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Class of 2021,

Welcome to the beginning. To pinching yourself, still. To the first glimpse of Chicago’s skyscrapers, impossibly huge, burrowing up defiantly from the flat earth. To driving by street signs reading “University of Chicago” with an arrow, and, despite yourself, feeling chills all over again. To the campus streets teeming with cars, moving bins, and families’ fretful hums. To the feeling of a million “what-ifs” running through your mind—What if I’m the dumb kid now? What if I don’t like my house? What if my roommate silently judges my dorm decor? Silently judges ME?

Welcome to Orientation Week. To widened eyes meeting widened eyes, then darting away. To sharing a 12’x12’ room with a stranger. To teary goodbyes at Hull Gate, and empty promises to call every day. To an interminable Aims of Education address you’ll probably never remember. To new friends—met emerging from Rockefeller into the crisp autumn air—that you will.

Welcome to class. To wandering the quad trying to find Gates-Blake. To being assigned more reading in one day than you ever thought possible. To being intimidated into shy silence in your first Hum class. To attending office hours with your professor that balloon from half an hour to 75 minutes. To not being so shy in Hum anymore.

Welcome to the next four years. To late-night conversations in the house lounge, pajamas on but no one sleeping soon. To even later nights in the Reg, working hard with friends but laughing harder. To the disorienting realization that, without even noticing, you’ve begun to use the word “home” to describe two different places. But that neither are incorrect.

Welcome to the University of Chicago. Welcome home.