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New students from 43 states, 30 countries check in at Brandeis

Eliana Phillips (left), from California, hugged her roommate, Valérie Pierre-Louis, from New York, at Brandeis University Sunday. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

WALTHAM — In the first few moments of her new life, Eliana Phillips sat on her freshly made dorm room bed reading the campus newspaper as she waited for her new roommate to walk in.

Before moving into their freshman dorm Sunday afternoon, Phillips, 18, and Valérie Pierre-Louis, 17, were strangers, although they had exchanged the basics over Facebook: their majors, hometowns, and who was bringing the mini-fridge.

“It’s so nice to finally meet you in person,” Pierre-Louis said as she stepped into her new home for the year, lugging a comforter and suitcase. They hugged, and immediately the space filled with small talk and Pierre-Louis’s belongings.

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In a sign that summer’s end is near, more than 800 first-year students moved into their freshman dorms at Brandeis University Sunday afternoon.

Within the next few weeks, students in area schools — such as Boston University, Northeastern, and Boston College — will also move in, swelling Greater Boston’s population with young people from all over the world. The Boston area is home to about 50 universities and colleges that attract thousands of students to their campuses.

Brandeis students come from 47 states and 62 countries, according to its website. The class of 2020 is made up of about 825 students from 43 states and 30 countries, said Judy Glasser, spokeswoman for the university.

Outside one of the freshman dorms Sunday afternoon, orientation leaders cheered as cars packed with dorm necessities rolled onto campus. The student volunteers helped unload the cars, and haul suitcases, mattress pads, boxes of granola bars, crates of water, and bags bursting with linens down narrow hallways.

As some of the leaders dispersed for a break, senior Morgan Winters sat on the pavement.

“It’s exhausting, but so rewarding,” the 21-year-old said after several hours of standing and cheering in the sun.

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Winters said being an orientation leader is something she will miss when she graduates. She said she loves helping ease the transition for students as they embark on their college careers at Brandeis, a school that she admires for its diversity and strong focus on social justice.

“I like setting a good tone for new students coming in,” she said. “So far college has been full of both the best and worst experiences of my life, and I’m so glad it happened here.”

Her biggest advice to students, she said, is simple: Take advantage of everything.

Freshman Arial Nieberding of Chicago unpacked her belongings as she waited for her roommate to arrive.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The university’s new president, Ronald Liebowitz, encouraged the students to do the same at the new-student orientation.

“First: Jump in . . . don’t hold back,” Liebowitz said during his first major speech to the university as president Sunday. “You are joining an academic and intellectual community that is somewhat unique in how it offers an excellent undergraduate education along with meaningful research and collaborative learning opportunities across its curriculum.”

The next week will be packed with seminars and social events for the hundreds of new students.

While first-year students could choose their roommates, the university paired some with roommates based on a few basic questions: How messy are you? Are you a night or morning person? What kind of music do you listen to?

Inside the freshman dorm Sunday, students exchanged answers while they moved in.

“What did you say for the ‘how messy are you’ one?” Riya Scheer, 17, asked her new roommate, 19-year-old Rachel Greene, as they stood in their new dorm room.

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“I said I was kind of messy,” Greene answered.

“Ah, OK, good, me too,” Scheer said.

Back in Pierre-Louis and Phillips’s room, they got to know each other beyond the questionnaire. The more they talked, the clearer it became that they came from different worlds.

Pierre-Louis, from Queens, N.Y., is a veteran of Northeast winters, while Phillips, from California, still needs to buy snow boots. Pierre-Louis comes from a big family; Phillips is an only child. They both drink coffee, but have different standing Starbucks orders. One is a night owl, while the other wakes up early. Pierre-Louis said she is very organized; Phillips said she tries her best.

As the conversation progressed, they learned that they had at least one thing in common.

“Not to be weird, but I stalked you on Facebook,” Phillips said.

“Oh don’t worry, me too,” Pierre-Louis said. “I mean we’re going to be living with each other for a year.”

“Well,” Phillips’s mother chimed in, “maybe longer if you guys get along.”

Older Brandeis students helped a freshman unpack.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Trisha Thadani can be reached at trisha.thadani@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TrishaThadani.