SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald
Excitement, and a little apprehension, was in the air Thursday as incoming Fort Lewis College freshmen moved into their dorm rooms and met roommates for the first time.
Between intermittent rain showers, students and parents busily shuttled clothes, musical instruments, outdoor gear and beloved stuffed animals inside.
Their arrival comes just three days after USA Pro Challenge riders departed on Stage 1 of the statewide race. Cyclists and their support crews lodged in the FLC dorms last weekend, and college staff worked quickly to change sheets and prepare the rooms for students.
An exact breakdown is unavailable until “census day,” two weeks into the academic year. But college spokesman Mitch Davis expected a slight majority of this year’s freshman class of 800-900 students to be in-state residents.
A surprising number, like Mark May of Denver, were setting foot in Durango for the first time. May applied to and decided on Fort Lewis sight unseen.
“I love the remote location. I’m going big or going home,” May proclaimed. He plays the guitar, harmonica and ukelele and plans to study music business so he can self-manage his future career.
Nearly all freshmen interviewed cited “the outdoors” as an incentive to come here. Even those who didn’t know a carabiner from the Carribean were enthusiastic to branch out and try their hand at adventurous living.
Briana Devore, a theater major from Eaton, who auditioned before Fort Lewis faculty in February, brought a bicycle despite admitting she had ridden it only sporadically so far.
“It makes me feel athletic,” Devore said. “Hopefully after a year I won’t feel like a fraud.”
Peter Stone grew up in Boulder but wanted to escape what he called the University of Colorado’s “California atmosphere.” Stone is a second-generation Skyhawk; his mother, Kristi Dahl, fondly recalled her college days as she helped her son empty and collapse cardboard boxes.
“I’m glad he chose to pack light,” Dahl said.
“Light” was in the eye of the beholder. Some freshmen were adamant they brought only the bare essentials, but their rooms teemed with video game systems, beanbag chairs, goldfish bowls and kitchen appliances. One student’s room had dozens of leafy plants creating a jungle-like impression.
Zeal and brio over meeting new people was the prevailing mood among most freshman. However, a few reported nerves about exam difficulty or navigating their way around campus.
Some were melancholic about leaving dogs and high school friends behind.
“I’ve had the same group of friends since kindergarten,” said Scott Greenler of Edgerton, Wis. “But the dorms are a good way to make some new connections.”
To forestall roommate conflict, the college’s housing department offers a compatibility survey as part of its admissions process. The idea is to match up students with similar “lifestyle indicators,” such as cleanliness and sleeping habits.
Camden Howlls and Liz Matthews were satisfied with their arrangement: Both described themselves as easy-going, late risers and smokers.
“I was a little nervous about getting a bad roommate,” Matthews said. “But it’s OK, you’re cool,” she reassured Howlls.
Classes begin Monday after three days of tours and orientation events, which include a geocaching competition and a theatrical production called “OMG ... Awkward” that pokes fun at social taboos and common freshman faux pas.