‘Ready to fly’: Stories and scenes from the Class of 2027’s move-in day

Simone Mashaal is taking pictures with her family in the East Campus backyard. 

Mashaal, a first-year from Long Island, N.Y., has just moved into Randolph, and college is right around the corner. But first, it’s time to soak it all in and capture some memories with her family before she’s whisked away to begin her orientation program that evening.

Saturday marks move-in day for the Class of 2027 and the beginning of their Duke experience. Undergraduate students serving as Experiential Orientation program leaders blast music, welcoming first-years and their families as they pull up in cars to residence hall entrances. 

As the sun shines down on the new Blue Devils, they hear “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers invariably playing at some point outside their dorms. Orientation leaders yell “pop that trunk!” with the same level of palpable enthusiasm as each car drives up, and before anyone can blink, they have already begun transporting incoming students’ belongings to their rooms — no matter how heavy the items are.

None of this was new to Mashaal, though. Her older brother, Justin, is a Duke junior, so she experienced this very scene two years ago when the Class of 2025 moved in.  

Still, she says that the morning’s energy was “really fun” with all the welcomes and the excitement surrounding the day.  

For her father, Michael, the move-in process is like déjà vu. 

“I'm a very proud father, as you can imagine, and to have two kids here is a dream,” said Michael Mashaal. Simone adds that she’s looking forward to going to college alongside her brother.

But this goodbye is harder for Michael.

“She's my only daughter, my only girl, and I'll be very upset to see her go,” he says.

Just across the sidewalk, a group of orientation leaders scurry about near Blackwell dorm. Tired, but still with a sense of radiant energy, they’re making themselves useful among all the organized chaos. Sophomore Gabriel Reis is among them, and he’s been at it since 9:30 a.m. 

He’ll continue hauling boxes until 2 p.m., when move-in ends — though as an orientation leader, his role is far from over. Reis and the other OLs will serve as mentors to first-years throughout O-Week.

“It's very tiring,” Reis said, adding that he’s glad to see orientation from the other side. “But it's also kind of emotional and cute. I remember moving in and remembering my family leaving me here.”


Back on the East Campus main quad, there’s a line of cars so long that it fills up the loop and stretches out onto West Main Street. 

First-year Kushi Jakati and her parents are taking a break, sitting on the bench outside Brown dorm. Jakati, who’s just finished moving in, is from Greensboro, about an hour-long trip from Durham. 

Jakati is looking forward to doing a lot in the coming days. She’s only visited campus for an hour during Blue Devil Days and says she’s still getting the lay of the land. She plans to study computer science, and her curiosity has been piqued by Duke’s cybersecurity and cyber policy programs.

But first, she’s most looking forward to taking a nap after two hours of setting up her room. 

Her father, Shekar, says that saying goodbye “has not set in yet.” He hopes that his daughter will take advantage of Duke’s academic opportunities and achieve her goals. Her mother Pallavi interjects, adding that she hopes that her daughter will “be happy.”

Walking across the quad are first-years Tyler Richman and Nathan Gaviser, both from New York. The two were friends before Duke, first meeting at a high school camp. Their paths to Duke were different, as are their move-in experiences. 

A member of the men’s soccer team, Gaviser has been at Duke since early August. After about two weeks of experiencing campus without the rest of the first-year class, Gaviser says he’s most excited about meeting new people. 

“It's been weird. So I've been here and nobody's really been here. But now there's a lot going on. It’s exciting to meet people, my other classmates,” Gaviser said.

Richman, on the other hand, just moved into Alspaugh. This is the first time he’s seeing East Campus — he didn’t get the opportunity on previous visits. While Gaviser suits up for the Blue Devils, Richman is getting excited about being a part of the campus sports scene as a fan. 

“I'm excited to go to the basketball games,” Richman said. “I'm excited for hopefully a good football season — Clemson, week one. I'm pretty excited for that.”

It’s what made him choose Duke, along with the University’s academic opportunities. Neuroscience was on his radar when he applied, but now says he might be switching to biomedical engineering.

“I’m gonna figure it out,” Richman said.


First-year Rachel White and her parents are unpacking in her West House dorm.

White, a born-Blue Devil, is practically a Duke native already. Her mother, Michelle, was a Duke undergraduate and a member of the Class of 1992, and her family is from Asheville. As a result, Rachel has been coming to campus for basketball games and her mother’s reunions for years. 

She’s looking forward to continuing to attend games in Cameron Indoor Stadium and getting involved with Jewish life on campus. All of that boils down to the community at Duke, Rachel said.

Though she’s followed her mother’s footsteps in college choice, Rachel’s experience will be just a tad different. For one, she’s enrolled in the Pratt School of Engineering and plans to major in mechanical engineering, while her mother was a zoology major in Trinity College.

Campus has changed quite a bit since then, Michelle recalls. She remembers that back when she was a first-year, the engineering quad consisted of two buildings — Hudson Hall, which opened in 1948 and the Teer Building, which opened in 1992. 

Above all, Michelle hopes that her daughter will be “happy and healthy.”

“It makes me excited that she is here and she'll have a different experience,” Michelle White says. “I know she is in a safe place … she’s ready to fly.”

But before she can fly, she has to finish unpacking.

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Adway S. Wadekar profile
Adway S. Wadekar | News Editor

Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity junior and former news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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