By Julia D. Berg

Residential Reunion

By Julia D. Berg
Students living in residential housing are returning to campus and classes with renewed resolve.

With suitcases, backpacks, and skateboards in tow, University of Miami students are returning to their residential colleges, eager to put Hurricane Irma behind them.

At Stanford Residential College Thursday, advertising and art history major Alejandra Madrid was among the first to arrive. President Julio Frenk, making morning rounds for the re-opening of the Coral Gables campus, greeted her with a warm smile. She evacuated to Orlando when the Category 5 hurricane appeared to be heading straight for Miami.

“It was hard to choose what to bring,” she said. “I took a sweater that my grandpa bought for my mom, and a blanket that my grandma knit. It was an eerie feeling riding in the car with my family, not knowing what we’d be coming back to.”

Ronald Wabomnor, area director for Stanford Residential College, rode out the storm in a shelter with 60 international students.

“We had no wifi, and no cell service. So we played card games, and cooked over 1,500 hot meals together,” he said.

Added Tyler Rodibaugh, assistant area director for Stanford Residential College: “We did emergency drills for situations like this in the summer, so we felt very prepared.”

Resident assistant Alfonso Cuellar from Bogota, Colombia, said he’s looking forward to getting back to classes. “Time has no meaning any more,” he said.

Business technology freshman Mitchell Abitz, who resides in Walsh Tower, kept up with class reading assignments after evacuating northward. “Hopefully I’ll be ahead of the game. I’m also looking forward to seeing my friends again.”

Julian Carter, a second year criminology major and resident assistant at Mahoney Residential College, thinks his biggest near-term challenge will be to rebuild a sense of community on his floor.

“We’ll start by having lots of social gatherings to help students feel comfortable again,” he said.

Mahoney resident Sarah Ortiz Monasterio praised the University’s communication to students during the break.

“All of the YouTube videos were really well done,” she said. Her mother, Susan, added: “From a parent’s perspective, the videos of President Frenk from the ‘bunker’ were really reassuring. Especially the last one; it was very motivating and really gave us a sense of family.”

A few returning students joked that they’d been on a “hurri-cation.”

Kyle Sylvester, a desk assistant at Mahoney who is busy organizing the delivery of more than 1,000 UPS and FedEx packages awaiting returning students, said that while some felt it was a vacation, “for me it was two really stressful weeks.”

He is paid hourly and missed out on two weeks of work. Despite his personal challenges, he remained upbeat and helpful to students as they checked in.

Nazir Crump, a sophomore finance major, joked that he’s looking forward to sleeping over the weekend. He’d driven home to Orlando, and when the storm approached there, helped his family put down tarps and sandbags, then traveled to Jacksonville to check on his grandmother who has stage IV cancer. Both homes were spared major damage.

On Thursday, music wafted down the hall of a residential floor, elevators started to chime in harmony as they were summoned and the building quickly began coming back to life as more and more students returned to campus.

Throughout the weekend, thousands more will return with their hurricane stories, hugs, and high-fives, and a pervasive sense of relief that the U is ready to resume classes.

“I’m looking forward to getting in a flow of organizing my life,” said Crump, who is taking classes in statistics, economics, and accounting.