All photos by Eitan Ehrlich ’25
Members of Emerson’s Class of 2026 gathered at Rotch Field on Thursday, September 1, to mix and mingle, play games, and pose for a class photo in which they’ll try, and occasionally fail, to spot themselves and their friends for decades to come.
The event came at the end of an orientation week that introduced roughly 1,000 first-time and 185 transfer students representing 39 states (and the District of Columbia), 31 countries, and a wide range of backgrounds and experiences to Emerson, to the city, and to each other.
We can’t introduce you to every first-year student who arrived on campus this week, but please meet a sampling of students kind enough to speak to an Emerson Today reporter randomly interrupting their conversations.
Name: Taylor Johnston
Hometown: I’m from Jacksonville, Florida
Pronouns: My pronouns are she/her hers
Why Emerson? First of all, I just fell in love with Boston on a visit here last summer. Before I even knew about applying to schools I just decided I’d go to Boston, and Emerson seemed like the right fit for me.
What are you most looking forward to? I’m looking forward to meeting new people and building relationships and connections with new people, and especially my professors.
What’s been the biggest surprise since coming to campus? I’ve seen quite a surprising amount of Dunkin’ Donuts and CVS’s
What’s one thing you brought from home that you couldn’t live without? I brought my stuffed animals I’ve had since I was a baby.
Name: KeiAria Gillard
Hometown: Here. Boston
Why Emerson? I knew I wanted to do something in writing and make my own stories, and they had opportunity. I actually found Emerson in high school but I didn’t apply then and I decided to go to community college, so I put Emerson on the back burner. Then I decided to apply after graduating from [Roxbury Community College].
What are you most looking forward to? Same as Taylor: making friends, meeting new people, and also finding new opportunities to do more things, branch out.
What’s been the biggest surprise since coming to campus? Not[hing] really.
What’s one thing you brought from home that you couldn’t live without? I’m commuting, so…
Name: Caroline McGinn
Hometown: I’m a local from Newton, Massachusetts
Why Emerson? A lot reasons, actually. [There are] a lot of opportunities here, especially for my specific major, it had the best selection for thing that I like personally, such as media content and such broad categories. And the people as well – everyone is so creative and unique. And … the connections, for sure, Emerson Mafia and such.
What are you most looking forward to? I’m looking most forward to getting started right into my major and getting the opportunities and experiencing …just getting to create things I really like.
What’s been the biggest surprise since coming to campus? I don’t know. I feel like nothing super unexpected has happened.
What’s one thing you brought from home that you couldn’t live without? Some of my stuffed animals. I am a child at heart. I brought a red panda stuffed animal.
Name: Landen Cruz
Hometown: Poquoson, Virginia
Pronouns: My pronouns are him/his and he
Why Emerson? It was either this school or Ithaca, and I like the environment here rather than being kind of secluded, away from a big city. Also, Boston has such an inclusive and historical [feel] to it
What are you most looking forward to? I’m most looking forward to meeting my fellow Emersonians and just exploring around Boston, because this is, like, my second time coming to Boston. So just seeing what it has to offer.
What’s been the biggest surprise since coming to campus? I was surprised by how many nice people there are in Boston. Compared to where I came from, New York, people are a lot more friendly and willing to help around here.
What’s one thing you brought from home that you couldn’t live without? I brought a picture of my mom, just to keep home still here.
Name: Aidan Vahey
Hometown: Newton, Massachusetts. I went to high school with Caroline
Why Emerson? I did a lot of technical theatre, as well as TV, in high school, and Emerson has the theatre and the TV stuff. I was thinking my freshman, sophomore year in high school, going into lighting design more, and then when the pandemic hit, streaming and broadcasting became really more important, so I kind of switched to that. And that’s really what Emerson has … both of those. It’s also close, and a lot of alumni I know went here and [I] have heard a lot of good things about it. Graduates from my high school have gone here; it’s been nice to have them, to ask the upperclassmen here. This seemed like a really good fit on the tours and stuff, the facilities are really nice, top of the line and everything.
What are you most looking forward to? I’m looking forward to the step up in the complexity of productions and learning about every aspect of broadcasting in-depth, and meeting the knowledgeable professors. The thing I am most excited for is to meet all of my creative peers. I’m excited to collaborate with others who share the same creative interest I do, and I hope we can create incredible pieces of art together.
What’s been the biggest surprise since coming to campus? Definitely just the amount of good, friendly people I met on like, day one and day two, [right] off the bat. Everyone is just super nice. We met this one really extroverted roommate down the hall, she just goes down the doors knocking, knocking, knocking, like, ‘Hey, you wanna hang out?’ She’s really happy and fun. We’ve kind of built a nice little friend group within the first four days of being here, and everyone’s really creative as far as I can tell so far, and I’m really excited to get started with classes here and create cool stuff with my peers.
What’s one thing you brought from home that you couldn’t live without? Since I don’t live too far I didn’t bring much. Everyone keeps teasing me about it. I need to go to Target today. I brought a nice little pillow from home I’ve had since elementary school, I think. One of my friends gave it to me, so it’s a nice little thing I guess.
Name: Samantha Edelman
Hometown: Long Island, NY
Why Emerson? I thought it was a perfect distance from my hometown to here. I didn’t want to be too far, but I also didn’t want to be too close. And then I’ve also always wanted to be in the city and just sort of have hands-on [experiences] for my major, and being able to do different things.
What are you most looking forward to? I think I’m looking forward to Boston in the fall when the leaves change and just sitting in the park, and my classes starting.
What’s been the biggest surprise since coming to campus? Some of the orientation events, in a good way. Like, I thought they were really exciting and not just typical orientation events, I thought they were really planned out.
What’s one thing you brought from home that you couldn’t live without? Probably my clothes. I love my clothes.
Name: Nia Alves
Hometown: Rhode Island
Why Emerson? [B]ecause of the film and media program that they had. Compared to other arts schools that I applied for, I found they had more of a focus on it.
What are you most looking forward to? Definitely collaborating with different majors on bigger projects, especially with the film production and behind the scenes stuff. And just meeting new people, exploring new places in Boston.
What’s been the biggest surprise since coming to campus? How fast I felt welcomed and made friends, definitely.
What’s one thing you brought from home that you couldn’t live without? My hair products.
Name: Oluwatimileyin Oladunjoye. But you can call me Timi, because it’s easier to say.
Hometown: Lynn, Massachusetts, 30 minutes down the road.
Why Emerson? Honestly, I did not know about Emerson when I was applying to colleges, but I’m so happy that my college counselor showed me Emerson and said, ‘This would be a really good college for you.’ … When I found out it was one of the best acting schools on this side of the world I had to go. I had to. I know for a fact I’m going to grow here, and I know that the program that I’m in right now currently is going to take me really far, and I know I’m going to make it to big stages one day. Well, not stages, but the movies.
What are you most looking forward to? Definitely looking forward to making connections with everyone. Every person I see, I shake their hand I ask them what their name is. Although I forget their name a minute later, it’s still the fact that I’m doing it. Because I have to get used to doing that because with acting, you need to make connections. I know a lot of good actors who are just as good as Hollywood actors today and they don’t make connections, which is why they’re not there. So I know networking, connecting with everyone I see, is really helpful.
What’s been the biggest surprise since coming to campus? I made friends very quickly. OK, my first day I came I was kind of walking around Boston by myself, but the second day, I got snooped by someone and [now] we have this whole group and I love the group so much.
What’s one thing you brought from home that you couldn’t live without? Definitely my Xbox. My friends always tell me to hop on Xbox, ‘cause these are my hometown friends, so I love playing with them because I know they care about me and I care about them. So, me being able to connect with them instead of just over phone, we’re playing together, having fun while being so far away from each and so close at the same time. I just love that.
Name: Qiyu Pang
Why Emerson? The media major is pretty excellent in America. [I learned about Emerson] from the website, and my college counselor also told me that.
What are you most looking forward to? Probably the various activities here.
What’s been the biggest surprise since coming to campus? I think Emerson’s a quite open and diverse school, and [beyond] my expectations.
What’s one thing you brought from home that you couldn’t live without? Probably my nails.