Rite Of Passage: Moving Into A College Dorm

It's an annual ritual in Boston, as well as other areas across the country, parents help their kids move in at college dormitories. In Boston, move-in day is pretty chaotic and ties up traffic.

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And let's go from a ritual of children to the rituals of college students. They come flocking back to campus every fall, tying up traffic, and causing moms to tear up. NPR's Tovia Smith, in Boston, checked out this year's migration.

TOVIA SMITH: Commonwealth Avenue near Boston University looks like a U-haul parking lot. There are trucks and vans double- and triple-parked. Here's a convertible with a guy piling kitchen chairs into the top. Can I stop you a second? I'm with National Public Radio doing a story about move-in day.

Mr. DAN MCDONALD: Oh. All I can tell you, it sucks.

SMITH: Dan McDonald is helping a couple B-U seniors through what he calls the mayhem.

Mr. MCDONALD: There's stuff piled in the street, like snow drifts of just junk. And you don't know what's trash and you don't know what's still being kept. It's wild. Okay, here we go.

SMITH: And coming down the street, here are two guys wheeling a giant grey bucket with floor lamps & ironing boards inside. How far are you guys pushing this thing?

Mr. KSHITIZ KOHLI: Just a mile.

SMITH: A mile?

Mr. KSHITIZ KOHLI: Yeah. I mean...

Mr. HAMZA HEIDER: It's a bit less than mile. It could've been worse with the remaining stuff. We got everything done by the movers so..

SMITH: Where's mom? Where's dad?

Mr. HEIDER: They aren't here to help. They're back home. They don't know anything about this.

SMITH: Oh, you're big shots now.

MR. HEIDER: Yep.

SMITH: As you'd expect from upper classmen, like Kshitiz Kohli and Hamza Heider, but it's a different story across the street at the freshman dorm.

Mr. BEN CHODOSH (Freshman, Boston University): I mean, I know. It's kind of awkward. And, you know, just crying on the street and everything. But it's because she loves me and I know that.

SMITH: That's freshman Ben Chodosh saying goodbye to his mother Sheri - for the third day in a row.

Ms. SHERI CHODOSH: You know, it's not about wanting to cling on to him but it's just, I just want to watch him 'cause going to be he's awesome. He'll do great things.

Ms. ALI SCHWERTNER: Here I come.

SMITH: For some, the path to greatness will start more smoothly than for others.

Ms. SCHWERTNER: Oh my God. It's running away, I know. I look like a freshman, huh?

SMITH: Sophomore Ali Schwertner barely averts a head-on collision with another dolly.

Ms. SCHWERTNER: Sorry, Sorry.

SMITH: she maneuvers into her dorm, up to the 13th floor, and finally to home sweet home.

MS. SCHWERTNER: Oh wow. It's smaller than I thought.

SMITH: The bed, a dresser and a desk pushed up against the white cinder block walls leave about enough room in the middle for a bath mat.

Ms. SCHWERTNER: It looks a little depressing right now.

Mr. NICK BEGAKIS: You know, there's prison cells bigger than this, huh?

SMITH: Seven floors down, Nick Begakis is building shelves in his daughter Christina's room with Aunt Cindy.

AUNT CINDY: All right. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

Mr. BEGAKIS: You got to put the clips...

AUNT CINDY: I did - but that other one has to turn in. My, it would be the hottest day of the year for God sakes.

SMITH: Temperatures close to 100 are testing everyone's patience, including freshman Rebecca Brown.

Ms. REBECCA BROWN (Freshman, Boston University): Like, you're yelling at each other because, like, mom is, like, overbearing and, like, remember to shower and to give old people my spot on the T. And, you know, it's like, mom, please, like.

SMITH: But other moms are making a clean break.

Ms. DEB ROGERS: All right. Well, listen, we'll let you go.

Mr. EMERSON ROGERS: Okay. All right.

Ms. ROGERS: Want the door shut, honey, or...

Mr. ROGERS: Yeah, sure.

Ms. ROGERS: Okay.

(Soundbite of door closing)

SMITH: Deb Rogers is a no-drama mama with her son Emerson, just as she was when her oldest daughter left for college.

Ms. ROGERS: Her first day of school, I was trying to cry. I think of sad things.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ROGERS: I was very ready to let her go.

SMITH: But other moms, not so much.

Ms. NANCY MATLACK: They're my whole life, my kids. I need them more than they need me.

SMITH: That's mom Nancy Matlack.

Ms. MATLACK: We were at a rest area yesterday and there was this woman yelling at her kids in the minivan. And I thought, oh gosh, don't yell at them; they're going to be gone before you know it.

(Soundbite of horn honking)

SMITH: And before you know it, move-in day is done. The U-hauls are emptied; the mini fridges are stocked, and the sidewalk is a teary sideshow.

Mr. GENE SMITH (Freshman, Boston University): I love you.

Unidentified Woman: All right. Call your mother.

Mr. SMITH: Yeah.

Unidentified Woman #2: Bye, baby. See you soon. Don't worry. Don't worry about anything. Bye! Study hard. Sleep well.

SMITH: when his mom starts to well up, Freshman Gene Smith turns the tables and he starts to comfort her. He gives her a hug and whispers softly, it'll be OK, mom. We can Skype.

Tovia Smith , NPR News, Boston.

(Soundbite of music)

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