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When my parents moved me into my Green Quad dorm in 2019, I didn’t think we'd find ourselves lugging the blue Ikea bags up the yellow brick stairs in sweat-soaked clothes again in 2022 — only this time to move my little sister in. But here we are.

But I knew long before I piled my car up with clothing-stuffed trash bags and buckled-in plants that Columbia would soon become my home. 

As I’m entering my fourth and final year, I don’t want the days of eagerly waiting to see the green highway signs read “Columbia” to end. 

To my sister (and all freshmen): don’t worry. This will be a year of change. You’ll make new friends, and probably lose some, struggle in some classes while others are a breeze, get lost once or twice and trip on the way to class. 

It’ll all be okay: this is a learning experience. Most of all, just be who you are. Don’t try to change yourself for any experience or person — everything is new, so just go with it. I promise you’ll find your place. 

To our sophomores and juniors: welcome back! You’re in that sweet spot where you’re no longer new but still have lots of time left in Columbia. 

These were the years I focused on school and my career, which I’m so thankful I did. But don’t forget to go to the football games, explore the city and grow your relationships. 

To my fellow seniors: let’s soak it all in. I know far too much of my experience was clouded by COVID-19 precautions or worrying about what grade I would get on an assignment. But we only have a semester or two left, and I plan to make mine count. 

I’ve made better friends and mentors than I could have imagined, and I want to spend my final months making memories in their company. 

And to everyone else in our Carolina community: Aren’t you so glad your students are home? 

Whether you were in town or away this summer, this edition has you covered with everything you need to know. 

From getting a new president and revamping our dining experience to a look ahead at the football and concert seasons, turn the page to get a reminder of what makes this place so special. 

Welcome home, 

Kailey Cota