Congested roads and a steady flow of people through Wal-Mart's doors this weekend signaled the return of Georgia Southern students to their Statesboro homes and dorms. Tuesday, more than 18,000 students attended their first day of classes, as the university's spring semester officially began.
"I am absolutely excited to see the students return and to kick off the new semester," said Brooks Keel, Ph.D., president of Georgia Southern University. "Not only is it great to see the campus bustling with activity, but the students also play a major role in the success of local businesses and our region's local economy."
For the first time in more than a month students filled campus buildings - eating, socializing and waiting for a lab computer in the Russell Union, picking up last minute items and books at the University Store, and feasting in the Landrum cafeteria.
"I am really excited to be back; you have no idea," said Kayla Bloodworth, a first-year special education major. "Today has been a lot nicer than my first day last semester. [Last year] I had no clue where any classes were. At least I know where buildings are now."
"It's good to be with friends again," said Paige Wallace, a sophomore biology student. "It's much better than doing nothing over break. It's been a good first day."
"Things have been extremely smooth," according to second-year geology student Josh Schrom. "It's good to be back and getting adjusted."
For Bloodworth, who had to deliver five boxes of clothes to her fourth floor Centennial Place dorm room, the new semester is an opportunity to improve habits from the fall.
"I'm looking to do a lot better with organizing and studying," she said. "I realized last semester that I have a time management problem, so I'm looking to fix that."
Other students were eager to get back into a school routine and escape home.
"I am excited. I have been in Macon too long," said freshman Nancy Colp laughing. "Five weeks is way too long to be with my mom!"
"My goal is to enjoy my time here as much as I can and keep my 4.0 grade point average," said Wallace. "You only get to do college once."
The cool, damp weather did not slow the frenzy of action on campus Tuesday. Students repeatedly filed on and off GSU transits en route to class and visited university stores for needed groceries and supplies.
Kristavia Hall, a senior justice studies major and University Store employee, said students are "buying pretty much everything; a lot of expensive books."
Hall said the early-semester rush typically lasts for two weeks.
Students also formed lines inside the Russell Union to receive Eagle ID cards and deposit money into Eagle Express debit accounts.
Booths inside the Union building, hosted by clubs, fraternities and sororities, reached out to passing students by offering information and free candy.
According to Keel, despite an expected and routine drop in enrollment for the spring semester - due to economic obstacles and academic short-fallings - the university is set to graduate a record number of students in 2011.
"We had the largest graduating class in our history for the May 2010 graduation, and we are on track to surpass that number for the May 2011 graduation," he said. "We already have more than 1,900 students indicate their intent to graduate in May."
Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454.