ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Hundreds of college freshmen made their way to Abilene Tuesday, ready to learn! Students, with arms full of boxes and newfound freedom on their minds, said they weren’t in fear of public health emergencies like COVID-19 and monkeypox. Instead, they expressed eagerness to embark on their ‘typical’ college experiences, ones they couldn’t have had in the last two years.

Walking onto the campuses of local universities like Hardin-Simmons (HSU) and Abilene Christian (ACU), you could feel the excitement in the open air as students gathered in groups, met new people, and helped each other carry boxes and luggage to their new rooms.

“Just meeting new friends, getting out of my comfort zone, experiencing new things,” is what Brinley Watkins, an incoming freshman at HSU, said she was looking forward to this year. 

Hoping to get in college what she missed out on in high school, Watkins said she she was a softball player, and many of her games were cancelled due to COVID. 

“I’m excited to start this year off without everything COVID-related,” Watkins gushed.

Watkins is excited to be playing softball for HSU, something she called a big step ahead for herself and her future opportunities.

It’s not just the freshmen who are excited to start a new term with less to worry about health-wise.

HSU upperclassmen DJ Carter told KTAB/KRBC he did not get this normal experience during his first couple of years of school. 

“I definitely hope that they have a more normal college experience,” Carter said.

Over at ACU, incoming freshman Lexi Beaumont said she was most excited about, “Just making new friends and having fun.” 

Beaumont said she knows the drill, “I mean, we already went through the whole shut down process, so maybe we won’t shut down again.”

Even some university parents, like Sam and Christy Yates, said they were more concerned about their child adjusting to a new roommate than they were about their 18-year-old’s health being compromised. 

“We’re not worried about safety at all,” the Yateses said.

Everyone hopped on campus with high hopes that the school year would end the same way it started, mainly focusing on enjoying being around other people. 

“We’ve got to embrace what we have while we have it, and just enjoy everything,” added Carter. 

Many of these students said they trust the schools to handle COVID or monkeypox in the best ways, if it does become an issue – even though most believe that it will not be an issue at all.