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For the First Time, Again: In-Person Orientation At UNH

Samantha Coetzee
Main street in Durham is full of "Welcome Home" signs for incoming freshmen.

The University of New Hampshire is filling back up with freshly graduated high school seniors this week, as the school holds its first in-person freshman orientation in nearly two years. The school opted for a virtual program last year due to the pandemic.

a brass statue of the unh wildcat
Credit Samantha Coetzee, NHPR
Rubbing the nose of the Wildcat statue is considered good luck for incoming freshmen.

Main Street teemed with nervous energy Tuesday afternoon as students made their way across campus for welcome meetings and lunch, following orientation leaders clad in bright yellow “UNH STAFF” T-shirts.

"I'm really excited about friendships and having kind of a big community, because my school definitely got separated because of COVID," said Hayley Cunningham, from Holyoke, Mass. "People that I used to be best friends with, we didn't talk any more — so it was kind of weird."

(We want to hear from you: What are you excited to do for the first time, again? Let us know at

And the return to a bustling campus wasn’t just nerve-racking for new students. Dariya Steele, a rising junior who was helping with the welcome activities, said it was surreal to see campus come back to life for the first time again.

“It’s kind of scary considering I’ve gotten used to sitting in my room alone,” she said. “But knowing that everyone’s able to come and everything’s going to be open up for them is really cool, and I’m really happy that they’re able to do this.”

Hailey Moores, another UNH junior helping out with orientation, looked past the initial anxiety and was  excited to help a new class feel at home on campus.

“It’s been really awesome being able to give them a little tour of the place, sharing some fun facts, bringing them into some traditions we have of school and just getting that kind of UNH hype and vibe of the place,” she said.

If you're planning to do something for the first time again, we'd love to help share your story. Send an email about your plans to, or leave us a voicemail at 603-513-7790. Click here for more details on how to participate.

Samantha Coetzee joined the NHPR team in 2020 as a weekend Board Operator and is now NHPR’s News Intern. A senior journalism major at the University of New Hampshire and New Hampshire native, Samantha is also the General Manager of WUNH, UNH’s student-run radio station.
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