Nothing signals the end of summer and the dawning of a new academic year quite like the sight of enthusiastic students in brightly colored T-shirts pushing large bins filled with life’s essentials to residence halls around Morningside Heights, accompanied by wide-eyed first-year students and anxious parents.
KELLY CHAN BC’17
On August 29, I pulled my Prius to the curb at Amsterdam near West 115th Street to drop off my daughter, Deborah BC’14, for work. Before I could put the car in park, a group of NSOP students (that’s New Student Orientation Program for those unfamiliar with Columbia acronyms, pronounced EN-sop) started heading toward us with bright smiles and clapping hands, bins in tow, welcoming us to campus. My daughter, who had been an NSOP leader during her Barnard days, waved at them with a big smile of her own.
Move-in Day/Convocation, usually the Monday before Labor Day, is one of my favorite days of the year, a milestone for students and parents alike. Having been there and done that, as both a student and a parent, I know it is a day of significant transition for all.
For the first-years, it marks the beginning of an exciting chapter in their lives, a time of growth and uncertainty and mistakes and learning. It’s the start of a unique time of exploration and adventure. They will settle in to their new homes in the morning and experience the pageantry of Convocation in the afternoon, with an often tear-filled goodbye shared with parents and other loved ones along the way.
Parents fall into two groups. For parents who are saying goodbye to their only or youngest child, it is the first true taste of empty-nesting. For those who will be going home with the first-year’s siblings, it’s a portent of the separation that’s to come.
I barely remember my move-in experience in fall 1967. I recall my parents dropping me off near the gates of Carman Hall and helping me bring my belongings to my room on the fourth floor, overlooking West 114th Street. There was no Convocation program, as best I can recall, so we said goodbye and I was on my own. Of course, that’s all relative, as my parents’ apartment in Brooklyn was just a subway ride away (which made it easy to drop off laundry).
In 2010, my move-in experience as a parent was nothing short of amazing. I had some idea of what to expect, as I had observed the process for CCT many times, but like so many things, you don’t fully appreciate it until you go through it yourself. Talk about a well-oiled machine: It was barely an hour from the time an NSOP volunteer unloaded our car until my daughter was unpacked and settling into her room in Brooks Hall. The spirit and energy of the students who helped us was infectious and helped make “losing” (if only temporarily) our only child less painful.
Move-in Day leads into Convocation, with its parade of flags representing all of the first-years’ home states and countries; the Alumni Procession, in which former students march with their class year banners by decade and which shows the incoming students that the relationship they are beginning with the College lasts for a lifetime; and the welcoming address from Dean James J. Valentini, whose thought-provoking remarks never fail to amuse and inspire.
It’s a full day, but it’s just the start of eight days of NSOP programs and activities throughout New York City designed to embrace and energize first-years. This year’s schedule included academic events such as their first Literature Humanities class, covering The Iliad; a New York Mets game and the hit Broadway show Something Rotten; tours of New York neighborhoods to introduce newcomers to the city; and even a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond.
The program was planned by a student committee that worked all summer under the guidance of members of the Division of Undergraduate Student Life. Its theme, “NSOP Out Loud,” was chosen by the NSOP committee “to reflect the community you are joining,” according to the 56-page schedule, which explained: “During your time at Barnard College and Columbia University, you have the opportunities to live out loud: be the actor on stage, athlete on the field, student in the classroom, or voice in society. Your voices are ringing from all corners of the globe, echoing your individual experiences, backgrounds, and personalities. Columbia and Barnard are a symphony of voices, each one unique and special, resounding with its own tune. What sounds will you create? What symphonies will you join? Put your sound out there. Discover yourself. BE LOUD!”
That sounds good to me. Roar, Class of 2020, Roar!
Alex Sachare ’71
Editor in Chief
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