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After summer away, college students bring the bustle back to Boston

Move-in assistants and orientation leaders cheered, danced, and sang along to loud music, as cars pulled up on Boylston Street on the first day of move-in at Emerson College on Sunday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Goodbye summer slowdown, hello college commotion. Students are back.

At Emerson College, move-in began early Sunday. By 9:45 a.m., a dozen cars lined Boylston Street with families inside waiting with anxious excitement to drop off their first-year students. On the curb, student volunteers in turquoise T-shirts waited to greet them.

Arianna Pepe’s parents filmed as she stepped out of their car around 11 a.m., greeted by a dozen waving orientation volunteers, while a medley of pop and hip-hop music blasted behind them. The first-year student’s family had just driven up from Philadelphia.

“Hey everyone,” one of the volunteers cried out. “Arianna’s moving into Emerson today!”


In a scene that would play out dozens of times throughout the morning, the other volunteers cheered and clapped their welcomes before swarming Pepe’s car, rapidly loading her boxes and bags from the trunk into rolling carts.

Pepe, a film student, said she hadn’t expected such a strong welcome, but she hoped it would be a good indication of how her next four years would go. On top of the school’s film program, Pepe said, she was drawn to Emerson by its small size and emphasis on community.

“I can’t wait to meet everybody and explore more of Boston,” Pepe said.

Home to about 30 colleges and universities, with another dozen-plus just outside its municipal borders, Boston hosts more than 150,000 students, according to a 2019 survey by the mayor’s office, not counting the throngs of students living in Cambridge and beyond, who come into Boston to work and socialize. Students make up about a fifth of the city’s population during the academic year.

Emerson’s students were among the first to settle into Boston in late August, signaling a return of the school year and the college crowds. Just down the Green Line, Northeastern University welcomed the fall semester’s first arrivals, as did Brandeis University in Waltham.


At Emerson on Sunday, dozens of orientation volunteers filled the sidewalk on the south side of Boylston, across from Boston Common. When the flow of cars fell to a trickle, the volunteers started impromptu dance parties on the sidewalk.

Nate Oaks, a second-year student and first-time orientation volunteer, pounded his fists in the air and jumped along to a Rihanna song. At least 10 other volunteers surrounded Oaks, sharing his enthusiasm.

He said move-in day was an opportunity to show new students that they belong at Emerson and should feel confident expressing themselves.

“Kids are nervous when they move into college,” he said. “They’re going to live on their own for the first time. We want to show them that you’re not alone, and we’re here.”

The volunteers’ excitement spread to students, parents, and passersby — some stepping and grooving to the music’s rhythm as they walked past.

Emerson College Police Sergeant Sal Mirabella danced through a Boylston Street lane that had been cordoned off for college traffic, singing along to Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything,” as he ushered traffic up the block.

“This is nuts,” Mirabella said. The energy level was typical for move-in day, though, he said.

For Marcus Joseph, who has lived with his mother in Miami for the past five years, move-in day was something of a homecoming. His father lives in Jamaica Plain, and the screenwriting student said he looked forward to having family nearby.


“It’s nice to come back here,” Joseph said. “I think I’m going to really enjoy it.”

Film student Marcus Joseph, 18, stepped out of a vehicle to a raucous welcome, with his mother, Sammy Dumeus, in the back seat.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Sammy Dumeus, Joseph’s mother, said they must have woken up their entire apartment building when his acceptance email came in. Standing outside the dorm on Sunday, she said the excitement had not faded.

“We didn’t sleep last night,” Dumeus said.

It was a somewhat quieter scene at Northeastern, where first-year students were welcomed to the college’s East Village residence hall by university staff and a small army of gray-shirted movers Sunday afternoon.

Logan Chandler, who drove 22 hours from Florida in a rented Chrysler Town and Country, watched as a handful of workers pulled boxes from the trunk. He offered some direction, at one point asking them to be gentle with a pair of speakers.

“I’m excited, nervous,” Chandler said. “Long way from home, but I’m excited to be here.”

He filmed the newly emptied car, panning over to a pair of rolling cardboard bins, which had been loaded with bedding, suitcases, and speakers. Chandler said it was “wild” to see his life for the next four or so years packed into just two bins.

His mother, 49-year-old Anastasia Chandler, held back tears as the pair hugged. She recalled telling her son during the drive up not to worry if she started getting emotional.

“I told him, ‘If I cry, you don’t have to tell me it’ll be OK,’” she said. “‘I know it’s going to be OK. I just have to cry because I’m your mom. You just have to hug me and it’ll all be fine.’”


They let go. She drove off, and he walked in.

Computer science and game development student Logan Chandler, 18, and his mom, Anastasia Chandler, drove from Boynton Beach, Fla. They got help unpacking the rental car in front of East Village at Northeastern University.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Daniel Kool can be reached at Follow him @dekool01.