Moving-in day made easy

Arrival: At the University of Maryland, College Park, a once-arduous process has evolved into a near science.

August 27, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Wahab Jilani pulled up to Ellicott Hall at the University of Maryland, College Park yesterday with his father, a trunk full of his belongings and a sense of apprehension. "This will take forever," he thought.

Ten minutes later, Jilani stood in the lobby of his dorm with a slightly dazed look on his face. Seven volunteers had loaded his clothes, books and CDs onto an elevator and delivered them to Jilani's room before the freshman from Salisbury had time to break a sweat.

"I thought it would be really, really busy, but that was easy," Jilani said.

"Very nice," said his father, Ahmad. "I was afraid we'd have to go up and down eight flights of stairs over and over again. I barely got out of the car."

Thousands of freshmen are landing on Maryland campuses this week. At the University of Maryland, the annual rite of move-in day has evolved into a near science.

The school breaks the freshman class in two - half moved in yesterday and the rest move in today. Fraternity and sorority members and athletes hand ice water to parents and incoming students. Volunteers make house calls to help set up personal computers.

This year, yellow-shirted members of the "Arrival Survival Team" - about 40 volunteers in all - helped parents and freshmen move furniture and clothing, making the chaotic process seem almost methodical. In the past, fraternity and sorority members helped students get settled.

"We thought they would help but, honestly, we've been doing this so long, I don't even worry about it anymore," said Joe Mitchell, the school's assistant director for resident life.

Any day you invite about 2,000 students and their parents onto campus in 90-degree heat, things aren't going to go perfectly.

Most of the freshmen arrived in the morning, and lines for the elevators were long. Parents in SUVs circled the lot, looking for parking. None of the freshmen dorms is air-conditioned, and some of the crowded hallways seemed devoid of oxygen.

Mothers stood by mounds of clothes, keeping a nervous eye on their children's new laptops. Fathers parked cars, then anxiously lugged boxes into the dorms. Students cast confused glances at their parents, not sure whether to hug them one last time or push them toward the door.

Few complaints

Few parents were complaining. The lines moved quickly and students used the time they spent waiting to meet others.

Allen Chapman of Pittsburgh was fifth in line for an elevator at Centreville Hall. He gently rocked a rack full of button-down shirts, talked on his cell phone and chatted with several other students.

"I'm just excited to be here. This isn't even bugging me at all," he said, wiping sweat from his forehead.

As Chapman watched a group of yellow-clad volunteers pull more clothes into an elevator, he smiled. "You get a lot for the price."

In-state tuition, room and board at the University of Maryland is nearly $7,500 a semester - an all-time high - and it's about $6,000 more for students from out of state.

Catie Wienke of Pasadena quickly transformed her room in Ellicott Hall from an expanse of white cinder-block into a more inviting area. Her roommate had already installed her television and put prom pictures and Dave Matthews Band posters on the wall.

Wienke plugged in her television and DVD player and spread her blue comforter on her bed. "We both shopped at Target," she said, looking at her roommate's nearly identical blanket.

The help desk

If students had any problems once they moved into their rooms, they found another wave of ready volunteers. When Wienke couldn't get onto the Internet, she called the help desk. A few minutes later, Nicole Lawrence came to Wienke's room and helped her register on the campus system.

About 97 percent of students at College Park are hooked up to the Internet, said school officials. "It used to be that they wouldn't care when you got them online," Mitchell said. "Now, if they're not hooked up the first day, they say: `What's going on here? "

Lawrence also made sure to set up Wienke's campus voice-mail.

School officials are encouraging students to activate their land-based phone lines. Campus officials suspect that thousands of students didn't use their voice mail last year because "everyone has a cell phone," Mitchell said.

"But campuswide messages is one of the easiest ways to get important information out there, so we at least want them to check it," Mitchell said.

Saying good-bye

After Lawrence left, Wienke looked expectantly at her parents, Jim and Cathy Wienke. "I guess we'll be going soon," her father said. "I went to park the truck and by the time I got back here, it was over. She was moved in."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.