with gallery: For University of Michigan freshmen, a mix of excitement and nerves ushers in the next four years
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For Drew Maron, home is a long ways away.
The Atlanta, Ga., native is excited, and a little bit nervous, about his first year at the University of Michigan.
"It is a kind of strange responsibility living on your own at first, everything that has ever been taken care of for you is kind of on you now," he said. "It’s a little nerve-racking, but at the same time it's also liberating, the independence."
Maron and roughly 9,700 other students move into the U-M dormitories this week and will start classes on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Maron is one of roughly 6,000 freshmen enrolled in classes, according to preliminary school figures. A little more than one-third of U-M students live in campus housing.
As Maron and roommate Scott Gillespie unpacked their Alice Lloyd Hall dorm room Wednesday morning, they discussed their anticipation and uncertainty over the next four years.
"There’s so much to expect and not expect," said Gillespie, a Michigan native. "It’s crazy."
For Gillespie's mom, Elizabeth, her firstborn son's first year of college marks a new beginning for her family as well.
"It's hard, but it's time," she said through tears. "He's good. He's got two little brothers at home and it's just hard."
Diane Peters, who helped her youngest child unpack her dormitory on Wednesday, agreed, saying that becoming an empty-nester won't be easy.
"I’ve been home with my kids for 25 years, so this is a huge adjustment," she said. "I'm trying to figure out what I am going to do, what the next step is. But ... I’ll be here once a week to take them out to lunch."
Amanda, Peters' daughter who is now a freshman at U-M and lives in Alice Lloyd hall, said the most intimidating thing about starting college is learning to balance the workload.
"I know it's going to be significantly harder than high school and I just want to be able to adjust well," the English major said.
Added freshman Ali Foster, a Grand Rapids native who plans to major in international relations: "I am just excited to meet new people, but I am also nervous to start my classes and get everything settled and get into the groove of things."
Freshman year can be a period of upheaval for students, with some dropping out or transferring during or after their first year. However, U-M reports a 96 percent freshman retention rate, which is high among universities.
International student Yu Jun Soh moved into her room in Couzens Hall this week. The Malaysia native said moving to a new country, starting a new school and being on her own for the first time is intimidating.
"I suppose the people help," she said. "The people here are genuinely nice and that makes things easier."
Added Carven Leong, a fellow freshman from Malaysia who lives in Bursley Hall on North Campus: "We are worried about the classes because we're not sure how it’s like here."
Aside from school, Soh said she's excited for her first football game and first snowfall.
"There’s no snow in Malaysia," she said, "so I suppose we have to get used to the weather because of the four seasons."
Freshman Matt Olsen, who moved into Mary Markley Hall this week, said the most exciting thing about college is the independence.
"It’s a good experience to be around so many young people," he said. "You’re not around this many young people in your whole life."
Mollie Berkowitz, a freshman who moved into Alice Lloyd Wednesday, said she was "definitely ready to leave home" but is nonetheless "a little nervous" about starting college.
"Everyone is trying to make friends so it shouldn’t be that hard," she said.
For Gillespie, college is "a new story."
He may be unsure of what the next four years hold, but he is sure of one directive: "College is all about mistakes and learning from your mistakes and modifying your mistakes and trying not to screw up too bad."
In the background, as she unpacks a box, his mom Elizabeth, laughs.
"Quite the goal, son."