Rekann Keppinger arrived in Juneau for the first time on Saturday morning to embark on a new chapter in life.
Keppinger, 18, of Salem, Ore., was one of numerous incoming freshmen who spent Saturday afternoon moving into the Banfield Hall dorms at the University of Alaska Southeast. Check-in continues today at the Auke Bay campus for students moving into student apartments.
A meeting with a UAS representative at North Salem High School was the catalyst for her decision to come to Alaska, Keppinger said.
"I was just there at the right moment and learned about it, and I was like, 'that's where I need to go.' It was like basic instinct," she said.
Keppinger said she loves the ocean and came to UAS to study marine biology.
UAS Residence Life Manager Joel Webb said moving into the dorms is a big step in the lives of college students.
"You move from what could have been a fairly structured environment with your parents into a pretty independent environment, where it's really key that you engage academically and you engage with living your life on your own and make independent decisions," Webb said.
Webb said students new to UAS will have the opportunity to discuss any concerns about making the transition to college during a three-day orientation beginning Monday. The first day of classes is Thursday.
"That's really what the living environment is focused on - helping students make responsible, independent choices," he said. "First priority of any student who lives here is being a student. So we encourage them with life skills to help them be the most successful student they want to be."
Webb said the student population in housing is comprised of people from all over Southeast Alaska, the continental United States and even several foreign countries. He said he estimates about 15 to 20 percent of students living in housing are from Juneau.
"I think largely it's the environment that attracts them," Webb said. "It's the community and the environment and the idea of a small university in a very cool outdoors-type of place."
Adam Fondell, 18, moved to Juneau from Sitka because of the affordability and closeness to home, he said.
"I thought I should get an education, so I decided to do so," Fondell said. "It will be a new experience. It'll be fun, I'm sure."
While setting up his computer in his new room on Saturday, Fondell said he is a little nervous about a couple of his classes but not nervous about the transition to a new city.
"I've been around Juneau my whole life, so it's like another home," he said.
Keppinger said she is excited and nervous about moving so far from home.
"I hope I don't get homesick," Keppinger said. "I really hope I don't, because there is so much at home that I really love to be around. I just hope I don't, because so many of my other friends did."
Her mother flew with her to Juneau to help get ready for the new school year in a new city, she said.
"I'm excited for her," Betty Keppinger said. "It's an excellent opportunity to go to school, and she's wanted to do this for all these years.
"I'm trying to tell myself that I probably won't cry, but I know I will," she added.
UAS sophomore Amanda Triplett of Ohio, the first-floor community advisor for Banfield Hall, knows firsthand how difficult it can be to move to a school far away from home, she said.
"They experience a lot of homesickness, and they just need to realize that that's a normal occurrence," Triplett said. "They just need to work through it, call home and just do those little things that help them reconnect with family back home. That's a big thing."
Webb said students will be busy getting ready for classes to start on Thursday.
"They have a lot to do between now and the first day of class, just getting aquainted with the community and the university," he said.
Eric Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.