Katherine Sotolongo’s journey to Union began nearly 1,500 miles away, in Cuba. It was there, growing up in challenging conditions with scant economic stability and with parents who were disabled, where Sotolongo dreamed of a better life.
When she and her family, which also includes a younger sister, were able to finally leave their home country and settle outside Miami five years ago, Sotolongo was on her way. The Spanish-speaking young woman pushed to learn English, excelled in a bounty of AP courses and graduated in the top 10 percent of her high school class.
She visited Union last fall, where she was greeted by students who made her feel welcome. Faculty, particularly in the neuroscience program, impressed her. And the campus landscape was unlike anything she experienced in Cuba or Florida.
“As soon as I stepped on campus, I said, ‘this is me,’ ’’ Sotolongo said. “I wanted to be here. This felt like home.”
Sotolongo is among the 575 first-year students (selected from 5,406 applications) in the Class of 2018 who will officially begin their Union experience Sunday, Sept. 7.
At 9 a.m., students will begin moving into their residence halls. At 3 p.m., following a series of activities and routine tasks, such as getting ID cards, students and their families will receive an official welcome from President Stephen C. Ainlay and other College leaders in Memorial Chapel.
At 3:45 p.m., the students will say goodbye to their families before heading off to group orientation activities. There are two events for parents: a tea in Schaffer Library from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and a reception hosted by Alumni Relations at 3:45 p.m. in Abbe Hall.
At 6:30 p.m., the students pose for a class picture at the Nott Memorial. Orientation activities continue on Monday, with a full slate of programs, including a talk by Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight (this year's summer reading for incoming students).
Residence halls open for returning students Tuesday, Sept. 9.
Fall term classes begin Wednesday, Sept. 10.
Opening Convocation, in which the Union community celebrates the official start of the academic year, is set for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9 in Memorial Chapel, followed by an all-campus barbecue on Rugby Field.
Here are five things U should know about the Class of 2018:
1. Twenty-six percent are international or from underrepresented backgrounds.
2. Seventy-seven percent of the students who submitted a formal rank graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
3. The class is one of the most geographically diverse, representing 25 states, the District of Columbia and 15 countries.
4. There are 15 Matthews and 11 Emilys.
5. One student on his way to visit Union stopped to help rescue a motorist from a burning vehicle on the New York State Thruway. To learn more, click here.