A feeling of home: Class of 2016 welcomed like family on move-in day

Although the Class of 2016 came together as strangers from all 50 states and across the globe, there was an overwhelming feeling of home and family as the freshmen were welcomed into the Rice University community during their move to campus Aug. 12.

Move-in day marked the beginning of O-Week, the weeklong orientation program designed to familiarize incoming students with their new campus, residential colleges and classmates. Across campus, cheering and laughter filled the air as O-Week volunteers rushed to arriving cars to greet the freshmen and welcome them like family.

“I think that move-in is always one of the most exciting days, and the way our students welcome the new students is really just absolutely remarkable,” Rice University President David Leebron said. “This is the beginning of a very special year for us. This is our centennial entering class, and it’s going to be a very exciting semester.”

Welcoming the freshmen and their families

Across campus, members of the Rice football team joined O-Week volunteers in welcoming the freshmen and their families. Together they helped move the new students’ belongings into the residential colleges to give the families a chance to say “goodbye” to their children.

“I think it’s great that our players come here to help out,” head football coach David Bailiff said. “I think it’s probably the best gift you can give a parent – having all these students at Rice willing to give them a hand.”

Nick Peterson, a sophomore at Hanszen College, was just one of the volunteers waiting to meet new arrivals and assist with the move-in. He remembers his O-Week experience fondly and cites it as one of the reasons he was interested in being there today.

“Ever since I moved in, I’ve really wanted to take part in this O-Week tradition at Rice,” he said. “It’s just so great. I think it’s probably one of the best things about Rice. And I think it’s wonderful that so many upperclassmen are interested in helping the new students integrate into the college system.”

Although Peterson remembers some feelings of anxiety when rolling up to Hanszen last year, he admitted, “It’s almost like you don’t think about that because there’s so much excitement and everyone is so happy to see you.”

Incoming freshman Jacob Mansfield from Houston was just one of the new Hanszenites greeted by Peterson and the other O-Week advisers and coordinators; he was visibly moved by the warm welcome from his new Hanszen family.

“I love it,” he said. “I’ve really been anticipating O-Week, and I’m looking forward to everything in store for this week.”

Mansfield said he was drawn to Rice because of its location and because it’s “very academically competitive, with lots of things to offer.”

Over at Lovett College, new international students Tommy Bennett from England and Adam Gustafsson from Sweden got their first taste of Rice’s Southern hospitality as they interacted with fellow freshmen and O-Week staff.

“I’m really enjoying it,” Bennett said. “I keep saying to Adam how friendly everyone is. We’ve been all around campus and everyone stops to say hello. It’s not like this in England. It’s just really pleasant to be here — everyone’s really friendly.”

Both Bennett and Gustafsson came to campus to play for the Rice Owls tennis team and expressed their gratitude to everyone for making them feel so welcome. “We’re having a great time,” Gustafsson said.

Next door at Will Rice, freshmen and parents alike were feeling the love, including Ayush Narayan of Monroe, La., and his mother, Sushma Krishnamurthy.

Narayan said he chose Rice for its outstanding reputation in chemistry and computer science, and his mom was thrilled with the warm reception when he arrived.

“He loves it already,” Krishnamurthy said. “We’d heard all about Rice’s O-Week, but it’s quite another thing to experience it in person. He really feels like he belongs and looks happy.”

Nandu Raghuram, father of Baker College freshman Anjali Raghuram, was equally pleased with his daughter’s decision to attend Rice.

“We are Texans, and I think Rice is the best in Texas, and of course, best in the country and well known in the world, too,” said the Amarillo resident.

All in the family

As the freshmen were welcomed into their residential college families, a handful of students were joining their actual family members on the Rice campus, including McMurtry College freshman Jenny Walker.

“My sister goes here, so she pretty much convinced me that it was the perfect place to be,” said the New Jersey native.

Baker College freshman Funso Fagbongbe from Mobile, Ala., remembers the warm welcome his brother received as an incoming freshman at Rice, and he said that the university’s culture, along with its size and academic reputation, were major factors in his decision to attend. “Rice is the perfect size – not too large or too small,” he said. “I just feel like I’m really going to enjoy my time here.”

Identical twins Audrey and Chrissy Wassef from Clear Lake, Texas, made the decision to attend Rice together after applying to several different colleges. “We were pretty sure we were going to come to the same place,” Audrey said.

“We came because it’s a nice location and a good balance of academics and athletics, since we’re on the Rice cross country team,” Chrissy said.

Like their fellow freshmen, the new McMurtry College students immediately felt at ease in their new surroundings.

“Everyone was really welcoming, and people knew our names right away,” Audrey said. “It made us feel right at home.”

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchison credited the day’s success with “the great organization” by the O-Week volunteers. “Everything has run like clockwork, and instead of feeling stressed out, everyone’s excited and the students are already starting to feel at home,” he said.

About Amy Hodges

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.