The First Year, Part Two: Coming to Campus - Y Magazine
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The First Year, Part Two: Coming to Campus

In the First Year series, BYU Magazine follows six freshmen from their introduction to BYU in August 2008 through April 2009 finals. As if in real time, their stories recount the joys and sorrows, the levity and learning that typify the first year of college.

In the First Year series, BYU Magazine follows six freshmen from their introduction to BYU in August 2008 through April 2009 finals. As if in real time, their stories recount the joys and sorrows, the levity and learning that typify the first year of college.

Small-Town Kid, Big City

To some, Provo may seem just a provincial college town—almost quaint. But not to Mitch Staley (’12), who arrived at his Wyview apartment Aug. 25. His parents accompanied him in their pickup, hauling clothing and furnishings. Coming from 7,000-strong Dillon, Mont., Mitch felt like he’d entered a different world. “People in Montana . . . are friendlier. . . . They don’t know who you are, but they’ll wave,” he says. “Here it’s kinda like, ‘I’ve got somewhere to be.’”

Far from Home

It wasn’t until she was dropped off at her Heritage Halls apartment that it struck Sini-Tuulia Sohkanen (’12). Two weeks earlier she had said goodbye to her family at the airport in Finland and boarded a plane for America. When she arrived in Utah, Sini stayed in Sandy with the family of a returned missionary from Finland. “It just felt like I was on vacation,” she says.

But when she first walked through her empty apartment, she says, “it kind of hit me that here I am: I’m all alone in a weird country with people I do not know, . . . with a huge pile of stuff on my bedroom floor, and no food in the fridge. . . . I didn’t know what to do. I missed my family a lot on that day.”

Luggage Juggling

At the airline counter in Ohio, Braden Hancock (’12) executed the next step of his baggage-optimization strategy. He had already found a friend and an aunt to transport one suitcase each as they drove west. Two bags to Utah: check. The third suitcase would cost $15, but it maxed out the requirements for checked baggage, so he’d get his money’s worth. And the rest of the plan was already in hand—literally. “My carry-on was a duffel bag that was the very maximum size,” he says. “Then I had my backpack, as a personal item, that was packed to the brim.”

Laura and sister

To help in her transition to college life, Laura (left) enlisted an expert – her sister and roommate Lisa. Living off-campus with five older girls, new-student Laura had an apartment full of experience to draw on.

Awkward, but Good

Driving 15 miles from American Fork, Utah, Laura Larsen (’12) and her sister-roommate, Lisa (’09), were the first to move into their apartment south of BYU. Roommates began appearing throughout the day, hauling boxes and suitcases.

Laura says meeting her new roommates was good, if a little awkward. “The first couple of days everyone was . . . kind of shy.”

Nine Boxes

Adam Jones (’12) didn’t start packing until the day before he left Layton, Utah, for BYU, but that didn’t stop him from filling up the car. He ended up in Provo with nine boxes of stuff. “I felt like a girl moving down there,” he says. Included were his favorite BYU blanket and his BYU-themed Pinewood Derby car. To fit his things in his Wyview apartment, he had to trade with his roommate for a larger closet. “It was pretty embarrassing,” Adam says.

Testing Center Trauma

Ashley Falcon (’12) went through all the difficulty of saying goodbye to her family—twice. As they arrived at her Heritage Halls apartment and began unloading her things, she says, “my nerves were going like crazy.” Suddenly, the car was empty, her room was full, and it was time to buy books. Hoping to delay the inevitable, Ashley’s parents then offered to buy lunch. Finally it came time to part, they hugged, and Ashley headed off to a campus tour with her Y Group.

As her group entered the Testing Center, Ashley felt sick to her stomach—really. She found a garbage can just in time. A Y Group leader led her back to her residence hall, and from there Ashley retreated to the hotel where her family was staying. “It was not a fun time,” she says of the two days she battled food poisoning in the hotel. And it marked an inauspicious start to her Testing Center experience: “I’m just going to hate [that building] forever,” she says with a smile. “First time in there, and I already knew.”

First Impressions

The first thing Mitch saw upon arrival in his apartment were 3-foot-tall speakers, a keyboard, a guitar, a banjo, and a ukulele in the front room. Apparently, he was not first to arrive. He later met their owner, Clint L. Morris (’14), a musician and fellow freshman from California. “He’s a great guy, but we’re different people,” Mitch says. He had e-mailed his two future roommates over the summer, and Joseph H. Wright (’14), from Draper, Utah, sounded promising: “He’s a big hunter-fisher.”

Textbook Answers

Seeing his first textbook receipt—a grand total of $540—caused Braden to reflect on the economics of Advanced Placement classes. “I felt bad senior year when I took so many AP tests because they’re $80 each. My mom was like, ‘OK, but it’s coming out of your college money.’ But now that I get here, it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s less than a textbook costs, so I saved time andmoney.’”


Coming to America was a financial shock for Sini-Tuulia. In Finland, healthcare and college are both free. “I thought tuition was bad, but books are horribly expensive, and I now pay for all my diabetes medication,” she says. Add to that the hourly fee for the required accompanists for her violin master classes. She hoped her summer work as a cashier and scholarships (one academic and one from the School of Music) would get her through her first year.

Settling In

Braden’s first few days in Provo were all about settling in. It began with an immediate trip to buy dishes at D.I., escorted by his grandparents, who met him at the airport. It later included an excursion to Macey’s grocery store with his sister, Camille Hancock (BS ’08), to buy staples like flour and sugar. And then there were lots of other tasks, like claiming refrigerator space, meeting roommates, getting an ID card, and setting up his computer.

Getting settled can be a process, and by Friday, Braden was feeling a bit overwhelmed. “They keep having orientation activities, so I go to this for two hours, and then the next thing and the next thing and now it’s, ‘Where’d my day go? I still have more things on my to-do list.’”

Insider Tips

Laura, who took the ACT five times, likes to be thorough. So it was right in character for her to take three campus tours before school started.

Her sister Lisa, a veteran Cougar, captained the first tour to find all of Laura’s classes. They also boarded a golf cart for a prospective-student tour. She finished with the New Student Orientation (NSO) marathon tour, on which her Y Group leader provided all sorts of insider secrets: “Memorial Hall is the best place to take a nap. . . . The Ad Board is like Craig’s List on a wall . . . . There’s a bus route that can get to you to the airport for $3 in two and a half hours.”

Only at BYU

At NSO, BYU traditions and Honor Code values seem to be best fixed in freshmen minds through skit, song, and dance. Sini-Tuulia thought the two-hour show was fun, but her favorite part came at the end. The band had students stay put for a song that a band member had written for his girlfriend. “They sang it, and he proposed!” Sini exclaims. “It was just . . . it was wonderful!” Welcome to BYU.

The Lone Roommate

After two days in a hotel with her parents as she battled stomach flu, Ashley moved into a Heritage Halls apartment with five total strangers to her, but not each other. Each already had a connection to at least one other roommate. “I was the only one who didn’t know anyone,” Ashley says. And that made for a lonely first few days.

Getting to Know YouFA09_3638

Introductions ad nauseum filled the first days, says Braden. “What’s your name? Where are you from? What are you majoring in? Where are you staying? Those are the staples that everyone asks. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, ‘Braden. Ohio. Mechanical engineering. Kimball Hall.’ You know, just rewind, play. Occasionally, I pull out a bonus question—What did you have for breakfast?—something to shake it up.”

Just Sini

After repeated mispronunciations and clarifications, Sini-Tuulia decided to lop her name in half. “It’s a lot easier to just say that I’m Sini.”

Diabetes Patrol

An early to-do for Mitch was to sit his new roomies down to talk diabetes. Mitch has type 1, and he enlisted Joe and Clint to watch for unusual behavior, which could indicate a sugar low and lead to a diabetic coma. “He has a glucagon shot,” says Joe. “You mix [the meds] up and put it in the syringe, [then] shove it in his leg. . . . It’s a huge syringe.” But Mitch didn’t expect any such dramatics. He uses an insulin pump, monitors his blood sugar, and watches his diet. He notes with gratitude that meat isn’t verboten—“Meat doesn’t require insulin to digest.”

No More a Foreigner

The first Sunday in Sini’s new freshman ward was a fast and testimony meeting, and up she went. “It was kind of cool, my first testimony in English,” Sini says. She faced about 180 ward members, more than triple the size of her home ward in Finland. “Relief Society was really nice because we were all the same age. My home ward in Mikkeli, in the Relief Society, we actually have, like, maybe four people that are under 30.”

New and Old

On Sept. 2 Laura pulled on new clothes and went to a new class at her new university. In the midst of all the newness, Laura and Lisa stuck to one family tradition for the first day of school. Before the sisters left for class, they snapped pictures of each other.

Ominous Syllabus

The first day of school struck fear into at least one freshman heart: “I just wrote down some of my assignments and tests to my calendar, and there’s a whole bunch of them,” Sini worries. “I wonder if I’m going to make it through the semester with my poor English and get respectable grades.” She especially fretted about meeting the author of the syllabus for her first class, music 201. “I read it, and I was like, ‘Oh man, this is going to be horrible.’ . . . But he was really nice, . . . nicer than I expected.”


With NSO food, ward-party leftovers, and treats from girls hoping to make an impression, Adam had eaten surprisingly well. But by the end of week one, he decided it was high time to begin eating like a freshman.

The Truth About Hot Dogs

On the first day of classes, Braden cooked his fifth meal at BYU: a simple recipe of hot dog pieces added to rice with melted grated cheese on top. “I discovered the truth about hot dogs: they’re not so bad after all,” Braden says. “In fact, they’re the very cheapest meat at the grocery store! They’re not steak by any means, but they’re not particularly disgusting either.”


By the end of day one, Mitch had no complaints, except for getting lost a time or two. His favorite experience was his Entrepreneurship Lecture, in which a local CEO explained the “wow factor.” “If your customer says, ‘Wow!’ then you know it’s going to be a hit,” Mitch relates. “All I have to say for my BYU education experience so far is ‘Wow!’ . . . And who would have thunk that accounting would be motivational and have gospel principles?”

Men’s Chorus Auditions

Scanning a list in the HFAC, Braden was excited to find his name among the 250-plus who had made callbacks for Men’s Chorus. In the Madsen Recital Hall Thursday evening, choir director Rosalind Hall organized the hopefuls into groups of 10, asked each individual to sing, and eliminated some. After four rounds, Braden and his roommate Cory J. Christensen (’14) were still in the running. Hall regrouped the remaining singers and ran through the process again. After round five, almost all 175 coveted spots had been filled and only four singers—including Braden—remained. If he made it, he would be following in the steps of his brother and sister, who both sang with BYU groups.

After the final round, however, Braden was left without a spot in Men’s Chorus. “The main bummer in all of this is not so much not being in Men’s Chorus,” Braden wrote on the blog, “but rather, not making it.” Stoically, however, Braden reflected on the stress this would relieve in his packed schedule, and he and Cory returned to Kimball Hall, where they smothered their sorrows with $2 steak from the Creamery on Ninth.


Add Laura to those averse to the number 13. During the first week of school she acquired 13 blisters running up the RB stairs, walking to the Marriott Center in heels, and other comings and goings. “BYU has a very large campus,” she says.

But all the walking has paid off for Laura. “Campus is beginning to feel like home,” she says.

A Taste to Remember

A peculiar flavor in his morning cereal led Braden to the discovery that he could not quite keep up with the biological processes at work in a half gallon of milk.

Ups and Downs

girls at table

After an awkward week and a half, a surprise birthday celebration for Ashley proved to be just the thing to help bring the Heritage Halls apartment of freshman together.

Ashley’s first week in Provo was a roller coaster—from throwing up on her NSO tour to a fireside by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (BS ’65) (“I was so excited to be in the same building as a General Authority.”) to a “nerve-racking” first week of classes to excitement about living on her own to feeling like an outsider amongst her roommates. But Ashley’s introduction to college life ended on a personal and apartment high note, her 19th birthday. “My roommates baked me a cake. . . . They made me a crown and everything.”

Starting from Scratch

Sini found that her professors got right to overhauling her playing style. “My previous teacher said, ‘I don’t care how you play, where you place your feet, as long as it sounds good.’ Here they teach everything,” she laments. First they took away her shoulder rest, “to make a bigger sound,” Sini says. “It’s a little overwhelming—so many new things at once.”

True Red

Calling himself a Rush, Hannity, and FOX News republican, Mitch is a true believer and was fully caught up in the mania preceding the November elections. Mitch couldn’t extricate himself from Montana politics, even though he was 400 miles from home. As a vice chair of the Beaverhead County Republican Party, he made calls from Provo for candidates and even returned home to assist in a parade.

Age Discrimination

During a social-dance class, Adam spent “30 flirty” seconds practicing steps with a “pretty cool” partner. Later, as he searched for a table at the Cougareat, he spotted her sitting alone and she waved him over. They had a “good, solid conversation” for several minutes, then . . .

“Oh—you look older than you are,” she said. Adam says the chat went downhill from there.

“If this had been the only instance where this had happened, I wouldn’t be making a fuss, but I have experienced this three times!” he complains. But there is a bright side: “Girls here seem to want to play for keeps. It’s kind of good that way because then you don’t have the pressure of being committed.”

New Football Recruit

Pre-BYU, Sini’s football exposure amounted to 10 minutes of a televised Super Bowl. “I know what line of scrimmage is, touchdown, kick the ball . . . that’s it.” There couldn’t have been a better game to initiate her to Cougar football: Sept. 13’s blowout of UCLA in LaVell Edwards Stadium. Taking cheering cues from the crowd, Sini says the game was unlike anything she’d experienced before: “I almost lost my voice, and I got a little sunburned, but that’s part of it, I think.”

girl at stadium

Like everyone else, Laura had expected a tough test when the BYU football team took on UCLA on Sept. 13, 2008. Nobody expected the result – a 59-0 dismantling for the Bruins.

Memorable Game

Laura watched BYU’s 59–0 win over UCLA with her mom, grandma, and her sister. “Man, was it sweet to watch!”

After the game, three generations of Cougars walked around campus. Laura’s grandma told about her involvement with The Press, a precursor to the Daily Universe, and noted that she still gets together with her BYU roommates.

“It was really neat hearing all of their stories and knowing that I am creating those memories today,” Laura says.

Extra Credit–Early and Often

For Braden, extra credit wasn’t about “if I need it.” It was about “how much can I do?” So when his chem professor mentioned that extra credit was available for researching radiation poisoning, Braden was on it. The next class he gave a PowerPoint presentation, answered questions, and secured five bonus points.

Evenings with Harold

As if living with one big sister weren’t enough, Laura inherited four more when she moved into her off-campus apartment south of campus. It didn’t take long for the “big sisters” to make themselves useful by confiding bits of wisdom on their new freshman roommate.

They even introduced her to “Harold” and accompanied Laura and Harold on their first dates. (In their lingo nighttime studying at the Harold B. Lee Library was “dating Harold.”)

Gospel Lessons

When his roommate Clint’s girlfriend was diagnosed with a brain tumor, Mitch and Clint were called on to offer a blessing. “[We] kind of learned how to do it together,” he says. She had the tumor removed and kept going to school. Mitch says the experience “forced [me] to learn. The gospel forces you to learn.”

Resonant Voices

tunnel singing

With an apartment full of singers, Sini and her roommates quickly became regulars at the informal gatherings of Tunnel singers each Sunday night.

“I love tunnel singing,” Sini exclaims. She’d been twice already and planned to go every week. Just before 10 p.m. on Sunday nights, Sini and her roommates duck out into the night, whispering, laughing, and singing their way from Heritage Halls to the tunnel south of the Marriott Center. “It feels so good to have all these people around you, singing what you’re singing. The fact that you can talk about the gospel with everybody.”

Silent as a Student Ward

For Ashley, the transition from a suburban home ward to a college ward was a bit of a shock. “It was strange to go from a noisy sacrament meeting full of little children to a dead silent sacrament meeting,” she says. “It was also weird having kids my age teaching Sunday School and Relief Society. It was odd, but I enjoyed it. . . . They are my peers, and . . . we are all going through similar things.”

All in the Family

Officially, a family home evening (FHE) group is led by two coleaders, but in freshman parlance, Sini was called to be an FHE “mom.” Subsequently, in Sini’s group, there were FHE siblings and even FHE pets—not by calling, but positions that were announced nonetheless when the 10-plus zany freshmen met as a group on a Monday night. “[Being FHE mom is] nice because I get to decide what we do,” she says.


As an assistant executive secretary, Mitch was assigned to schedule appointments for a counselor in his bishopric, who turned out to be a good match. “He’s a big hunter. He brings me pictures of what he shot the day before to church every Sunday.” What has the new convert learned from working with the bishopric? Just how unorganized people are, he says with a laugh.

Mormons, Mormons Everywhere

Hearing strangers on the bus or in the grocery store talk about friends serving missions was a new experience for Braden. In Ohio, such an overheard comment would yield surprised and happy introductions and a shared feeling of camaraderie with fellow Church members. In Utah, it’s just another day in the produce section.


Adam came to BYU in part to study vocal jazz, so he was chagrined when the program’s main faculty member left the university just as he arrived. But in the spirit of jazz improvisation, Adam packed his schedule with alternatives, taking 15.5 credits in nine classes. Along with GE classes American Heritage and Healthy Living, he signed up for two dance classes, jazz history, and a songwriting class. “I’ve never written music before. . . . Everybody [else] in the class wants to do that for their living. I just wanted a cool hobby, and songwriting gives me a break from the other studying I have to do.”

Planning to Succeed

In high school Laura’s planners tended to disappear into some corner of her bedroom or become doodling fodder. College is a different story, and Laura quickly became a planner aficionado. “I’ve gone through and written all the assignments from the syllabus, she says. “I’ve never done that before.”

For Laura, it’s about balance—“finding the happy medium of enjoying college and getting to know people . . . , but also being dedicated to your studies—making sure that you’re caught up on reading assignments and stuff like that.”


How they got there is a little hard to explain, but in the end Adam (top) and a dozen or so friends from Wyview dressed in pirate and superhero costumes ended up at the Creamery on Ninth, where their exploits ended in an “epic fight scene”


On a Thursday afternoon, Adam was sitting in his apartment when a friend from across the stairwell barged in, decked out in a pirate costume he’d purchased for seven bucks at thrift stores. Inspired, Adam’s roommate dashed into his room and emerged moments later in his own pirate costume. With no buccaneer gear of his own, Adam took on the persona of a superhero.

All dressed up, the group made its way out into the Wyview parking lot. “Within no time we had about 15 people in the parking lot sword fighting and swashbuckling, . . . dressed up in various ways as pirates or superheroes,” Adam says. With a Jolly Roger flag sailing behind them, the “motley crew of scallywags [took] to the high seas of University Parkway” on scooters. “We passed people on the street and gave them a friendly ‘YARRRRRG!’” The adventure continued to the Creamery on Ninth, where it ended after an “epic fight scene.”


Sini made first stand, second chair in the Symphony Orchestra, the School of Music’s preparatory orchestra. Another freshman violinist, Taylor Simmons (’14), was her cochair. Taylor was also in Sini’s ward and in her Freshman Academy community, which meant the two were guaranteed to spend a lot of time together.

Free but Fettered

While Ashley loves the freedom of being on her own at college, she found that, sans automobile, that freedom had geographical limits. “The one freedom that I don’t have here is . . . [going] wherever and whenever I want,” she says. “If I want to go to the mall, I have to wait for the bus and hope I get on the right one.” Fortunately, she discovered one important destination—Wendy’s—adjacent to campus. She can do her Frosty runs on foot.

Chats at the Kitchen Table

Video conferencing software Skype was Sini’s lifeline to home. It worked great, though her calls home became public conversations because they were broadcast into the kitchen, where the Internet connection was best. The nine-hour difference between Provo and Finland usually meant midnight chats for Sini. “They say [the call] is [the] moment they live for during the week, the highlight.”


Kent, Wash., is 887 miles from Provo, and some days Ashley felt every inch of the separation from her hometown. Sundays were particularly hard. “Sundays were the days my family was all together so it [is] hard not being with them.” Weekly phone calls home and texts and video chats online to her brother and sister helped keep her connected.

Slipping into Inactivity

bbq mitch

After a trip home to Montana, Mitch returned with a small propane grill, which his residence assistant agreed to let him keep on the landing. Thursday night soon became steak night.

Riding a wave of freshman enthusiasm, Mitch signed up for various sorts of clubs and activities, from College Republicans to the golf club to the biology wildlife range club. He even considered a trip with the College Republicans to Colorado in a get-out-the-vote campaign. But when his aspirations went head to head with homework, extracurricular activities were the casualty. “I just don’t have the time,” he says.

Ridiculous Defined

As she approached a four-midterm week at the end of September, Laura wasn’t sure what to expect. “I have heard that college tests are just ridiculous, but what’s the definition of ridiculous?” she asks. “Meaning that you have to memorize every word in the textbook and your notes to get a passing grade or that if you party the night before and don’t study then you’ll get a ridiculously low grade?” She decided to err on the careful side, putting in more hours on her educational history test than she’d ever spent preparing for an exam. And it paid off. “If you go to class and put in extra time outside of class to make sure you know the concepts, [the exams] are reasonable,” she concludes.

92 out of 100

The score shined down from the TV monitor in the Testing Center, and Sini beamed right back. “I was so happy,” she says of the result for her first BYU test, an exam for her Book of Mormon class. “Some people told me the professor would ask ridiculous, detailed questions. . . . Luckily, he didn’t,” Sini says. “The questions weren’t so bad,” Sini says. “I don’t mean it was easy or anything. Actually, the night before I stayed up until 2 a.m. and studied.”

What Would Confucius Say to Oedipus?

For Braden’s History of Creativity class, the first exam included an essay section with a prompt that went something like this: “Oedipus has just found out that he married his mother and killed his father. Your assignment is to write down the advice that the following four people would give to him, were they there with him: Confucius, Buddha, Aristotle, and a fourth historical character of your choosing.” Braden selected Alexander the Great.


After battling a case of double-left-footedness during a quiz for his ballroom dance class, Adam consoled himself over a smoothie at Jamba Juice in the Wilkinson Center with a friend. Then something happened that made him forget all about his quiz. “I look over and notice none other than Curtis Brown (BA ’06) at the cash register . . . and next to him, Fui Vakapuna (BS ’08)!” says Adam of his encounter with the two BYU football stars. “[We] just sat there like 12-year-old girls at a Hannah Montana concert—we probably said nothing other than ‘Dude!’ for like 10 minutes.” Finally, when he had mustered the courage, says Adam, “I went [and] put my hand on Fui’s massive shoulder and said, ‘Fui Vakapuna, I love you,’ and shook his hand.” He then repeated the process with Curtis Brown.

General Conference

Coming from Washington, where she had always watched general conference on TV, Ashley was more than a little enthused about the possibility of attending. “Every time someone mentioned conference I wanted to scream with excitement,” she says. When the weekend arrived, Ashley found herself in the same room as the prophet during the Saturday morning session. “Being able to actually be in the Conference Center was amazing,” she says. “I can’t wait until next conference.”

The Muffin Man

After enjoying general conference—even though he watched it alone, on the computer in his room, and without the traditional Hancock family Pez candies—Braden made chocolate chip muffins for his family home evening sisters. This treat came a week after he made blueberry muffins for the people he home taught and a week before making raspberry muffins for another ward member. The baking spree earned Braden a new nickname in his ward: the Muffin Man.

Combustible Comestibles

Instead of the typical ward prayer that many BYU wards hold on Sunday nights, Laura’s opted for a dessert night. On a Sunday in October, Laura received a sugar cookie mix from the activities committee, and she invited a friend from her ward to assist her in the kitchen. After one batch had burned to a blackened crisp and another had actually caught fire, they cast them into the sink to make “a soggy, reeking mess.”

“I had an extra brownie mix in the pantry,” she says, “which was the key to our success. You can’t tell if you burn brownies—they are already brown.”

En Garde

rubix cube

After extending a ridiculously complicated Homecoming invitation, Braden earned himself a puzzling response.

On Tuesday evenings—club night in the Wilk—Braden attended Fencing Club with Nichole Hunt (’11), a friend he met while on the Hill Cumorah Pageant cast.

At the Oct. 7 meeting, the club was introduced to electric fencing, with wired suits and foils that record points electronically. Braden and Nichole were the first to try it. They exchanged salutes and began, the system beeping at each touch of the sword tip. Braden took an early lead, but Nichole came back. The bout point was a long round of parries, thrusts, lunges, and retreats. Finally they both struck at the same moment, and the tie required a judgment call. The club president ruled that Nichole had the right of way and won the bout 5–4.

Trimming Costs

For Ashley, spending $30 on a haircut wasn’t an option. “I was in real need of a haircut,” she says. When she mentioned her trouble to her roommates, one offered to take a whack at her split ends. “I’m not sure why, but I agreed,” Ashley says. “I knew she wouldn’t give me a mullet. Plus it was free, so who could pass that up?” They bought a pair of scissors at Wal-Mart and went to work. In the end, Ashley found herself free of split ends and pleased with her hairdo.

How to Ask a Smart Girl Out

If you’re a BYU boy and you want to ask a BYU girl out for Homecoming, you can’t just use the phone. And if you’re an extra smart BYU boy (like Braden) and have your eye on an extra smart BYU girl (like fellow Monson scholar Elise Biancardi [’12]), you can’t just put the words of your invite in so many inflated balloons. It takes more.

You might, for instance, try a coded Sudoku puzzle, which could identify the Fibonacci sequence, which she could use to determine which of the 100 note cards taped to her door are relevant. Those cards, placed in order, could say something like “Elise, will you make Homecoming Spectacular extra spectacular by going with me this Friday night? —Braden.”

Of course, if you’re an extra smart BYU girl and you come home to such a puzzle, you will realize you have a task ahead of you. Your response could include things like a library call number scrambled on a Rubik’s Cube, an envelope hidden in a book, a cryptic line of spy code to be spoken to a library employee, and a series of color-coded candies that, arranged in rainbow order, spell your answer (absolutely).

Sini violin

Sini was shocked and gratified when she was invited to perform with famed violinist Jenny Oaks Baker before a huge crowd at the Homecoming Spectacular. With an invitation to a Homecoming dance, it was just part of a busy weekend.

Braden and Elise, by the way, had a nice time at Spectacular—though asking and answering probably took more time than the actual date.

Two Homecoming Invitations

Sini could not believe it when Kory Katseanes, director of BYU’s orchestras, invited her to perform onstage at the 2008 Homecoming Spectacular with violin virtuosa Jenny Oaks Baker, a former first violinist in the National Symphony Orchestra. “I don’t know how or why they chose me,” she says.

Her Homecoming weekend plan got even busier when Taylor Simmons—after hours spent sitting next to Sini in Symphony Orchestra, classes, and church—worked up the courage to ask her to Homecoming. Though she would be performing in Spectacular on Thursday and Friday night, Saturday was wide open.

She joined a small accompaniment of student violinists on stage in the Marriott Center with Baker in two rehearsals and two evening performances. “It was fun to play under all the cool lights,” Sini says. “Jenny Oaks Baker is really good. I bought her CD.”

Saturday night, Taylor took her with a group of his friends and their dates to the Old Spaghetti Factory and then to a casual dance. She had a good time. “We’re good friends,” she says.

Enjoy more freshman insights online on the First Year blog:

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By Peter B. Gardner (BA ’98)

call letter opening Terrance

On a Sunday night in the lobby of May Hall, Terrance Motley opened an envelope and ended weeks of speculation by family, friends, and, most of all, himself.

“DEFINITELY Cambodia.” “Oklahoma, for sure.” “London, England!!” “Charleston South Carolina, Spanish speaking.” “France.” “Tonga.” “The Utah Provo Mission!”

The “Where Will Terrance Motley Go on a Mission???” Facebook group featured loads of certainty but little consensus. The prognosticators comprised family members, high school buddies, and dozens of Terrance Motley’s (’14) new friends from his BYU ward and residence hall in Helaman Halls.

On a fall Sunday night, many of them have gathered with Terrance in the lobby of May Hall to celebrate the opening of his call to serve—and to see just how close their guesses were. The occasion is just one of thousands that would happen across campus during the year as students discovered where they’d spend the next two years of their life.

“I wouldn’t mind going to Italy,” says Terrance, who studied Italian for two years at his Albuquerque, N.M., high school. “But I don’t want to curse myself by saying this.” With an impending call, friends receiving their own assignments, and a Missionary Preparation religion class, missionary work has been on Terrance’s mind.

He says coming to BYU for a semester—leaving his family, tackling tough classes, and lifting weights at 6 a.m. three times a week in hopes of someday walking on to the football team—has been an ideal preparation. “It [has] taught me how to work and matured me,” he says. “It has taught me how to deal with challenges, and that will definitely be a good skill on my mission.”

As the lobby fills with ward members and his family, Terrance is antsy, shifting his 290 pounds back and forth in a nervous sort of dance. Having had to wait for his family to deliver his letter from Albuquerque, he gets right to it when the appointed hour arrives. As he tears the envelope, shushes spread through the room and onlookers hold up cell phones.

“Dear Elder Motley,” he reads, “You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Italy Milan Mission.”