Published: September 2, 2014
By: Caitlin Perrone
Texas A&M freshman Samantha Moore lost her way just once Monday -- her first full day of classes at the state's largest university.
The electrical engineering major from Portland, Texas -- a city with a population about one-forth the size of her university -- said she still needed to buy a calculator and log on to homework websites, but felt ready for her first semester as a college student and all that comes with it.
"I feel pretty prepared, need to get a few more things, but feel ready to be here," she said. "I think [the class work] seems pretty manageable, there's nothing too crazy yet."
Labor Day marked the first day of fall classes, and the additional 1,000 or so students on campus was apparent.
Texas A&M is expecting just over 59,000 students enrolled at the main campus, as well as the Health Science Center, Galveston and Qatar campuses.
The traffic congestion around Bryan-College Station was the first sign that school was in session. On campus, scores of students stood around bus benches, or sat if they were lucky. A line wound through the aisles at the Barnes & Nobles bookstore inside the Memorial Student Center as students purchased last-minute textbooks and supplies.
Tom Reber, the interim vice president in the office of student affairs. said his department was busy fielding questions from students, but said overall things were running smoothly.
"I think everyone's looking for directions at times for different classrooms, but I think for the most part our Aggies have the Aggie spirit -- they help each other out, they take care of each other," he said.
Just over 80 percent of all freshmen were on campus last week attending Gig 'Em Week, which was filled with welcome events for new and returning students to become familiar with the campus, Reber said.
On Monday afternoon, sophomore biology major Peter Joseph Arienza said he was comfortable with the way the day was unfolding. The student, who was enrolled at Lonestar Community College in Cypress for his first year, said he couldn't wait to tackle his first organic chemistry class. His goal? A 4.0 GPA.
"If I put in the work, I know I'll be able to succeed," he said. "You get what you put into it."
The Corps of Cadets, which has seen significant growth in recent years, expected to have about 2,550 cadets this semester, up from 1,850 enrolled five years ago.
Travis Beach, a junior in the Corps of Cadets, said the large number of new recruits was apparent and that he's looking forward to enjoying more special privileges as un upperclassman, including being able to watch movies and grow out his hair a bit.
"I feel like a regular person -- except for the uniforms," he joked.
While many students are trying their best not to be overwhelmed, they're far from alone.
With construction around campus, including at Kyle Field, blocking some roads, parking spaces were at a premium.
But this is the "new normal," at least for the next few weeks, said Peter Lange, executive director for the transportation division at Texas A&M.
"It was pretty typical," he said of the first day of class. "It's just the new norm is pretty crowded from a transit perspective."
He points to one of many statistics to illustrate his point: In the fall of 2012, the parking department issued 4,500 parking permits for the lots around Reed Arena. This fall, they've issued 6,500 permits.
The parking office encourages students to consider walking to classes, which sometimes can be quicker than the bus, and to try alternative routes, which could ease traffic. Students can use transport.tamu.edu to check the progress of university buses in real time, as well as to learn about a bike program.
Kenny Johnson, a sophomore electrical engineering major, used the transportation website often last year to track his buses and find his classes, but says he won't need it this year.
"I know where things are now. I don't have to look it up on my phone anymore," he said of the small victory. "I'm only a sophomore, but I feel like a senior."