UVI students move in

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Move-in day for freshman and first-time dorm residents at the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas and St. Croix was a hot one Monday, but everything flowed smoothly as the students settled into their new homes.

Student Housing supervisor Sean Georges said UVI changed things up a bit on the St. Thomas campus this year, allowing students to check in directly at their residence halls. The new system means less lugging of suitcases from the student housing office across campus to their dorm rooms, he said.

Monday was the start of orientation week for new, transfer and exchange students. The returning dorm residents move in on Friday.

"The campus should come alive this weekend," Georges said.

On the St. Croix campus, Head Resident assistant Zoe Walker and her team were busying themselves the last few days picking up students arriving from varying destinations across the United States, many coming to the campus for the first time.

She said of the 115-student capacity in the four dorm blocks, about 70 students are expected to be staying in the dorms this semester.

Brooke Wilkinson, a sophomore nutrition and food major, was getting a feel for the place on St. Croix she will call home for at least the next four months.

Wilkinson, who is from Austin, Texas, said she had been attending Texas State University but was ready for a change of pace and a change of scenery.

"I've had on my bucket list for a while now that I wanted to live in another country, but as time passed and the opportunity came up, I figured living in one of the territories is just as good," she said.

Wilkinson said she is excited and ready to delve into island life and primarily wants to learn how to scuba dive before she leaves at the end of the semester.

"I have always wanted to learn to dive, and this is the perfect opportunity for me to do this," she said. "I think it will all work out."

International student Deborah Leuherr, from Switzerland, transferred to the St. Thomas campus after spending a year at a college in Texas. A psychology major, Leuherr wasn't sure she would get campus housing and was relieved to get a spot in the South dorms.

She said the room is small, but she likes that it is right next to the cafeteria.

"In this weather, you can be outside often, so I don't think it matters much," she said.

Exchange student Libbie Duskin, a biology major from the University of Utah, was trying to recover from a long day of travel and find some motivation to go to Kmart for bedding and supplies. She said she got on a plane at 1 a.m. Utah time, and arrived on St. Thomas at noon Monday.

"I just brought clothes and the basics," she said.

Duskin said she chose the territory for her semester abroad to try something different. She hopes to do a little island-hopping and see some other surrounding islands while she is here.

Mary Herd and her mother, Jacqueline Lewis, were checking in at the West dorm on St. Thomas. They came in last week from Los Angeles and have been enjoying a little vacation time before school starts.

"We had time to get acclimated, have fun and try to get her connected with different aspects of the island," Lewis said.

Akilah Simmons is a Crucian, but she said she also is looking for new experiences. She said while her home is only a few minutes away, she opted to stay on the St. Croix campus as she goes into her junior year.

"The whole college experience is different when you are living on campus, so I wanted that real feeling," she said.

By Monday afternoon, Simmons still had lots of unpacking to do to give her room a personal touch, but she said she expects to still make frequents trip home.

"I've met my roommate, who seems really nice so far," she said. "This is a time for me to get some independence and depend on myself."

Simmons said she had heard that the campus life at UVI is boring, but she plans to make the best of it and get involved in the on-campus activities and balance her social life with her studies for a great year.

On the St. Thomas campus, freshman nursing student Monee Herbert was checking into her room with little more than a purse. A recent Charlotte Amalie High School grad, Herbert said she would make more trips with the rest of her stuff later on. She said living on campus just seemed easier because she lives on the other side of the island.

She said once the semester starts she wants to: "Stay focused and party a little bit."

Callah Raji is from St. John, and wanted to live on the St. Thomas campus to avoid the daily ferry commute he had to endure while attending Ivanna Eudora Kean High School.

He already has spent five weeks on campus during the summer participating in the UVI bridge program to get students ready for their first semester. He said he took basic courses this summer, and is looking forward to finally taking courses in his major, communications.

"I'm looking forward to the fun part," he said.

Thailia Rodrigues, a senior from Denver Colorado, said she did some searches online for a nice "cultured" community and said St. Croix was the ultimate destination. She said she believes the experience of the next semester will be the real hands-on experiences she will need to enhance her degree in communications, with minors in business and Africana Studies.

"I love cultures and different people, so this was ideal for me," she said.

Rodrigues arrived on-island Monday afternoon and said she is ready to see the island and meet new people.

Rodrigues' roommate, Amber Aragi, had been on-island since Friday, arriving with her parents and sister. As a freshman who had not yet decided her major, Aragi said she is not sure whether she would just complete her first year at UVI or whether she would continue and complete her degree in the tropics.

"My dad has always wanted me to stay and go to college close to home, but I was ready to leave and this seems like a great idea to learn more about myself and life," she said.

Aragi said St. Croix was much more attractive to her than her home in Brookfield, Conn., because of the great mix of people from different backgrounds.

"When you live in a place where there are no minorities, it's all so bland, but I have so much more to experience and to learn here and I'm really excited," she said.

Aragi's family played a game of round robin with her, as they each hugged and kissed her multiple times and said their goodbyes. She said, with the exception of a few weeks at summer camp, this is her first time away from home and while she has apprehensions because of the unfamiliarity, she is really not very worried.

Luz Lazalde knows that feeling of the unfamiliarity that breeds concern. She was back and forth from the small coin laundry on the St. Croix campus Monday, making sure her son was left with all clean clothes when she returns to Dallas, Texas, today.

"I had to come with him just to make sure he settles in right and so I can see where he will be," she said. "He is my baby, and he will be here without me."

Jose Lazalde said while his mom is a bit nervous, being a marine biology major, he thought coming to the islands would be perfect. He said he will start his studies on the St. Croix campus, then transfer to St. Thomas next semester. He said he loves the small campus feeling and expects that he will meet everyone soon.

"This is a beautiful island and a beautiful campus," he said.

During the week, new students will be going through placement testing, meeting with advisors, registering for classes and learning their way around campus.

New to orientation this year is the university's first convocation sessions for new and transfer students on both UVI campuses. The convocation is a formal ceremony that will include an address from UVI President David Hall. All the new students will be pinned with a UVI pin to welcome them to the UVI family.

Fall semester classes begin Monday on both campuses.

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