Keegan Harkavy '25 leads the way up the stairs with his parents Brad and Mador Harklavy taking up the rear.

Keegan Harkavy ’25 (from left) leads the way. Matt Tengtrakool ’25 is followed by Harkavy’s parents, Brad Harkavy and Ann Marie Mador.

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

‘It feels like a university again’

6 min read

First-year students arrive on campus for the first in-person semester since March 2020

Valeria Barriobero looked happy, a little harried, maybe a little nervous as she moved her things across the Yard to her new home in Thayer Hall on Friday.

“Just walking around the campus already, you see so many different people who come from so many different places,” said the 18-year-old Miami native, who was getting help with her stuff from her parents and boyfriend. “I’m just so excited to be able to interact with them and learn from all of the experience that they have.”

Barriobero was part of the third and final group of first-years to move into their dorms, a process that began two days before. The center of campus vibrated with activity as members of the Class of 2025, one of the largest ever at Harvard, were welcomed by new classmates, resident deans, and administrators who rolled up their sleeves to help with boxes, bags, and suitcases.

“I missed running into students and talking to them. It feels like a university again,” said President Larry Bacow, who had just come downstairs after helping carry one student’s gear. “I’m looking forward to getting to know them over something other than Zoom. There’s a level of excitement in part because no one took this for granted — it’s actually happening, we’re here.”

Bacow was joined by his wife Adele, along with Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Katherine O’Dair, Dean of Students, Nekesa Straker, Senior Assistant Dean of Residential Life and First-Year Students, Rakesh Khurana, Danoff Dean of Harvard College, and others. The deans looked just as delighted as the first-years and their families at the joyous, if somewhat chaotic, spectacle of move-in, particularly after the past stretch of more restrictive pandemic limits since March of 2020.

“It’s wonderful,” Gay said. “To see this campus coming reanimated and return to its natural state, which is alive with people and all the emotion of in-person interaction and all the ambient energy that comes with that. It feels tremendous. It feels like it gives us the fuel we need to carry us through the whole next year.”

O’Dair said that students’ enthusiasm and excitement could be felt around campus. She said everyone she had spoken to, from students to staff working rotations in residences, was happy to be back. “It is one of the best weeks of my career,” she said.

First-years gathered on the Widener steps shared their hopes for the semester, which included socializing with new people, creating meaningful relationships, and attending in-person classes.

As Aaron Zheng of Auburn, Mass. put it: “Learning learning again.”

Diego Sotelo agrees, but in addition he’s excited to join his new teammates on the wrestling team. The 18-year-old athlete’s father, Ralph Sotelo, said he can’t wait to see his son compete and hopes he’ll get a starting spot.

A few sophomores were also spotted in the Yard on Friday. Gabrielle Grant and Julia Gavel, who will be living in the Quad this year, were busy transporting Grant’s cello to Sanders Theatre.

After spending the last academic year online, 19-year-old Grant said it feels amazing to be on campus. Gavel, also 19, agreed. “I haven’t fully grasped that I’m at Harvard, honestly,” she admitted. “I’m so excited to go into the classrooms…and being able to talk to people.”

The classes of 2024 and 2025 will attend Convocation in-person at Tercentenary Theatre on Tuesday. Classes will begin for all students on Sept. 1.

“It is very exciting,” Straker said. “We have basically spent the last 18 months waiting for this moment and for this opportunity. Just to see the students being happy, excited to be here, meeting and greeting each other, it’s just great!”

Straker urged students to wear masks and follow all health precautions as the pandemic continues to affect the country. She also had some safety advice: try new things but do so in a safe way.

“As you learn more about what it means to live on campus with others, I encourage you to take your time as you explore and try new things,” Straker said in prepared remarks about the help-seeking policy. “If you’re ever in a situation where you or someone you know need assistance, please reach out to HUPD, UHS or residential staff.”

New HUPD Police Chief Victor Clay shared a few safety tips for new students of his own: be mindful of where you are, secure property out of view, and most importantly, never be afraid to ask for help if you feel unsafe.

“I’m like a first-year too,” Clay added. “I want to become a part of the fabric here.”

Gabrielle Brant ’24 (left) moves her harp past the John Harvard Statue. Julia Gavel ’24 is helping Brant make her way across the Yard to Sanders Theatre.

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Two sisters who attend Harvard.
Dean Gay talks a student.

Renneanna Dillen ’23 (left) with her sister, Adreanna Dillen ’25 (covid test in hand) on Move-in Day. Emma Manigat ’25 (right) is greeted by Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay at Stoughton Hall.

Photos by Kris Snibbe (right) and Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographers

Group of students gather.

First-years from across the country gather in Harvard Yard. Kane Sjoberg ’25, Fresno, California (from left); Nick Lopez ’25, Winterhaven, Florida; Aaron Zheng ’25, Auburn, Massachusetts; Alvira Tyagi ’25, Albany, New York; Sam Jones ’25, Newton, Massachusetts; and Srija Vem ’25, Birmingham, Alabama.

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Larry Bacow carry containers.
Adele Bacow carrying a bag upstairs.

Harvard President Larry Bacow carries a bin upstairs. His wife, Adele Fleet, gives students a hand, bringing up a bag.

Photos by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Diego Sotelo ’25 is embraced by his mother, Monica.

Diego Sotelo ’25 is embraced by his mother, Monica, as he moves into Straus Hall.

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

The Red Welcome Wagon.
Bumping elbows at Welcome Wagon.

The Welcome Wagon made its rounds with Alta Mauro, associate dean of students for inclusion and belonging, bumping elbows with Sam Lincoln ’22 at Lowell House. Dean Katie O’Dair (far left) and Andrew De Souza ’23 (far right) look on.

Photos by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Deans in the Yard.

Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana (left) and Dean Claudine Gay at Stoughton Hall as members of the Class of 2025 move into Harvard Yard.

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Dean and proctor greet students.
First-year Dean Nekesa Straker (left) and Proctor Dean Kaplan greet students at Stoughton Hall. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer