First Night 2017

New Hopkins students receive a candlelight greeting at annual First Night celebration

Tradition that dates to 2009 welcomes first-year students into student body

Two students write on a mason jar with a sharpie

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Two thousand battery-powered candles in 2,000 white paper bags lined the criss-crossing brick paths of Wyman Quad on Saturday night as the incoming Class of 2021—more than 1,300 of them—were formally welcomed into the Johns Hopkins University student body.

First Night, a Johns Hopkins tradition since 2009, is a passing of the torch (or mini plastic candle, as it were) from upperclassmen to new students. While the new first-years nervously jostled each other, forming new friendships and social circles, residential advisers and event coordinators corralled them, striding confidently across the quad and gesturing the newcomers to follow.

"Oh," remarked one first-year, "we are allowed on the grass."

During the ceremony, Kevin Shollenberger, vice provost for student affairs, read a note of welcome.

"Every single one of you is here because you have been chosen from a wide pool of incredibly talented young people," he said, to cheers from the crowd. "We chose you because we knew that you would bring something indispensable to our Hopkins community ... and something for which the entire Blue Jay family will grow and be even more beautiful and remarkable than it is today."

For Vicky Wang, a sophomore and core member of the orientation team, her First Night speech was a chance to lead the Hopkins cheer.

"Forever," she called. "A Blue Jay!" the crowd answered. "Go Hop!"

The ceremony included interactive goodies for the freshmen to take with them, including DIY buttons, laptop stickers, and commemorative Mason jars. Stonemill Bakery supplied unfrosted Blue Jay cookies for students to decorate with homemade icing and chocolate candies, and students were encouraged to write their hopes and dreams for their time at Hopkins on blue and white ribbons, and then to tie their ribbon to a tree.

"I remember my First Night ceremony, but I don't remember the celebration," said Calix Mateos Salles, a junior chemical and biomolecular engineering major and orientation core team member who coordinated the event. "That's why I wanted to make the celebration bigger, and to provide mementos from their O-week for students to keep."

Thaddeus Woodard, a senior studying molecular and cellular biology and a residential adviser for first-years, also couldn't remember the specifics of his First Night ceremony, but said he remembered an overall feeling.

"My first day at Hopkins was a blur. But I do remember looking at the seniors when I was new and thinking 'all of you have made it,'" he said. "And now I'm here, and I've made it. It's an amazing feeling, and it's really cool to see other people starting their journey."