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August 23, 2014. It was a day anticipated by thousands. Parents let go of their adult-sized babies amidst tears and the Emory community prepped its campus and resources for the most dynamic renewal of the year.

August 23 was a date to remember for the more than 1000 first-year students who officially moved into Emory College to be part of the Class of 2018.

Fully clad in their upside-down maps and “EMORY UNIVERSITY” lanyards, the newbies on campus weren’t hard to spot. Still, they grouped together and trudged through (arguably) the most stressful day of freshman year, managing to weave through new friends, new independence and, ultimately, a new home.

Move-in day was just the beginning of a journey that I, a first-year student myself, am beginning to call the “Freshman Experience.” And although it can be argued that every year of college comes with its own respective “journey,” the freshman experience is the foundation for the three that follow.

From the first few days of Orientation to the heartfelt Creating Emory sessions, we were pulled into the Emory community the minute we stepped on campus.

“My OL (Orientation Leader) made my first week a little less stressful by making me feel welcome,” freshman Andy Dong said. “She was really enthusiastic and just really happy to be there helping us.”

The morals and standards shared here were instilled into us by the dedicated (and surprisingly perky) upperclassmen guiding us through every step. This extended into the various Creating Emory sessions.

“Creating Emory really helped me find my inner self and feel like I belong here at Emory,” freshman Christian Meyer said.

“Only when Creating Emory began did I truly feel comfortable at this prestigious university,” Jake Duel agreed, as Christian silently nodded his head next to him.

And then came Songfest: a whole gym full of freshman screaming at the top of their lungs, each for a different team, each with a different chant. As we watched each other dance on the floor, we threw up our hands in response to insults from other halls and convinced ourselves that we were better than the rest. We watched Dooley in action for the very first time, and left with both victory and loss under our belts.

After struggling through OPUS appointments and Add/Drop/Swap, we were introduced into the world of college classes – a realm that the vast majority of us dreaded entering. Still, after a few weeks of adjusting to the expectations and course loads, many of us had positive hopes for the remainder of the semester.

“I like the freedom of being able to choose my own classes. In high school, I was bound by a certain set of requirements, and now I am finally allowed to explore my different interests,” freshman Monica Schweizer said. And that, largely, is true for the vast majority of the freshman class. With most of its members coming from the top of their respective high school classes, the class of 2018 is beginning to learn what it means to truly be challenged and pushed to new mental and educational limits.

Following, a topic that is close to us all: the DUC.

“They have surprisingly good food, and the staff treats me like I am family,” freshman Peter Zheng said. This opinion seems to be shared throughout the freshman class.

Still, some freshmen choose to steer clear of the meal plan and explore the other dietary options on campus. Freshman Deion Love echoed this statement (almost regretfully) by admitting to having “only 77 Dooley Dollars left.”

All in all, freshman year has barely manifested itself.

It is the beginning of a new crossroad, the beginning of what is said to be the “best four years” of our lives and the official beginning of our adult lives. We may still get lost on the way to class and forget to check Blackboard for our homework. We may still have trouble finding time for both work and play or figuring out how to use the waffle maker at the DUC. We may still be completely confused about where the next four years will take us. But honestly, we should be.

We should be branching out, making new friends and learning things we never thought we would.

We should be lost and curious and learning to fit in, just as the freshman class before us was and the freshman class after us will be.

So here’s to us, Class of 2018. Here’s to us and the next four years.

– By Sunidhi Ramesh