Aug. 19—MANKATO — Hundreds of freshmen were hauling clothing, electronics and storage containers into Minnesota State University residence halls Thursday.
But on move-in day, they were also carrying great anticipation and high hopes as they prepared to begin their college careers in the midst of the ongoing — but not as bad as last year — COVID-19 pandemic.
"I'm excited. It's going to be a good year," said Cameron Sheriff, of New Prague, while moving into McElroy Hall.
Sheriff had gotten all his stuff hauled into his new home in two loads, although some unpacking remained.
"It's a mess right now, but hopefully we can get it squared away to make it nice," he said.
And on Monday, after another 1,500 students move in on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, classes will begin. For Sheriff, he'll be headed to a classroom for each of his five courses rather than logging on to a Zoom version of higher education.
"As of right now," he said of his 100% in-person learning. "Hopefully it stays that way."
A year ago, virtually every class was at least partially online as the worst of the pandemic still lay in front of MSU, Minnesota and the nation. This year, while online learning was an option in many cases, most classes are scheduled to be held the traditional way.
Tonya Lopez-Ibarra, of Nicollet, has just one online class on her schedule. She echoed Sheriff's eagerness to begin the college life.
"It's always been my dream school since freshman year in high school," said Lopez-Ibarra, describing her emotions as excitement tinged with some anxiety.
Payton Josewski, of Rogers, said he's feeling a sense of anticipation even as he recognized a bit of sadness about moving on from the first part of his life.
And his mom?
"Trying not to cry," Heidi Josewski said. "Proud of him."
Lopez-Ibarra's father was happy for the eldest of his four children: "She's got a new chapter in her life. At the same time, nervous."
If her little brother was heartbroken, or in anyway anxious, about seeing his sister move out, he was playing it cool.
"I'll kinda miss her," 10-year-old Damian said, "because she was my second favorite."
Thursday was not only the first day of move-in but the busiest.
About 800 students had scheduled times on Thursday and another 600 were set to join them Friday, said Nicole Faust of MSU's Residential Life department. Appointments aren't required Saturday and Sunday, when the final 900 are expected to arrive.
Nearly 400 students registered to participate in the "Drop & Go" program, whereby students could haul most of their stuff into dorm rooms last weekend to avoid the rush of the formal move-in days, Faust said.
That appears to be well below the number of "Drop & Go" participants a year ago when pandemic restrictions were everywhere. And while masks are once again required in indoor spaces, MSU's Welcome Week activities — aimed at getting new students to interact — includes several indoor events, ranging from movies to "Family Feud" games to a bingo party with a long list of prizes.
"Students are definitely excited to be on campus," Faust said.