Valerie Ebenki ’22 applied to seven colleges and toured four. She got into all of them, and might have gone anywhere. Yet on a sticky summer morning this week, Ebenki stood on the sidewalk outside Randolph Hall, belongings piled as high as her shoulders.
Nearby by was her mother, Elenour, and best friend, Lydia Fozo, who would be going off to college in just a few days, and family friend, John, here to help with the heavy-lifting. Beyond, cars and vans and even a moving truck made a steady procession through campus in a rite of passage known as freshman Move-In Day.
The class of 2022 came home to the University of Mary Washington Wednesday. They hauled bedding sets and bins of clothes, mini-fridges and furniture. They piled lamps and mirrors and wall art inside giant cardboard boxes loaded onto dollies. They lugged suitcases and shelving units, body pillows and laundry baskets, bags of snacks and bottled Lipton tea.
They brought photographs and the things they treasured: a vintage trunk and a stuffed Ninja Turtle. They brought their minds; the 940-member class of 2022 has an average GPA of 3.64 and an average SAT score of 1176.
They brought their own unique experiences. Two-thirds are women. Nearly a third identify as ethnically diverse. While nine out of 10 come from Virginia, incoming freshmen also represent 24 states plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and several foreign countries, including Brazil, Ireland, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. In addition to the 940 incoming freshmen, another 348 transfer students will also make UMW their first-time home this semester.
Amid all their worldly belongings heaped on sidewalks and loft beds, the class of 2022 brought their stories and the sum of who they are.
Ebenki’s story began in Cameroon, where she spent the first six years of her life with her grandmother and two siblings. Her parents had left the central African country when she was one, settling in the U.S. where Elenour Ebenki hoped to become a medical doctor.
She’d become a registered nurse; in 2005, her children joined her in Woodbridge, Virginia, and medical school was put on hold indefinitely.
Ebenki remembers leaving Cameroon, of arriving in the U.S. in the cold of January and seeing her mother for the first time that she could remember. “I thought she was my aunt. They looked a lot alike.”
The transition had been both exciting and confusing, but Ebenki had thrived, and so had her siblings.
Now for the second time in five years, Elenour was sending a child off to college. Her son, 16, was still at home, and both these things made move-in day easier than it might have been. She was also pragmatic.
“She’ll be fine,” Elenour said as she looked over her daughter’s new home. It was spacious—14-by-17 feet, with two big windows that let in light, and soon it would be decorated in turquoise and orange, with the bagsful of items her 18-year-old had spent all summer shopping for.
“She knows how to cook, clean and do her own laundry. She’s very independent,” Elenour said.
They’d wiped down the mattress and the furniture with disinfectant and hung Ebanki’s clothes in the closet, and now the rest of her belongings filled the bed she’d selected at the far side of the room.
Soon, her roommate would arrive, and in the afternoon, Ebanki would make her way to President Troy Paino’s welcome at the Anderson Center—her first event as a UMW student.
In six more days, classes would start. Ebenki was majoring in biochemical engineering.
She plans to become a medical doctor.