Move-In Day: Orientation 2019

Photos by Maria Stenzel; text by Bill Sweet

Amherst College staff greet new students arriving in front of Appleton Hall

Move-In Day 2019 was a departure from the heat waves that marked the summer. It was a cool morning, allowing for fall wear. Outside Appleton Hall, custodian Kayla Mitchell was a beacon for incoming students in her purple sequined jacket. The morning was an “all hands on deck” operation, she said, noting that this year went particularly smoothly. A tweak to the traffic flow plans sent cars in a different direction around the quad. The result was less traffic getting backed up into town.


Examples of unique names tags found on residence hall rooms

Every room and every pair of roommates got their own special door decoration.


A first year student sitting on a bed in his new residence hall, with his arms around his mother and little sister

For Obed Labra-Pelaez ’23, unpacking on the third floor of Appleton was the mundane culmination of the dream that inspired his mother, Estrella, to make her way by foot from Oaxaca, Mexico, to California with Obed when he was four.

“We wanted the opportunity to come here, to work hard,” Estrella said, with a broad smile on her face and Obed’s sister Isabella, six, nearby. The family now lives in Wildwood, N.J. (pop. 5,000), where Obed graduated from a high school class of 42 students, to be the first college applicant in his family.


Two new roomates pose in their residence hall

Both Obed and his roommate, Umar Ali ’23, said they are interested in studying economics, but from there, the similarities taper off. A resident of Queens, N.Y., Umar (right) comes to Amherst from Manhattan’s Trinity School.


A first year student sits in his new residence hall between his mother and father

Academic ambition runs in the family: Umar’s twin sister, Ayesha Ali, is starting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, her goal since childhood, said their mother, Kazi Islam (right).


A parent helps her first year student unpack his belongings

It was a definite change in scenery for Umar’s family, who’d spent the night before in Hadley.

“We have seen cows, and a cornfield,” said Umar’s father, Mohammed Ali, a New York City taxi driver.

“We saw stars overhead. Scary,” he joked.


New roommates meet during move-in day at Amherst College

Helen Feibes ’23 (left) of Lexington, Ky., shares an interest in writing with her roommate, Sophie Caldwell ’23 (right). Helen prefers fiction—she’s currently reading Anna Karenina just for fun. Her academic interests, however, are scientific: she said she plans to study neuroscience, possibly pinning it with a double major in mathematics/statistics.


Two roommates pose together in their new residence hall

Sophie, posing here with roommate Helen, said English, history and psychology are on her wish list for courses. She’s currently interested in pursuing a path as a journalist, but in light of her surroundings, she plans to read up on the poems of Emily Dickinson: “I feel like I have to honor her ghost.”


New roommates and their parents unpack belongings in Appleton Residence Hall

It can be a tight squeeze when you have two families setting up a first-year double. Mark Feibes (left) helped set up daughter Helen’s space, as Sophie and her family got her living space in order.


A first year student holds up posters he plans to hang in his room in Appleton Residence Hall

Ernest “EJ” Collins ’23, who drove 13-plus hours from Indian Trail, N.C., with his tenor saxophone, unpacked what’s arguably a perfect poster for a new Amherst student: a periodic table of elements that, upon closer inspection, reveals music styles (his favorites being classical, jazz, pop and not country, he said). Interested in studying anthropology and biology, he does come ready with a standard periodic table.


A first year student poses between his mother and father inside his new residence hall.

EJ’s mother Monique Collins said her son applied to bigger schools as a courtesy to his parents, but he knew once he’d experienced the Amherst community at a Diversity Open House Weekend that this was his place.

“I like how it’s a small institution instead of a major university, and you can meet with your professors,” EJ said.


Two new roommates pose for a photo in their shared room

Jasmine Shehni ’23 (left) comes to Amherst from Houston, never having been on campus. Having seen snow only twice in her life, she was curious about how winter would affect getting to classes. She’d just met her roommate, Tracy Huang ’23 (right), who comes from Los Angeles but, as it turns out, also spent her first five years in the Lone Star State’s most populous city.


A new student unpacks her belongings in the residence hall with the help of her mother

Move-in day was a breeze for Sunny Wang (right), who says said this was the fourth time the family has been on campus in the past year: her daughter Tracy is her second child to attend Amherst, joining older sister Silvia Huang ’22.

Tracy anticipates that having her big sister on campus will provide needed support at times, but she looks forward to exploring her own interests here, too. “I want to have my own identity,” she said.