'LDOC is a blank tote bag': The story of a long-awaited last day of classes

Duke’s last day of classes was a cause for many celebrations.

It was a celebration for making in-person connections on campus after some had endured the previous year online. It was a celebration of the frenzy of events that had occurred throughout the year, from new academic programs and in-person performances to basketball. It was a celebration for all students, who had more or less gotten through their classes in one piece. And it was a celebration for seniors, who would soon be leaving Duke’s campus not as students, but as alumni.

With Chapel climbs at dawn, silent disco on the Bryan Center plaza and last-minute cram sessions in the library, here’s how Duke students spent the morning of the last day of the school year.

Duke Chapel, 6:02 a.m.

In the early morning hours, 15 Duke seniors, all Chapel Scholars or otherwise involved in Religious Life at Duke, trekked up the 239 chapel steps to watch the sunrise. Led by Rev. Bruce Puckett, assistant dean of the Duke University Chapel, the students began the ascent before dawn and watched the sky progressively lighten. They said prayers, took group pictures and read scripture. They watched Duke’s campus wake up.

Along the way, they stopped in to see the bells, looming silently before the day’s work began. The climb up the winding chapel staircase is not a simple one, but the students all said that the potential claustrophobia and nausea were worth it. Conversation and laughter echoed through the narrow corridor.

“It’s like when you ride too many carnival rides and want to throw up, but you get a good view at the end,” said senior Jonathan Yonke. 

Joseph Emmer, also a senior, saw the beauty in the early morning moment. 

“It was poetic to watch the sun rise on the Duke Chapel as it also sets on our time at Duke,” Emmer said.

Center for Multicultural Affairs, 10:26 a.m.

College students love free food, and Blue Devils on LDOC are no exception. The grab-and-go brunch at the CMA was a huge success, and the food was gone in a matter of minutes. 

With the beautiful weather, some students decided to sit out on the CMA patio and listen to music. The tunes were sounding out across the outdoor seating area: pop, rhythm and blues, and whatever else was added to the queue. 

“The students were ready to brunch it up. They were really excited to come, everybody was everywhere, talking and hanging out,” said Spark Fellow Ana Ramirez, T’20.

The area cleared out after not too long, as students moved on to the next event in their busy schedules.

“There’s too many events and too little time to go to all of them,” said sophomore James Liao.

Marketplace, 10:27 a.m.

Over on East Campus, birdsong carried through the crisp morning air as students strolled to the bus stop in pairs and trios. The red brick of the Baldwin Auditorium contrasted brilliantly against the cloudless blue sky. 

In spite of the quiet morning, the hum of excitement among the first-years was palpable in Marketplace. Friends greeted one another with smiles as they made their way through the omelet bar and waffle station, exchanging, “Happy LDOC!”s as they passed. 

One girl struggled to shut her close-to-bursting box of strawberries in the fruit line. She turned to a friend, lamenting the lack of fresh produce available on West Campus next year. 

At a table near Durham Market, first-year William Kenealey expressed similar feelings about the all-you-can-eat dining on East Campus.

“A hot take? I lowkey love Marketplace,” he said over his go-to breakfast of the day’s fancy eggs, potatoes, and fruit. “I love the vibe at Marketplace, and like, the community it has. I think it's so fun to just go to random tables and sit with people and see all your friends here at once.” 

His friend first-year Renee Urtusastegui nodded in agreement, noting her love for fresh pineapple before reflecting on her first year at Duke. 

Urtusastegui cannot believe her first-year went by so fast. “I met Will, the guy sitting next to me, literally O-Week, the first day. And here we are almost a year later and it went by in a blink of an eye. I can't believe that,” she said. 

LDOC_balloons _reddy.JPEG
LDOC balloon display.

Abele Quad, 10:45 a.m.

Walking through Abele Quad, a feeling of anticipation was in the air. Campus was not quite buzzing yet, and the sidewalks were empty. On the far end of the quad, a crew of workers was unloading equipment from a moving truck, building the stage for LDOC’s main event, the evening concert, headlined by A$AP Ferg. 

Sophomore Jessica On was awake and ready to take on the day. “I’m really excited, except for the fact that I have a quiz,” she said. 

She noted that it was the first in-person LDOC for juniors, sophomores and freshmen. 

Sophomore Madi McMichael interjected. “We’re enjoying the sun, enjoying the stress-free environment.”

As they talked, a stream of friends kept approaching, wishing them a happy LDOC and inquiring about their plans for the day. Something about the day made everyone seem unburdened, taking time to enjoy each others’ company.

Abele Quad, 11:20 a.m.

In no time, the quad began to come alive with students as they emerged from their classes and dorms. On one side of the quad, groups of students dunked white sweatpants into buckets of water and splashed them with multicolored paint. On the other side, a line was forming for students to get their faces painted.

DKU First year Soumya Lahoti and sophomore Trinity Johnson were next in line. They were busy picking out designs.

“I’m gonna get this one,” Lahoti said, pointing to a heart shaped design with wings sprouting from both sides. “It’s super badass. I want to get it on my neck.”

Johnson opted for a design with stars and the moon. “This one spoke to me,” she said. “I think we're gonna end up going for the forehead!”

Soon, it was Johnson’s turn. As the painter stuck the stencil onto her forehead, she laughed and said, “I just want to relive my childhood!”

Rubenstein Library, 11:36 a.m.

Rubenstein Library’s tense, studious atmosphere was a stark contrast to the lighthearted mood on Abele Quad. The Gothic Reading Room was pin-drop silent—only the occasional squeak of a water bottle being opened or the rustle of paper could be heard.

Three students sat hunched over their laptops, furiously typing. They were surrounded by stacks of books that seemed to spiral up toward the ceiling.

One student with wide-rimmed glasses looked up in a panic. “I’ve got my thesis due in 30 minutes!” she said.

Brodhead Center, 11:45 a.m.

Every LDOC, the Brodhead Center offers special menu items, and this year was no different. From the cauliflower tacos at Farmstead to the Katsu burger combo at Ginger & Soy, the expanded menu items seemed to be catching routine-oriented students off guard.

Senior Joe Choo was sitting in Ginger & Soy with a group of friends all sporting matching bucket hats. He sang the praises of the Katsu burger. “It was very good. Chicken was juicy, it was very crisp, fresh slaw too. Highly recommend.”

“We’ve been taking advantage of all the free stuff,” said senior Kelsey Zhong. “We got tote bags, we got bucket hats, t-shirts, sweatpants. Literally everything.” 

Taking advantage of new options seemed to be the theme of the day. Questions of “Where did you get that?” echoed through the high ceilings of the Brodhead Center as students eagerly pursued intriguing new food options.

In his final LDOC, Choo said it was a good time to reflect. 

“I’m being more intentional with reaching out to others, having that great last minute conversations with people,” he said. “When you’re out in the real world, it’s a little bit less likely to happen, right?”


Bryan Center Plaza, 11:15 a.m.

After a lengthy wait in the line snaking through Bryan Center Plaza, senior Matthew Majsak triumphantly clutched his screen-printed tote bag. He wasn’t able to get his hands on a T-shirt, so he figured that the bag, with the year’s logo printed in brown, was the next best thing. He wasn’t quite sure if he wanted to use it for groceries, or just keep it as a memento of his second in-person LDOC. 

The joy on the plaza was infectious, and Majsak beamed as he watched his fellow students retrieve their bags and bucket hats. 

He expressed excitement about the first in-person LDOC in three years. 

“As much as it is for me to get one last one before I graduate, it's also cool to see people who haven't really had that experience yet, kind of live it out in full force,” he said. 

Majsak had a full itinerary for the rest of the day. In addition to yoga at the Wilson Recreation Center, he planned to attend the afternoon jazz performance and the highly-anticipated LDOC concert. 

“I’m just kind of going with the flow all day,” he said. 

Sophomore Emma Chun expressed similar sentiments about her LDOC plans with a metaphor. "LDOC is a blank tote bag,” she said. “Only a screen print can tell us where it will go."


Bryan Center Plaza, 1:30 p.m.

By the early afternoon, the Bryan Center Plaza’s winding lines gradually dissolved into crowds of students casually milling about. Groups of students swayed and shuffled to a soundless beat. Big black headphones covered their ears, and they danced to music only they could hear.

“You want to learn how to do the Spanish salsa? I’ll teach you!” one student laughed as he grabbed his friend’s arms, pulled him in and twirled him around.

First-year Lauren Tse and junior Daniel Billings were catching a break from the action.

“They're like playing bangers of music and everyone is dancing over there. The energy’s buzzing, everyone’s having so much fun,” Tse said.

“It's just funny when you're vibing. And then you look at other people looking at you vibing and they have no idea where you're listening to,” Billings added.

A moment passed, and Billings lit up. “Oh! They’re playing Industry Baby!” he said, putting a hand to his headphones.

Tse and Billings’ few minutes of rest were over. They quickly readjusted their headphones, then headed back into the crowd.

Maria Morrison profile
Maria Morrison

Maria Morrison is a Trinity senior and a digital strategy director for The Chronicle's 117th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 116.

Anisha Reddy | Senior Editor

Anisha Reddy is a Trinity junior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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Katie Tan | Digital Strategy Director

Katie Tan is a Trinity senior and digital strategy director of The Chronicle's 119th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 118. 

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Sevana Wenn | Features Managing Editor

Sevana Wenn is a Trinity sophomore and features managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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