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A Nearly Normal First-Year Move-In

Arriving students animate Harvard Yard

8.25.21

Freshman Gavin Lindsey moves into Harvard yard with his family.

Gavin Lindsey ’25 moves into Harvard yard with his family.

Photograph by Niko Yaitanes/Harvard Magazine


Gavin Lindsey ’25 moves into Harvard yard with his family.

Photograph by Niko Yaitanes/Harvard Magazine

After a hunkered-down year, campus came to life today with the arrival of first-year students. Along with them came minivans with out-of-state license plates, family members lugging suitcases in their “Harvard Mom” and “Harvard Grandma” shirts, and enough Bed Bath & Beyond dorm goods to furnish another university entirely. One family even opted for a U-Haul, creeping tentatively past pedestrians on the Yard’s walkway.

While the delightful chaos of move-in has stayed the same, the COVID-19 pandemic did alter its procedures. Instead of all moving on the same day, each first-year was assigned an arrival window between Wednesday, August 25, and Friday, August 27, so some students may not meet all their roommates until later in the week. Unfortunately for hungry movers, there were no Dunkin’ Donuts or juices offered outside entryways, as a public-health precaution. (On the other hand, unlike upperclassmen and -women, the first-year families were not inconvenienced by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Henri, which swept through New England last Sunday, leaving only summer humidity in its wake.)

Students mingled at the key tent between Massachusetts Hall and University Hall, chatting over an eclectic welcome playlist including Elton John’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and “Electric Feel” by MGMT. Families posed in front of vinyl photo backdrops next to the spiffed-up John Harvard statue and Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana flitted between groups of students, welcoming them to Harvard.

As always, upperclassmen helped students move into their dorms, but unlike most years, some movers hadn’t been in the Yard for more than a year–after taking time off from Harvard during the pandemic. “It’s so great to be back and to be moving in all these fresh faces. Everyone is so happy to be here,” said Ilija Wan-Simm ’24, a sophomore who took a gap year during the pandemic to work as a real-estate agent in Miami.  


Miles J. Herszenhorn ’25 and friend
Photograph by Niko Yaitanes/Harvard Magazine

Though some students traveled distances traversable via minivan, others had to pack light and take a flight. Miles J. Herszenhorn ’25 journeyed to campus from Brussels, for instance. “I’m looking forward to everything that comes with the experience at Harvard College and also just with a traditional American university experience,” he said. Describing move-in day he added, “Everybody here is filled with a lot of positivity.” The Yard was full of new students and families meandering, taking in their surroundings. “It’s bigger than I remember,” said Sawyer Feller ’25 of Boca Raton, Florida, looking at the Yard he’d last visited on a college tour. Parents were both misty-eyed (“It’s a very bittersweet moment,” said Feller’s mother) and overwhelmed by long-distance moving logistics (“Amazon has been amazing,” she added).

Some first-years will live in overflow housing. Given the influx in students in the Class of 2025 (after many members of the Class of 2024 deferred admission by one year during the pandemic), the University is housing students at 1201 Massachusetts Avenue (formerly used as swing space during House renewal) and apartments on Prescott Street, near the Yard. “I didn’t know how to feel about it,” first-year Christopher Hidalgo said of learning he would be living in overflow housing. “I wanted the traditional first-year experience in the Yard, but then I realized I’ll definitely be spending most of my time over there. I’ll just be sleeping here.” His outlook also brightened considerably when he learned that, unlike those in the Yard, his dorm had air conditioning.

Though there were fewer people milling around campus than in a typical year (and fewer festive adornments, such as balloons) first-year move-in was overall a welcome patch of normalcy after an abnormal year on campus. The fall semester is off to a high-energy start, one that Herszenhorn says is “overwhelming, but also very infectious.”

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