Every person reacts to a new situation in a different way. For some, the prospect of a brand new setting with unfamiliar people elicits sentiments of excitement and joy—breaching a new horizon and picking up the pen to author a fresh chapter in one’s life. For others, nerves keep them up all night in terrified anticipation of an unfamiliar scenario. The good news for those of us entering the MMS program at Fuqua was that we had done this before. Whatever situation we were about to be thrown into at Duke, it surely could not mimic the flood of conflicting emotions from the first day of our undergraduate education.

I still distinctly remember arriving at school in New Hampshire, settling into my generic freshman dorm room, and then walking with my parents toward the designated orientation area. When we got about 100 yards away from the pack of my fellow first-year classmates, I turned to my parents and said, “you guys know you can’t come over there with me, right?” They quickly agreed. “Of course not! Go! Have fun!” Then with some hugs and maybe a few tears, I was sent off into a world of unexplored independence.

My team and I working on a project during orientation

My team and I working on a project during orientation

Fast-forward 4 years to my arrival in Durham. I was excited to meet the people I would be spending the next 10 months of my life with. Of course, there was some nervous energy that accompanied my excitement, but I’m sure this was common amongst the majority of the new students. Like I said, each person deals with new situations in their own unique way.

When I got to Fuqua on the first day, I was amazed at how much effort had gone into the preparation for our class orientation. I didn’t have to search very hard for the classroom where we would meet since there was an arch of blue and white balloons beckoning us to enter. After finding my seat marked by a personal nametag, I found a t-shirt (the first piece of Duke clothing I’ve ever owned) and Fuqua water bottle sitting in front of me. These were simple items, but I was immediately struck by the feeling that the MMS program administrators standing at the front of the room truly wanted us to feel welcome in this new place. To see the Duke blue and white covering every table surface in the large auditorium was astounding. We were being welcomed into a new community, and this would be our new home.

Some of the MMS staff ready for Section Olympics

I quickly learned on the first day of orientation that the incredibly distinct people around me would define the entirety of my experience at Fuqua. The individuals who tirelessly guide the MMS program, and my peers whom I had been accepted alongside, are undoubtedly what drives this program to excellence. For a few minutes during orientation I was hopeful that free gear like the t-shirts would define my Fuqua experience. But jokes aside, after meeting only a handful of people, it was clear where the real value of the program was. One of the first things that struck me was the diversity of our MMS class. Seeing students from all over the globe made me feel ridiculous for thinking my 6-hour drive from home to Durham was a big move. I was instantly excited by the prospect of learning about their vast assortment of backgrounds and experiences.

My favorite part of orientation was that I felt a connection to every single one of these people in the auditorium in the blink of an eye. The genuine disposition of every student, staff and faculty member was so obvious, and I felt comfortable the minute I walked through the doors of the auditorium. It kind of felt like home. I wonder if we’ll get any more free t-shirts?