The Five Stages of Move-In

Author in front of a gate on Elm Street on move-in day

College move-in: that’s a watershed if I’ve ever heard of one. Everything you’ve come to learn about home, family, and life shifts from the quotidian to the practical. Utility is the name of the game and extrapolation the playing pieces: how do you employ your life experiences to survive sans family and forge yourself into an adult (at least as much of an adult as you’ve ever been before)? It’s a tall, rather existential, order. And it is equal parts terrifying and enthralling. Let me reflect on my own experiences while they are still fresh in my mind.

And so I present to you: the five stages of move-in.

Euphoria: Boola, boola! You just got into Yale! Your joy is visceral and indescribable. Those four years of toiling paid off and it feels great. Buy a piece of Yale merch; buy three. Learn the fight song. Go to Bulldog Days. Right now, the thought of chilling in your suite on Old Campus may be nebulous, but it is alluring nonetheless. What will your suitemates be like? Probably the most interesting people you’ve ever met. Is the food as good as TikTok promises? Yes. What part of campus is prettiest? It changes every day. All the incessant daydreaming distracts you from your AP Stats review, and that’s OK. Relax, have fun, and enjoy the rest of senior year. It’s only good things ahead.

Sentimentality: It’s summer and things are gradually starting to get real. Your shopping list is finished (count how many fans you already bought and double that). You know the route from your house to Target like the back of your hand because you drive it at least five times a week. You’re saying goodbye to friends and shedding a tear – or a torrent of them – to the soundtrack of something deeply reflective: “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, “Never Grow Up” by Taylor Swift, or “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker for the North Carolinian in me. The nostalgia runs deep as you convince yourself that your childhood is moribund. These few months are the wake, and that requires rest. Unless, of course, you’re in Directed Studies – start grinding through that summer reading.

Apprehension: You’re a few days out from move-in and a part of you is desperate to stay home. That keenness from May to move out and spread your wings? Nothing but pure high school naivety. You keep convincing yourself and everyone around you how excited you are to start the next chapter of your life. But beginnings are formidable and invariably uncomfortable. You compulsively read Bulldogs’ Blogs, consult the wisdom of Reddit, sweat profusely from your palms. Trunk full and cargo carrier perched on the roof rack, this is your moment no matter how much you want to relinquish it. And as the car pulls up to Phelps Gate, your heart flutters and sinks simultaneously. Here we go. 

Pandemonium, in the best way: A crowd of First-Year Counselors (FroCos) clad in the crest and colors of your residential college cheers as you exit your car. These seniors will be your mentors, shoulders to cry on, brains to pick. And their inaugural task, thank goodness, is to carry all of your stuff up the stairs to your suite. There, among the debris of mini-fridge boxes and Allen wrenches you didn’t need, stand your suitemates. Real people. In the flesh. Not just phone numbers. You awkwardly introduce yourself and ask them to show you how to loft your bed. Into your window flows a chorus of music blaring, cars honking, FroCo cowbells ringing. This is college. And not even three days in – after eating every meal and spending every night with your suitemates and new best friends – you pack up your bags for your Camp Yale program. You’re constantly on your feet, too busy to reflect substantively on what exactly you’re feeling or remember that your parents are gone. But one thing is irrefutable: this is a lot of fun.

The wonderful Morse FroCos who cheered the first-years on and carried our luggage to our rooms.

Home, re-found: When you return from your Camp Yale program, equipped with a new arsenal of friends, something in the New Haven air is different. In a couple of weeks, you’ll know the campus entirely. Maybe you’ll venture out into other parts of the city, to East Rock. As your classes churn along and days blend together, you’ll form closer and closer relationships. You will develop friendships with an intimacy and platonic love you’ve never experienced before. You will feel wholly changed and perpetually changing. But above all, you will have found your home for the next four years.

Me and my lovely friends at Yorkside Pizza for a birthday celebration.

College move-in is a time of emotional complexity. I wish you nothing but good luck as you navigate your own.