Move-in Day begins with tears, joy and dreams amidst pandemic protocols

Nearly 1,000 first-year students moved into campus residence halls Wednesday as the first of four move-in days kicked off at the University of Illinois Chicago.

For many students, like Brenda Solache of Belvidere, Illinois the move to campus and in-person classes will be the welcome return to some normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic required online classes and staying home.

“I’m really excited because it’s nice to get back to it after so long of being online. I think UIC has a really nice community, so it will be nice to feel really immersed in the community,” said Solache, who will study neuroscience in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Last year it was definitely so much harder to keep your grades up and keep up on all the material and being home all the time. After a few months, you started to feel very lonely and you were doing it all by yourself.”

While Solache was ready to start her college career, her mother, Thalia Rumbo, wasn’t quite ready to let go of her daughter — her first child in college.

“I’m worried, but I’m very happy for her too; I am very proud of her,” said Rumbo, who looked forward to helping brighten her daughter’s room with fresh sunflowers.

By the time returning students and others have completed moving into the six residence halls on Saturday, nearly 3,000 students will have moved on campus, according to Alex da Silva, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and executive director for Campus Auxiliary Services.

To help lessen issues related to the pandemic, housing officials streamlined the move-in process by requiring students and their families to drive up to outdoor centralized tents, where the new students were checked in. After receiving keys to their residence halls and rooms, the students and their families were directed to their residence halls, where they were met by professional movers who unpacked their vehicles and moved the student into their new home.

After students move in, they were required to undergo saliva testing on campus; students and staff are required to be fully vaccinated. 

“Were trying to mitigate the pandemic by streamlining the process,” da Silva said.

Campus health protocols require students and others to be masked in common areas of all campus buildings, including residence halls.

Tasia Gregory, a first-year student in the College of Education, drove to campus from her home in Radcliff, Kentucky, with her family. After driving through the night, they arrived early to UIC and were in line to check in and get her key.

Her father, Troy, said he was happy for his daughter to experience Chicago, his original home.

“I’ve been hearing good things about this college, so I’m excited to find what the future holds for her,” Troy Gregory said.

His daughter, Tasia, said she was nervous to be in such a big city compared with their hometown, which has a population of about 23,000. Tasia said she wasn’t worried about the pandemic because of the protocols put in place on campus.

“I’m more excited for new opportunities, but I’m nervous because I’m in something different; where I’m from it’s not like this,” said Tasia Gregory, pointing to the nearby skyscrapers in the Loop.

“I’m more than proud, I’m honored to be her mother,” said Crystal Stafford. “I’m happy and sad at the same time — I’m happy because she’s getting somewhere and doing great things (and it’s sad) not seeing her every day.”

Hannah Montelauro, who is studying graphic design in the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts, was thrilled for her new home.

“I’m definitely a bit nervous just to be in such a different area compared to my hometown,” she said. “I’m from ‘Small town USA’ so going to the big city, I’m nervous but I’m very excited.”

Tomika Seaberry, who, with her husband, Robert, drove their son, Simeon, to his new home, is active military stationed in Puerto Rico. To get her son to campus on time from their downstate Macoutah home, she left Puerto Rico and flew into Scott Air Force base in Southern Illinois near their home, and together they drove five hours to UIC. Nothing could have stopped her from seeing her son off.

“My son has been preparing for this moment since he was in kindergarten,” said Tomika, whose son is entering the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “He wants to be a cardiac thoracic surgeon. No, he doesn’t want to be — he will be.”

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