Nikoletta Alvanou didn’t arrive in Gainesville from her home in Thessaloniki, Greece, until late Tuesday night, but the Brenau University freshman was excited Wednesday morning for her “big chance” to begin life as a university student in the United States.
Alvanou was one of the 398 freshman and transfer students who were enrolled at Brenau by move-in day Wednesday, a record number for the Brenau Gainesville day program.
“I don’t want to lose it,” Alvanou said of her opportunity. “In Greece we have (a financial) crisis and it’s very difficult to find a job. Here, I think it’s good for my future.”
Alvanou, a biology major who was recruited to join the school’s the swim team, has studied English for about eight years. But she said she is most nervous about her ability to understand English in her classes.
Excitement and nerves were common themes for students who moved into dormitories Wednesday. Athletes from the different sports teams at the university were stationed outside dormitories along with orientation volunteers, dorm resident assistants and others to help students and parents unload vehicles and move the items to dorm rooms.
“I think students are most nervous about the unexpected,” said Jessica Bowling, director of student success initiatives at Brenau.“The students are easy because we know what to expect with those nerves and such. And parents, it’s kind of a wild card. Sometimes they are the ones who are even more emotional and worried that they have to leave and the students have to stay, so it becomes a little challenging.”
Bowling is part of the new student orientation team that planned several events designed to help students meet people and familiarize themselves with the campus.
Lydia Marsh of Jonesboro was getting help from her parents, John and Elizabeth, who were helping her move items that included a printer, television, minifridge and a Keurig coffee maker from a truck.
“We’ve been doing this for a year, just shopping a little bit for a year,” said Elizabeth Marsh. “I’m excited. She’s really prepared.”
Lydia Marsh, a cheerleader at Brenau, said being away from family and meeting new people makes her a little nervous, but she is also excited about being a member of the cheer squad.
Her father called the day “heartbreaking.”
“I don’t want her to leave; I want her to stay home and never leave,” he said. “But she needs her education and this is a great college and it’s close to home, so she’s fairly close.”
Caroline Christopher, a nursing major from Hoschton, said she is most anxious about the academic side of college as a freshman.
“I’m nervous about the workload,” she said. “I know it’s hard and you have to really get down and study, but I’m really excited with all the new experiences and the sororities.”
Paige Smith, an occupational therapy student from Dacula, said she is nervous because she is not yet familiar with what college life will be like.
“It’s new. I’ve only been on the campus a few times, and I’ve never lived away from home,” she said.
Her mother, Kim Smith, said she was sad and “a little anxious” as they checked in at the Northeast Georgia History Center on Brenau’s campus.
“I know when I leave her, I’m going to be really sad,” she said.
Ainsley Starnes, a nursing student from Cartersville, said talking to a lot of new people on move-in day made her a little uncomfortable.
“Just talking to new people freaks me out a little bit and having to move away from the place I have called home my whole life, it’s just really nerve-racking,” Starnes said. “But I’m really excited, too.”
Taraneisha Thompson, a new nursing student from Thomson, said she was “most nervous about classes and waking up on time.”
Her dad, Ira, added, “I’m going to miss her for a little bit, but it will be all right.”
Lauren Hill of Flowery Branch and Jasmine Rolle of Atlanta are both sophomores working as resident assistants at West Hall, a freshman dorm. They said they remember the emotions of move-in day last year.
“Last year this day was so scary; I was so scared to move away from home,” said Hill. “I only went 15 minutes away, but I am such a homebody. But I was so excited to meet my RA, to meet the people that I would be spending the next four years with and to meet the campus I’d call home.”
Rolle remembers that first day at Brenau as “crazy.”
“I didn’t expect it to be so many people and so much stuff,” she said. “I definitely understand how everybody feels.”
Rolle said her advice for new students would be “just to have an open mind and get to know everybody and ask for help.”
“If you need help, ask because somebody’s going to know the answer,” she said.
Hill said she likes the fact that college gives students a chance to “reinvent yourself.”
“You’ve got a clean slate because in high school, elementary and middle school these people knew you for 12 years,” Hill said. “Here if you want to start over, you can start over. You get to meet new people, and hopefully your major is something that you’re passionate about so you get to pursue your passion.”