Family, friends find students on Northeastern’s Oakland campus ‘so happy and enjoying college life’

Students walking on the Oakland campus.
Northeastern students welcomed their families and friends to the Oakland campus. Photo by Katja Bresch for Northeastern University

OAKLAND, Calif. — Sean and Shari Stratton-Selby sat outside on an overcast Saturday morning, the sun breaking through the clouds over a sea of other parents and students resting on picnic tables along a big green meadow, eating brunch and listening to live music.

It was day two of Northeastern’s Family and Friends Weekend, held Oct. 20-22 on the Oakland campus, and the Stratton-Selbys were waiting for their son Max, a first-year global scholar student majoring in computer science, to wake up.

It was already past 11, but the late-morning hour was to be expected from a new college student. 

“He was up late studying for a calculus test,” Shari said, checking her phone for updates. She and Sean had arrived on Thursday from Massachusetts, and had already taken Max out to dinner twice (sushi and burritos, two Bay Area specialties) but were eager to hear more about his first month in college.

“We were excited to see him,” Shari said, taking in the verdant campus, decorated for the occasion with scarecrows, pumpkins and harvest flowers. “We had no idea how beautiful the Oakland campus was — it’s like an oasis.”

The Department of Orientation and Family Programs had the natural beauty of the campus in their favor, but it took careful planning to make the weekend fun for everyone. They organized an array of events and activities spanning all three days, so families could design their own perfect weekend to reconnect.

They could choose a morning yoga class, afternoon tennis match or simply wander around campus to see the place their children now call home. Other options included visiting the Oakland Museum, taking guided campus tours and sitting in on a professor’s lecture. 

“I loved the yoga and the museum,” said first-year business and marketing major Madeline Kim, who was joined on Saturday by a slew of aunts and uncles, and the family dog Kona, who took a particular interest in the squirrels that populate every tree and walkway.

June and Dwain Richardson, Kim’s aunt and uncle, live in San Francisco and visit campus frequently, but the opportunity to join their niece for morning yoga was too good to pass up.

“It’s good to see her so happy and enjoying college life,” June said.

For many parents sending their children away from home for the first time, just seeing them in person was worth the trip.

“It’s nice to see the happiness on their faces when they see their kids again,” said Danica Ola, Northeastern’s orientation coordinator. Ola sat at a welcome booth outside the library, passing out itineraries for the visiting families and giving them identification badges that granted them access to the college’s health and fitness center, pool, academic buildings and dining venues. 

“Their kids know how to navigate campus now,” Ola said. “The parents are just excited to see their child and reconnect.”

Reunions were happening everywhere, including family members who came a long way.

Alice Wang flew in from Taiwan to see her child, first-year student Jazz Wang Andera. She was joined by Jazz’s father, Craig Andera, from Northern Virginia. The trio sat at a picnic table for the Saturday brunch, listening to Radio Gatsby, the San Francisco-based jazz and swing band playing on the meadow’s bandstand. 

“Seeing Jazz has been the main point,” Craig said.

Alice was impressed with how secure the campus felt, but noted that it wasn’t oppressively so. 

“It’s a closed campus, but there’s no big walls,” she said. “It feels safe.”

Some parents couldn’t make it to the weekend for various reasons. But that didn’t keep their children from partaking in Family and Friends Weekend — emphasis on the “friends” part.

First-year classmates Janet Lim, Abigail Demosthene and Ryan Chen ate brunch together and listened to Radio Gatsby play rousing covers of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “The Girl from Ipanema” and “To Be Real.” 

“I am enjoying the live band and the food is really good,” said Demosthene, a biology major from New York. She has already made excursions to San Francisco with her new friends, and noticed how different the famed city’s iconic architecture is from her home state.

“We went to Fisherman’s Wharf and Powell Street,” she said. “It’s very different from New York, all the colorful houses lined up in a row.”

Chen, a health science and business administration major who uses they/them pronouns, admitted they missed their parents, and were a little envious of the other students showing off their new digs.

“It’s kind of sad seeing all the students showing their parents around,” Chen said. But that didn’t deter them from making the most of the weekend. After brunch, they planned to take a college shuttle to go shopping for some essentials — and fun stuff, too. 

“I’m going to Micheals and Target for some yarn, soap and Halloween stuff,” they said with a shy grin. They shared that they are an avid crocheter, and make bags from colorful yarn to relax. 

The college staff was enjoying the weekend just as much. 

Erika Tone, a cashier at Cafe Suzie, the retail space that sells snacks and school swag, said her Friday night shift was particularly busy with parents stocking up on Northeastern sweatshirts and hoodies.

“I got 168 orders on Friday,” she said.

Tone enjoyed seeing how some students physically resemble their parents, and reporting on their good behavior.

“I said to one parent, ‘Your son is so educated, so nice, so polite,’” she said. “And the parents said to their son, ‘How much did you pay her to say that?’” Tone giggled. “But it’s true, he’s a very nice, polite boy. They learn that good behavior from home.”

The concept of home was heightened over the weekend in more ways than one. There was the comforting reminder of home parents brought with them, and the new sense of home the students are building on campus. 

For Kim, who has so many family members nearby, that means merging the two. She goes to eat at her aunt’s and uncle’s home in San Francisco and they have already visited her four times on campus. 

When asked if she likes having family visiting so often, Kim said she absolutely does. 

Her aunts and uncles, standing nearby, laughed. 

“She can’t say anything else,” her uncle Dwain said. “We’re standing right here.”