The faces and smiles. The handshakes and hugs. The people and more people.
On a gorgeous, hot, sun-splashed day, Babson College’s campus roared to life Thursday as eager first-year students began moving into their residence halls with the help of enthusiastic upperclass students.
“Today, it’s almost like a new normal is beginning,” said Aditya Agarwal ’22, president of the Student Government Association (SGA), “and it’s great to see that students are excited to come on campus, and we’re all able to welcome them.”
The sights of so many people and smiling faces brightened campus in ways that hadn’t been seen in nearly 18 months because of the pandemic. The buzz on campus was palpable.
“It’s fabulous. That’s what it’s here for,” said James Hunt, associate professor of management who has been at Babson for 26 years. He teaches the hallmark Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship (FME) course for first-year students and was back on campus after teaching remotely last year. “It is exciting. It is inspiring.”
Jeffrey Jiang ’25 arrived on campus in the morning after flying to Boston from San Francisco the night before. Coming from a high school with only about 250 students, he was surprised at how many people he saw. “This is pretty overwhelming, honestly,” he said, “but I’m ready to meet new people and talk to everybody.”
Standing outside Park Manor Central, the gravity of the moment wasn’t lost on him.
“I’m feeling a lot of emotions,” he said. “I’m really excited. I’m really sad. Falling asleep last night, I couldn’t help but think about everybody that I’m going to miss. I’ve never been away from my family for more than two weeks, so I’m a bit scared, too, but it’s definitely the most excited I’ve ever been in my life.”
The students weren’t the only ones excited and filled with mixed emotions. Parents helped get students settled in their new homes before bidding their emotional goodbyes.
Irene Mani ’25 arrived with her family from the Bronx, New York. Her mother made a quick stop at the bookstore to buy sweatshirts for her siblings, so they could take photos together.
“I’m very excited,” Mani said of being on campus. “It feels good, because I actually get to be in person and experience the college life.”
Greeting first-year students brought back a lot of memories for the returning students, especially the seniors.
“It’s so exciting to help people live the experience that I lived through years ago,” said Abbie vanLuling ’22. “It’s just so exciting to see people starting their journey at Babson.”
Seniors offer a unique perspective. Agarwal and vanLuling noted that the senior class is the only one on campus to experience a full academic year uninterrupted by COVID-19. That carried special significance as new students began arriving.
“Move-in day is exciting anyway because you get to see a whole new group of people discover Babson on a beautiful day,” vanLuling said, “but it’s also more exciting as we’re transitioning through the pandemic to see some things about campus life reappear.”
The renewed spirit particularly struck Salvatore Giunta, a lecturer in Math & Science who is beginning his second year at Babson. “I’m very excited for the start of the new year,” said Giunta, who will be teaching a revamped Foundations of Business Analytics course. “It’s nice to see the students on campus, and campus is buzzing.”
Behind Forest Hall, Curtis Johnson ’23 was doing the heavy lifting—literally. Between hauling minifridges and microwaves into the residence hall, Johnson spoke about the renewed sense of community permeating move-in day.
“It’s great to have people on campus again,” said Johnson, the president of the Black Student Union. “I’ve been able to give hugs for the first time (in a long time). I think a lot of my other community members feel safer. That’s the biggest difference for me, this feeling of togetherness and safety.”
“It’s great to have people on campus again. … That’s the biggest difference for me, this feeling of togetherness and safety.”
Curtis Johnson ’23
Agarwal agreed. “There’s a really large shift in the sentiment among students. Being able to meet in person and see each other’s faces and smiles again has really been special, and I think that’s going to continue throughout the year.”
Andrea Lindner ’22, who served as SGA president last year and now is the president of the Panhellenic Council, also highlighted the sense of togetherness buoying the Babson campus.
“It feels a lot more connected than it did before,” she said. “I think Babson did an incredible job making it feel as normal as we possibly could, but it definitely feels different. It feels more at home, too.”