a little more organized,” he said.

Foster was among hundreds of first-year students who arrived on campus between Aug. 16 and 20 to move in for their fall semester. 

He said transportation and limited food options were some challenges he faced as he adjusted to life on South Campus. 

Foster said sharing a single bathroom with seven other people is one of the biggest differences between his current living situation compared to his experience at home.

During his first weekend at UNC, Foster and many other first-year students attended New Student Convocation, which featured an address to first-years by Student Body President Chris Everett in the Dean E. Smith Center. 

“If you take nothing else away from this, please remember one thing: You are the number one priority,” Everett said during his speech. “So always take care of yourself.”

A little over a week later, the University sheltered during an active shooter situation. Many UNC students experienced a second lockdown on Sept. 13 when an individual brandished a gun at Alpine Bagel. 

“The shootings definitely took a toll on a lot of our mental health,” Foster said. “I also think just being away from home for the first time, that’s a struggle for a lot of people just in itself.” 

Other first-years, such as Tiffany Evans who recently moved into Craige Residence Hall, have faced additional challenges in their University transition. 

Evans said she was faced with an unexpected obstacle when her planned roommate deferred their enrollment two weeks prior to their move-in date.

Now, she lives in a double room by herself. 

It can be “too quiet” at times, Evans said, but she enjoys her newfound sense of freedom. 

Evans said she wishes she had brought more decor to her dorm to make it feel “homey.” Evans also said cozy socks, pillows, blankets and her sun lamp are must-haves to make her space feel more comfortable.

Annie Wang, a first-year who moved from Chicago to a triple-style dorm in Cobb Residence Hall, said her move-in process required meticulous planning about which items should be left at home and which should be stuffed in her suitcase. 

“It was really difficult,” she said. For the necessities she hadn’t previously considered, Wang said she found herself going back to stores like HomeGoods to finish personalizing her space. 

Wang said she loves her triple room, which is more spacious than she initially expected. She said she often uses her room as a study space.

“I think that having everything organized in your room helps set you up for being more productive in class so you don't have to get distracted by the little things,” Wang said. 

She said she makes it a point to always have comforting snacks from home in her room as a way to bring her familiarity.

“I think home is just a place of safety and security and just being able to be comfortable,” she said. 

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Though Foster said he misses family and friends, his suitemates provide him with a sense of community.

He said leaving his environment in Greensboro has been a new experience and enjoys “getting out and seeing the world.”

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