Starting college scared me. The constant work scared me, the ever-shifting class schedules scared me, finding new friends scared me. However, move-in day actually proved my greatest danger, the most terrifying obstacle in my path.
I’ve moved into college three and a half times (more on the half later). The universe has done its best to make those move-ins into rejected Monty Python sketches. Moving into my dorm room each year has proved one of the hardest, most crippling things I’ve experienced at college.
Freshman Year Move-In
I first realized that move-in day would turn out terribly when people’s organs started exploding.
In the summer of 2016, like any other frantic soon-to-be college freshman, I packed for school in my room when my father called. “Hey, Caroline, do you remember how I had a nasty stomach ache this morning? I went to the doctor to get it checked out, and now I’m about to go into surgery. My appendix is rupturing.”
Well, crap. Off to the hospital I went. And I spent much of the next week there. The appendectomy itself went fine, or as fine as cutting out a piece of a human can go, but an infection strolled into Dad’s guts the very next day. He spent a week in the hospital, and I spent most of that week keeping him under my not-so-tender care.
The anxiety of the vomiting and antibiotics and gastric tubes made me forget my anxiety about moving to college. When the doctors finally released my recovering father back into the wild, though, I had one week to finish getting packed for college.
Okay, not a problem, interfering universe. I’m a quick packer—the deadline won’t stop me from being ready to go in a week. What’s that you say, universe? The only person available to drive me to college and help me move into my room is my recently filleted father who can’t lift more than ten pounds?
At the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, once you park outside your new dorm, you get 30 minutes to move into your room. My freshman year move-in took over two hours. My father drove his Honda with all my belongings to Chapel Hill, but once there, doctor’s orders prevented him from helping. Though he tried to carry in a few items, I politely asked him to stop killing his organs and stay with the car.
One of my aunts volunteered to help me move in, but she also had diabolically-timed surgeries. A recent knee operation left her unable to carry more than 15 pounds, so she only carried the lightweight stupid stuff I shouldn’t have even brought, like potted plants, jewelry box and seashell collection.
My nerdy noodle arms didn’t prove much more effective at hauling things, even at full health. If it not for handcart and a super-humanly kind and strong student move-in help guy, all three of us would have died trying to move me into my sixth-floor room.
All of my stuff somehow ended up in my room, and my walking wounded assistants both miraculously survived. It remains a rough day to remember, though, and I still hold a grudge that I missed the best sight of the day. Apparently, while I had my back turned, someone brought a huge iguana into their room.
What did I do to make the universe deny me that sight?
Sophomore Year Move-In and a Half
My second college move-in, this time to a new dorm at the start of sophomore year, proved even worse.
My mother and sister became the poor saps roped into helping me that year, and they ended up doing all the work. I tried to help carry my fridge and printer up the three flights of stairs, but my limbs gave out. I ended up sitting outside in the sweltering sunlight, vision getting blurry, while Mom and Sis moved all my junk into my room.
They poured water down my throat and sent me to bed for a nap. Doctor Google recommended iron pills, and the school doctors sided with the Internet. I began knocking back a pill every day, but my state hadn’t improved much after I had to move again.
I am deaf, so I need a strobe light alarm in my dorm room to keep me from snoring through the auditory alarms for a massive fire. I stupidly left this fact off of my official accommodations, and I discovered two things right after moving in. One: My new room lacked the don’t-let-me-burn-to-death light. Two: Installing one in this particular room proved impossible.
I had to move across campus to a dorm with strobe lights.
My awesome sister (who I hope never reads this and learns that I’ve admitted that in public) helped me load all my stuff in her minivan. More accurately she carried all my crap down the stairs while my anemic butt toddled after her. Then we hauled ourselves to my new dorm. She again took all my stuff to my new strobe-lighted-up room.
Thank God my replacement dorm had elevators, otherwise, a murder probably would have occurred.
The Moral of the Move-In Disasters
There you have it: the tale of my college move-in disasters. My junior year move-in went smoothly by my standards. My mother broke her leg a week before school started. Dad and I almost missed the deadline to pick up our rental van. But nobody died.
Though horrendous in the moment my moving experiences became good lessons in being prepared. I now make sure I have all the services I need, fire alarms and otherwise, set up in advance. I’ve learned exactly what I need to pack for school and what useless junk I can leave in my closet at home. I’ve come to accept that my best-laid plans will likely go awry. And if they do, I have a good family ready to do what they can to help me. But most of all, I’ve learned about college in a nutshell.
My move-ins turned out unpredictable, physically tiring, literally uphill marathons of effort that I needed support to get through.
In the end, I always settled into my new room and started making it my own. College mirrors these experiences. Sweat, struggle, ask for help when needed and you’ll ultimately reach a newer, better place that serves as a starting point for even more exciting things. You just have to get through move-in day, which you always will.