It was only 5 a.m. when Matt Serafin and his parents drove away from their home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, headed for Matt’s first year at the University of Mary Washington.
If Tamara and Bob Serafin felt any anxiety about taking the older of their two children to college, Matt wouldn’t have known. Once settled in the car with a semester’s worth of possessions, he went right back to sleep.
When the Serafin family arrived at UMW, they and hundreds more students, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other helpers found the unloading process running smoothly.
This year’s entering class numbers 770, with another 260 transfer students. But several student groups had arrived on campus days early to participate in pre-semester activities, and returning upperclass students will move in this weekend. So first-year move-in day – Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023 – was chill both figuratively and literally.
UMW Police and an enthusiastic corps of student, faculty and staff volunteers directed vehicles to convenient unloading points near the residence halls. And the weather was obliging, with distinctly un-August-like temperatures in the 60s and 70s in the morning and only the low 80s by midday.
Matt Serafin easily found the Randolph Hall room that he’ll share with a fellow lacrosse player and fellow “Matt” – Matt Hurst of Fort Mill, S.C. By midmorning, the Matts had mostly moved in, efficiently unloading clothes, bedding, shoes and snacks with help from Tamara and Bob Serafin and Angie and Ryan Hurst.
While Matt Serafin and Matt Hurst hail from out of state, many other first-year and transfer students come from communities around Virginia.
For Sailo Boyd, the commute from home to college took about five minutes. Sailo is a Fredericksburg native and can practically see their mom’s house from their new residence on campus. Their choice of college suited both parents, alumni Jennifer Boyd ’91 and Matt Boyd ’92.
But what really matters is that Mary Washington suits Sailo perfectly.
“UMW was my first choice of colleges,” Sailo said. “I love Fredericksburg, and I love this campus.” Mary Washington is big enough to offer clubs and extracurriculars, they said, but without the isolating sprawl of a city-sized campus.
The compact friendliness of the UMW campus was also a big draw for new roommates Paulo Resende-Tovar and Mikyas Telahun. Both come from Northern Virginia, where they knew each other at Annandale High School.
Before Paulo lived in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., he grew up on giant campuses including the University of Florida, so he knew he didn’t want that kind of setting. “I’m looking for community,” Paulo said, “and friends you don’t have to take a bus to go see.”
The two roommates got plenty of move-in help from family members. Paulo came with dad Antonio Tovar, mom Rosana Resende, and his older half sister.
Mikyas had even more family at hand; his twin sister, Belen Telahun, is also a UMW first-year student with a room just down the hall. The Telahun twins were accompanied by their aunt Yergalem Wedila who they said “is like our second mom,” because they’ve lived with her since arriving from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2020. And both their parents, Selamwet Shtye and Getasetegn Telahun, were also on hand.
It was an emotional day, as the couple will soon return to Ethiopia after seeing their twins off to college. Both parents shed a tear or two. But Aunt Yergalem cheerfully reminded them that they had a few more hours to enjoy the company of Mikyas and Belem: “We’re not saying goodbye just yet!”
Separation pangs weren’t limited to parents; students, too, anticipated missing family members while everyone gets used to this new stage of life.
Outside of Virginia Hall, Arianna Gutierrez confidently greeted President Troy D. Paino and Kelly Paino, who were welcoming families across campus. Arianna comes to UMW from Manassas, and she plans to immerse herself in campus life and service to the community while studying computer science.
Mom Tiffany Gutierrez isn’t worried about Arianna adjusting, but Arianna herself acknowledged a few butterflies. “I guess I’m a little nervous,” she said, “like, oh my God, I’m going to have to make all my own decisions.”
But UMW seems like just the place to take that step. “I wanted a school that wasn’t too far away, and I didn’t want a big campus,” Arianna said. “At a smaller campus with a better opportunity to meet people, you are someone.”