Applause, shouts of praise and — at times — wails sang through the air as University of Florida medical students opened up envelopes detailing where they would embark on their residency program.
It was Match Day for 124 students in UF's College of Medicine class of 2022, a prolonged ceremonial event that has been canceled twice during the pandemic.
For medical professional hopefuls like Rania Saboungi, the event was a dream come true.
"It's just been such a long journey with lots of up and downs, and so you just feel like you're reaping the happiness of all the struggles you went through," she said.
Saboungi stood next to her mother who had tears streaming down her face as she found out her daughter was selected for her top choice — an OBGYN (obstetrician-gynecologist) residency program at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.
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The long-awaited Match Day event took place inside the G. Edward Evans Champion Club at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium around 11:30 a.m. and featured students born all over the globe.
Shelley Collins, associate dean of student affairs at UF's College of Medicine, gave the opening remarks and instructed students to find an envelope with their name on it, hoping the information inside contained one of their top choices for a residency program.
Students had the option of opening the letter with their family members or waiting for their name and program to be announced to the audience.
It was Collins' first Match Day in her role as associate dean and she was just as anxious as others in attendance.
"I'm a little nervous, I'm going to be honest," she said. "But I'm very, very excited for our students, they have done just a wonderful job of preparing themselves."
Students held their interviews and made their desired destinations late last year.
For Jorge Zaldivar, the long wait was worth it.
He came to the United States at age 13 from Spain and his parents each worked two jobs to ensure he only had to worry about his academics.
He will be doing his residency program in New Haven, Connecticut at Yale University's emergency medicine program.
He said the experience is full of mixed emotions and he is thankful for his family's sacrifices through his studies.
"I'm grateful for the experiences I've had that have led me to this point in my life. I'm pretty much speechless right now," Zaldivar said.
Clarification: This article has been updated to say how many participants were involved in the event compared to how many were in the graduating class.
This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Med students at UF find their perfect match in their residency program