First Impressions: What new students were saying during Welcome Week

Editor’s note: During Welcome Week, GCU Today is featuring the daily thoughts of some first-year students as they get to know the campus. The most recent comments appear first.



Yonah Nelson

The freshman from Queen Creek, Arizona, loved building “contraptions using blocks and rubber bands,” dabbled in robotics in high school and delved into all different branches of engineering when he went to the East Valley Institute of Technology (his favorite project: building a hand-cranked generator).

So his major, mechanical engineering technology, seemed like a natural.

Yonah hit the ground running, beginning with Move-In on Wednesday.

“We came in and there was a bunch of cars, and we didn’t know exactly where Ocotillo was, so we had to drive around a bit,” he said. By the time he and his parents found Ocotillo, it was already 2:30 p.m., so they had to book it. “We had 15 minutes to load up,” he said. “My dad ended up pulling the car out and just driving around because he needed some more time.”

Thursday meant orientation and then some time playing Super Smash Bros. in Ocotillo with a new friend, Aaron, who suggested they take a walk around campus. That’s when they saw the line stretching from the Arena to past the Student Advising Services Building for Silent Disco.

“We saw the line … and I was like, ‘There’s no way! There’s so many people not getting in,’” he said.

But after heading to GCBC in Diamondback and running into another student he met at the GCU freshman mixer, who had a place saved in line, Silent Disco it was.

“We had a great time. … It was really fun,” he said.

Yonah will wrap up the week, he said, working out in the campus’ gym facilities with his roommate.

What he’s most excited about for the year  is “just all the programs … I’m excited to just learn more and study and be efficient. I want to get really, really good at this.”

Natalie Tassinari


“Everyone on campus is so friendly, and I already feel at home here. The transition has been incredibly easy.

“There are so many great activities to participate in and new people to meet.”


The biology/pre-med transfer student from San Antonio, Texas, didn’t know much about Grand Canyon University until a counselor dropped by one of her classes and told her and her classmates about GCU’s Discover Trip.

“I went with a group of friends and ended up really liking it here. I saw myself succeeding here,” said Barrios, who moved this week into Chaparral Hall.

“I landed here in Phoenix with my parents on Saturday, and I got to move in on Monday. It went pretty smoothly – I’d say it took less than an hour. I met my roommates, who are very kind and welcoming.

“I said goodbye to my parents on Tuesday – everyone from my family is from Texas, and I already miss them!” Barrios said.

“I went to orientation on Wednesday, which was a cool experience, and yesterday I did some shopping with the roommates.”

As the semester gets going on Sept. 7, what Barrios said she is the most excited about is joining the Mastering Anatomy Program, or MAP, an intense, multiyear initiative in which students aiming to go to graduate school take a deep dive into anatomy by working on the campus’ cadavers.

“My favorite thing so far has been moving in and getting to meet people from all over the country.”


"Today was a lot of fun, too. I helped someone move in, I met new people and I also checked out the pool. I didn't realize that there would be a hot tub on campus because it's just so hot in Arizona, but the hot tub was really nice and I went in and that was great. I went to orientation, and that was really cool. At the separate groups that we did I met a few people and was surprised to see that a lot of people are from the same state as me (Washington)."


"Today’s main focus for me was saying goodbye to my parents. But it truly wasn’t as sad as any of us expected. My parents and I talked about how great the school and community here is, and my parents simply said how excited they were for me to continue my journey here. We also attended the freshman class council event in The Grove tonight, which was a lot of fun! They gave us free mac and cheese AND dinosaur nuggets! We also attended the Silent Disco, which had a CRAZY line because all the freshmen are so excited to be a part of the new events."


"I went over to a friend's place to go help her with her broken phone for about three hours. After that, I checked out the stuff on Lopes Way to get myself familiar with that area and grabbed some sushi and a wellness shot. Afterward, I came back to my apartment and just chilled and watched this show called "Mythic Quest" and finally just relaxed and played the ukulele that I brought from home. My roommate and I decided, 'Hey, let’s go to the Esports Arena, where we met three other guys, became realllly good friends with them and started playing league together. We ended up playing Cal Poly’s B team and beat them, then we went against their A team and got smacked around, We grabbed dinner as a team and gamed the rest of the night away until about 12:30. It was a ton of fun."


Maia Aton


The business administrator major from Camas, Washington, arrived on campus Wednesday and dove right into the culture:

“It’s been an amazing experience. I actually came here a few years ago because my brother (Ethan) went to this campus – I helped him move in. It kind of has a new vibe now that I’m here. I think it’s just more real.

“Everyone here is so friendly. I’ve already met so many new people. It’s cool to see everyone who comes from different areas of the world and the country.

“The Move-In process was super easy. They were so friendly. Everyone here is so nice. My brother made some of his closest friends here.

“I’m still getting used to the heat. The heat’s definitely a big change for me.

“We were practicing skating in our room. I’m surprised, actually, by how many people have the razor scooters. It’s such a great way to get around campus. I brought my skateboard and my rib stick, so I’ll probably be traveling that way.”

Kennedy Herschberger


“Today, I went dorm shopping again and finally finished the dorm room. I was able to get pizza at Canyon Pizza Co. That was pretty good. After that, we walked around campus and went to the pop-up shops and got a lot of free stuff again. We also went to the Lope Shop, which was crazy busy, but I would say the employees did a really good job of keeping things organized. There was a lot to choose from – there were some different items from what there were earlier this week. So that was a lot of fun. I got some Lope gear there. We came back and finished decorating our room. Met a couple people on our floor today, which was really exciting. I met my RA (resident assistant) as well. Now we’re headed to Project L.

“Canyon Cooldown last night was a lot of fun. It was the blow-ups with the water slides. It was also raining then, so that was kind of different. There were people jumping around and dancing. There was free ice cream, free food, lots of that stuff. So that was a lot of fun, too.”


Travis Miller

"Let’s just say, ooooh boy, it was an, uh, interesting day. I woke up at about 10 a.m. for the first time, which was so unbelievably nice. Something I'm starting to do is make my bed as the first thing I do every morning. I saw this YouTube video that went viral, in which an admiral in the Navy said, 'If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day, which will lead you to finish other little tasks but also help you learn that the little things matter.' It’s just something I was thinking a lot about yesterday.

"I started to get slightly homesick because when I played football in my hometown the saying was TLT, which stood for “the little things.” It was installed into my mind to take care of the little things because they matter the most. Big things will only work with the smaller pieces. I think a good example of this is a watch. You have all these little gears to do a simple task just to tell you the time. So my goal yesterday was to focus on the little things to overcome my obstacles, and let me tell you there were quite a few.

"After I got out of bed, a friend asked me if I wanted to grab breakfast, and I said sure. It was the first real long like talk I had had with someone on campus. We grabbed Einstein’s and talked for almost two hours about different things like home, music (which is something we found out we both have in common). After that, I ended up coming back to my apartment and took a shower and got ready for the day.

"I was looking forward to the student social that ASGCU puts on. I ended up meeting with the only other person from my high school who went to GCU. Over in the corner of North Dining Hall, a little stand was set up for esports. They were playing Super Smash Bros, so it's somewhere I felt comfortable because I'm a natural gamer. 

"After that I decided to head back to my apartment for the Project L event. Here’s where it gets interesting, though: When I was going down the last flight of stairs, I tripped/slipped on an empty water bottle and fell face first down the stairs. Oh man, did that hurt. My toe was killing me and my knees were all scraped up, but I knew I had to get back to my room, ice up, get some Advil and lie down on my bed (another perk of making your bed in the morning). I took a short nap and invited a couple of friends over, and we talked for about two hours about life and other things. 

"Overall, it was an awesome day. I met some new people and got to know some friends wayyyy better than I had previously."


“A couple things I’ve noticed this week: I feel extremely cared for on this campus, from the barbecues to the stunning landscaping. This just feels so much more welcoming and comforting than public universities do. I also felt recognized this week, like I’m not just a speck in the a crowd of thousands but an important part of the University.”



Talk about a full-tilt day:

"My roommates and I woke up early to go to orientation, and I liked it a lot. There was this part where they turned off the lights and they had everyone raise their phone light based on certain criteria that was shown on the screen. It looked really cool because I was sitting in the back of the Arena. I later met up with some friends and met a lot of interesting people from different states. They talked about what it was like living in a small town, which was cool.

"Then I went to another friend's dorm to help assemble the massive amount of items they bought at Target -- luckily, I’m all right with a screwdriver, and their room is looking really cool. I grabbed dinner at Panda Express and headed back to their place to eat. More people came over, and we all told stories -- it was a ton of fun. After that I checked out the Esports Arena and played Smash Bros with a couple of guys and learned a lot.

"I originally wasn't going to go to the Canyon Cooldown, but my buddy Hunter told me a couple of days ago to go to all the activities because it’s how you meet people. So decided to go and it was a blast. I rode one of the slides, played spikeball and a couple other games, including tag -- I successfully chased down someone on the track team, but I tripped and tasted that nice turf. I also played volleyball, which was a fun way to get to know more people, then walked a friend back to her dorm because it was late. It was overall a REALLY fun day. I liked the Canyon Cooldown and just meeting new people."

Parker Manitsas


He had just said goodbye to his parents, who were heading back to Oregon.

“I sat in my RA’s (resident assistant) bedroom for a little bit …”

Then he began to take in that first air of independence.

“I came here to spread my wings – and get to the warm weather,” said Manitsas, who will study elementary and special education and behavioral health.

“Being from a super small town and I don’t know anyone, it’s fun to meet new people -- all the time. Campus is a whole different world, open and inviting.

“I thrive on relationships and meeting new people. I’m an extrovert, so I look forward to the opportunities to meet people.”


The accounting major stayed with her parents in their hotel room Monday night because her roommate hadn't arrived yet. 

"This morning I came on campus and helped my roommate move in, and then I had to go to orientation. Orientation was actually really fun. I thought the speakers were really good. The lighting thing, answering questions with lights -- I thought that was so cool. Then we walked around the campus, which was fun, and I saw the business building (Colangelo College of Business). Then we came back and debrief, and I walked around campus and got the free stuff at the little popups and met some new people in my orientation group, which was really helpful because it was all Willow (Hall) people.

"I went to the Mail Center for the first time. It actually was nice and easy to do. I was surprised that it was such an easy thing to figure out. Then I worked on decorating and finishing my room. I ate lunch at Qdoba -- it was pretty good. We don't have any of that in my hometown (Fort Wayne, Indiana). We have Chick-fil-A in Fort Wayne, but there are a couple other places I want to try that I've never heard of. Nekter Juice Bar (which will be at The Rivers) sounds good, and I've never had Jamba Juice -- I think they have it in Fort Wayne, but I've never had it.

"I also met my RA (resident assistant) today. It was a good first full day."  



After her flight landed at 11 p.m. Sunday, which felt like 2 a.m. to her because she was coming from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Herschberger spent much of Monday shopping for non-clothes items. After all, her suitcases had to be reserved for her clothes.

Then she arrived on campus, and getting everything into her Willow Hall room was a whole lot easier:

“All the students helped us. I thought that was nice. Having people carry stuff up to the room is very helpful.

“I’m excited for all the welcome events. Canyon Cool Down sounds pretty fun. I’m also excited just to walk around and get to know campus and not, hopefully, get lost on the first day.”

She also can’t wait for all the activities throughout the year:

“There’s a ton to do. Every night, I could be doing something different.”


His degree program is Computer Science with an Emphasis in Gaming Simulation Development, so living in Encanto Apartments – just a stone’s throw from the Esports Arena in the Technology Building – is perfect. So was his arrival:

“I love the campus. Beautiful. Everyone out here today is just absolutely willing to help out. The buildings are in pristine condition. Everyone has a smile on their face. I’m just loving it so far.”

Miller said that when he visited on a Discover GCU trip from his home in Scripps Ranch, California, just outside San Diego, he immediately felt like he was “with a big giant family.” In fact, for his first night on campus he planned to have dinner with people he met on that trip.

“I really want to make new friends, meet new people. I want to be open to new experiences.”

Tristan John-Jandles


He flew in from Toronto on Monday, got to campus and started hydrating. The desert heat was a something new for him.

But this was the impressions he sent back to family and friends in Canada once he was moved into The Grove:

“Campus is beautiful. It feels like a resort,” he said. “It feels like summer vacation.”

At least until his studies begin in Government with an Emphasis in Legal Studies.

Then he asked where he can get healthy food and went off looking for the Herd Stop, which has its own produce section.


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GCU Magazine

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