Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Class of 2013 arrives on campus

There were plenty of volunteers to help arriving students move into McClintic-Marshall.

Standing amid a pile of discarded boxes that once housed fans, flat-screen TV’s, mini-fridges and microwaves, Michael and Barbara Dowling of Annapolis, Md., marveled at the efficiency of the crew of six students who greeted them when they arrived at Centennial Hall to drop off their son, Matt, on Move-In Day.

“I loaded the car, but I didn’t have to unload one thing,” Michael said. “The students did an incredible job. The whole move took about 45 minutes.”

On Friday, the couple will do it all over again when they drop off Matt’s twin brother, Theo, at Penn State.

“Today, we came up to Harrisburg and turned left,” Michael said. “Tomorrow, we’ll go to Harrisburg and turn right. Then we’ll see how this move stacks up against that one.”

As the Dowling family members navigated their way to the Lehigh University Bookstore, the Plodwick family from Middletown, N.J., covered familiar territory.

Daughter Lindsay, a first-year journalism major, follows her older sister Lauren, now a sophomore in the business college. Parents Mike and Linda are both graduates of Lehigh’s M.B.A. program and met on their first day of classes on South Mountain.

“The whole experience here has been positive,” Linda said. “Almost effortless—the kids do an amazing job.”

And the 325 student volunteers had plenty of help from some 200 faculty, staff and administrators who volunteered to help make Move-In Day a success.

‘Explore and meet people’

Patrick V. Farrell, who joined Lehigh as provost and vice president of academic affairs in July, lends a helping hand on Move-In Day.

For Marina Curac, an architecture student from Croatia, even getting to Lehigh was challenging. Curac had to fly from her home country to Newark Airport before catching a late bus to Bethlehem. Arriving long after dark, in an unfamiliar town in a foreign country, Stefanos was rescued by a fellow bus passenger, who overheard her mention “Lehigh University” in her conversation with another traveler.

“She said she and her husband knew all about Lehigh, and that they would take me here,” recalled Curac during a break in the International Orientation program that was held on Thursday in the Ulrich Student Center. “I was very fortunate to have such a great first experience here.”

Wintana Stefanos, a pre-med student from Ethiopa, found getting to Lehigh much easier. After flying in from Frankfurt, Germany, with only two suitcases in tow, she was met at Newark Airport by Stacey Burger, a Lehigh University employee.

At the orientation session, Curac and Stefanos joined approximately 60 other international students, who came to Lehigh from 20 countries, including China, Venezuela, Bolivia and Myanmar. During the series of talks, international students learned about safety on and off-campus, dating, Lehigh traditions, the perils of underage drinking, and American social cues.

“Men here shake hands—no kissing on the cheeks, please,” said one student guide.

Sarunas Staisiunas ’12 from Lithuania urged new students to view campus police as a valuable resource.

“Don’t be afraid of them,” he said. “They are very nice people, and you can actually talk to them.”

One upperclassmen suggested that the best way to acclimate to a new culture and cultivate friendships is to join a club—“as many as you can.”

Added Virginia Nyikadzino ’11 from Zimbabwe: “You’ll never have more time to go out and explore and meet people as you will during your first year. There is every kind of club on earth, so make the most of it. And if there isn’t a club here you like, you can start your own.”

‘They … will make you proud’

While the international students continued to wade through issues related to immigration and campus resources, members of the incoming class streamed into the Campus Bookstore and gathered around buffet tables of food set up in the courtyard behind the Rauch Business Center.

Nearby, as the smoke from the open-air grill wafted above, the temporary “I Forgot Shop” sold desk lamps, extension cords, bike locks, light bulbs and bed risers to long lines of customers.

On hand to greet new students were representatives from several offices and organizations on campus that included the Green Action group, the Women’s Center, LBTGQA office, Health Center, Counseling Services, Leadership Lehigh, University Productions, and Study Abroad.

By mid-day, traffic at the tent set up for orientation check-in on Mountaintop Campus dwindled down to a trickle, and the student volunteers who staffed it had a few moments to reflect on the significance of this day.

“This is such a momentous event in someone’s life,” said Meghan Bowen ’11, an accounting major from Easton. “I’m pretty active on campus, and I’ve found that this is one of the best things I can do to help someone. Just to be there to help smooth a student’s ruffled feathers—it’s a great thing.”

Later in the day, departing parents heard calming words from Lehigh President Alice P. Gast and John Smeaton, vice provost of Student Affairs. In introducing Gast to the overflow, standing-room-only crowd at Packer Church, Smeaton said: “Her message in both word and deed is clear: Students matter at Lehigh.”

Gast advised parents that, as difficult as it may be, it is time to let go.

“Take all the time you need today to say good-bye to your son or daughter,” Gast said. “But once you leave, give them the space they need to get settled in their new surroundings.”

Remember, she said, “this is your student’s time to experience Lehigh. It is their time to explore the intellectual opportunities available to them, to assess their career path, to grow personally, and to gain a sense of their place in the world. Be confident in the lessons you have taught them. They have learned them well and will make you proud.”

--Linda Harbrecht

Photos by Douglas Benedict

Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2009

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