Anju Charalel fell asleep on a three-hour drive from Rockland, N.Y., to Waltham Sunday morning. She couldn’t sleep the past two nights, because her eldest daughter, Sandra, was beginning at Brandeis University to pursue a biology degree.
Charalel was one of hundreds of parents facing what has become an annual emotional reckoning, as more than 800 first-year students moved in at Brandeis Sunday, one of the first classes of 2023 to arrive in the Boston area.
“I think I can handle it; she’s so happy,” said Charalel, who, despite planning to visit her daughter next week, was nervous to no longer see her every day.
As September rapidly approaches, Boston is gearing up for the return to school and the mass of collegiates moving onto campus to start their first year away from home. Boston College, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been welcoming their general freshmen classes as early as last week, while other large schools in the city, such as Boston University and Northeastern University, plan to move first-year students in the coming week.
For some Brandeis students, however, move-in came at an earlier date, such as for the students who have to travel internationally.
Xinrui Wang, 19, who hails from China, moved in on Aug. 20, receiving help from her twin — who will attend the Berklee College of Music — on getting situated in her dorm.
“I went to high school in Utah, so I’ve been away from home several times. I’m used to it,” said Wang. And while she was still getting over her jet lag several days later, she said her mom is happy to have a perfect 12-hour time difference — versus calculating a 13- or 14-hour difference — to plan out their phone calls.
Meanwhile, Wang’s roommate, Wintana Sium, 18, is a first-generation college student who hails from Falls Church, Va.
Sium, unlike Wang, said she has never been so far from home before.
“I have spent so much time with my family, I’ve never really been out, so this is a big stretch; it’ll be hard,” said Sium, who plans to major in psychology and neuroscience. “I’m excited for my classes, because I don’t know what it’ll be like — if it’s like high school or different than high school.”
Despite her trepidation on leaving her comfort zone in Virginia, Sium said the move-in process at Brandeis was not as complicated as she thought it would be, and was surprised at how seamless it was.
Orientation leaders, student helpers, and other volunteers are trained by the university to help first-year students move in. The process was carried out with assembly-line-like precision: Line cars up; have a horde of helpers descend to unload said car; move all the stuff into the dorm; and, finally, direct the car away.
Lainey Solomon, a sophomore and first-time orientation leader, said that she understands moving in is a stressful event, so she wanted to provide new students with a friendly face.
“All the excitement is new to me,” Solomon said. “I really enjoyed my experience with my orientation leader and with moving in, so I wanted to give the same experience to the freshmen and to get to know them.”
She moved in a week earlier to prepare for the new students. On Sunday, she started unpacking their cars at 8 a.m.
Wang, the China native, said she was surprised with how efficient the process was, even though her early move-in was more low-key than Sunday’s.
Although Wang does not yet know what she wants to major in — she’s enrolled in classes that span psychology, international relations, philosophy, and sociology — she knows one subject she won’t be focusing on: math.
Still, Wang said she looks forward to seeing what she falls into.
“It’s kind of exciting and nervous as well, knowing new people, going to a new school, but most of it is excitement,” she said.