The first semester for Hamilton’s Class of 2025 has come to a close, bringing a true intertwining of Hamilton and home for each new student. It’s been a chance for them to grow and change, while still keeping some ties to their previous lives.
But how can we truly encapsulate the experience of a first-year student?
To answer that, we surveyed eight new students on both the most important item they brought with them to Hamilton and how their perception of college has already changed as they readied themselves for their first semester break.
Edwin Mensah-Boateng ’25
In 2019, Edwin Mensah-Boateng was gifted a bright yellow hat by his sister when she came home for the holidays. He laughs about how this item had little significance to him at first. “It was just a cool yellow hat that my sister just happened to give me,” he says, admitting that he even found it a bit “tacky.” However, as with many family gifts, it came with him when he moved to Hamilton. If nothing else, it reminded him of home.
As the semester progressed, Mensah-Boateng started incorporating the hat into his outfits, albeit with the bottom rolled up to hide the “NJ” stitched on the front. “The hat still reminds me of my home state of New Jersey,” he says, “but I consider [it] to look a lot better without the big blue initials.” Now the hat has become part of his style, part of his identity around campus. “It’s what people associate with me; the guy in the yellow hat.”
The shaping of his hat into something that fit his identity represents his broader experience. Mensah-Boateng says being in a college environment has helped him become more aware of who he is, and he’s sure he’ll mature even more at Hamilton. It has encouraged him to explore his interest in the outdoors through the Raquette River Canoe orientation trip and has challenged him to pursue a biology major. Although he doesn’t wear his hat every day, it reminds him of the bigger identity he is constructing at college and of the connection to the boy from New Jersey who received a yellow hat for Christmas.
Eva Millay Evans ’25
Five years ago, Eva Millay Evans named her guitar Hope, and the two have been making music ever since. “Where I go, my guitar goes,” she says. Whether it’s a good day that leads to rock ballads or a stressful one that brings about slow, sad chords, the instrument has lived up to its name. “College is an era full of change and challenge,” she says, “but music is something that brings people together.”
Once on campus, Evans wasted no time exercising her passion for songwriting. She played several original songs at Open Mic night, expecting just a performance but finding something more meaningful. “The students who came up to me after are still the students I do homework with in KJ,” she says.
When playing a concert for some friends in the stairwell of Dunham Residence Hall, she unexpectedly piqued the interest of passersby. “People would keep coming down the stairs, no matter who they were,” she recalls. “A violinist, a French major, a choir kid, a lacrosse player, a math major, a theatre kid.” True to the College’s ethos, Evans had created a space where students of different backgrounds and experiences could simply sit and share the joy of music.
Evans and Hope have become a staple of Hamilton’s music scene. From the Thursday night stairwell concerts to her radio show on WHCL titled “The Eva the Diva Show,” Evans has created an identity on campus. As she strolls the pathways with her guitar case covered in hand-drawn lyrics and song titles, she knows that Hope has brought her recognition, but more importantly, connection.
John Carbone ’25
John Carbone has had his stuffed dog named Buddy longer than he can remember. Gifted to him as an infant, Buddy has accompanied Carbone to places like the Caribbean, Ireland, Spain, and various states across the U.S. So, of course, when it came time to start college, Buddy was ready for another journey.
Buddy has not always been a source of fun and remembrance. When Carbone arrived at Hamilton, he was unsure how to navigate the transition to college life. “I didn’t really know anyone,” he recalls. “I was going to be on my own in just a few hours, and, of course, it was raining.” However, when his mother propped Buddy up on the edge of his bed, Carbone felt a spark of courage.
Carbone describes his first semester as “all that [I] ever could have hoped for and more.” He prospered in friend groups, classes, and even helped Hamilton’s Ultimate Frisbee team qualify for the next round of a tournament. Carbone’s relationship with Buddy exemplifies a hallmark of the Hamilton experience. Through his connection to his stuffed pal, he’s found a path to “know thyself” as he makes use of all the College has to offer.
Carbone plans to study abroad during his junior year, and although he doesn’t know exactly where he will go, he does know that Buddy will be right there with him. The bond between these two world travelers has only strengthened in their first semester at Hamilton. “With all of this squeezed into just a few months,” Carbone says, “I can’t wait to see what the next seven semesters have in store!”
Eve Rudin ’25
When Eve Rudin embarked on a long awaited 20-day canoe trip to Canada, she was presented with a special gift. Every member of her Northwaters wilderness group received a wooden canoe paddle; this was a rite of passage. Even so, the experience stood out on a personal level. “Each of our paddles had a different pattern in the wood and was made perfectly for our height,” she says. “It felt really special.”
With the now well-worn paddle packed safely into the car, Rudin arrived on campus last fall carrying both the rewarding and challenging aspects of her canoe trip with her. The paddle had come to symbolize the close connections she formed on the trip. One specific memory it conjures actually began with frustration. After repeatedly failing to cook the next day’s breakfast, Rudin’s group was weary and past ready to give up and sleep. “A few close friends stayed up with us until 2 a.m. to finish cooking,” she recalls with a smile. “Then we sat around the fire and stargazed.” Going into the wholly new environment of college, Rudin says her paddle reminds her of perseverance and how others can help push you along in times of struggle.
At Hamilton, Rudin has been putting her paddling skills to good use. From leading canoe trips to joining the College’s rowing team, she has built upon the memories of time in the water. Thanks to the constant comfort and power of her trusty paddle, Rudin has created an environment in which she can once again thrive. “It definitely feels like home,” she said.
Dominic Tanelli ’25
Growing up, Dominic Tanelli was an avid Cartoon Network fan. He and his best friend would get together every Friday to watch any episodes the network aired, even if they were reruns. However, their passion did not stop there. Tanelli remembers how they would sit and draw their favorite characters for hours on those Friday nights. His friend even offered to design a pair of Converse shoes inspired by some of their favorite characters.
When Tanelli stepped on campus in the fall, he did so with a “symbol of friendship,” as he puts it. His black Converse were designed with images of Gumball and Darwin, two characters from Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World of Gumball adorning the front. Tanelli describes them as a reminder, something tangible that ties him back to the joy and happiness of his childhood, when he’s cramming for a math test, finishing up an econ PSet, or even thinking about his future. To him, the shoes are a comfort that he is never too far from home.
During his first semester, Tanelli’s shoes became a treasured “design piece” within his residence hall, something he would only wear out on nice days to protect them from the elements. Even though they have not accompanied him everywhere, they remain an inspiration. Tanelli says although he has only ever drawn the characters on paper, he would someday love to design his own pair of shoes. “I definitely [would] want to make them very personal to me,” he said, “and not worry about what other people may think of them.”
Abby Lowder ’25
Walk past Keehn Residence Hall and you’re likely to be taken aback, or even startled, by an object looking out at you from Abby Lowder’s window. The 6-foot-tall cardboard cutout of Pennywise the Dancing Clown from the horror film It has become a landmark on the campus’ Dark Side. “Many people immediately recognize it,” she laughs, “and that has only made me more fond of it.”
However, Lowder’s true reason for treasuring her cutout goes deeper than simple hilarity or fun. “I was gifted it by a dear friend who shares my love for the It movies,” she says, “and it reminds me of family as well.” To Lowder, horror and Pennywise represent traditions: Her father took her to see It for the first time, her mother always helps with her cosplays of the titular character, and all three of them share an intense love for Stephen King. As she “figures out exactly what [her] little niche is” at Hamilton, her cutout serves to make her new surroundings truly feel like home.
When reflecting on her first college semester, Lowder describes it as “wonderful.” She plans to pursue a neuroscience major and possibly a theatre minor. For now, however, she is content being known as “the person who owns the giant Pennywise.” At Hamilton, she can be the horror-loving member of her family but can also branch out and make wholly new connections. “The cutout has always been special to me, but now I have even more fun memories attached to it,” she says.
Timothy Colledge still treasures the tie he wore to his first high school debate tournament. “It’s my lucky tie,” he says, “I’ve worn it to quite a few tournaments, and I have a pretty good win ratio.” However, his connection to the piece of formal neckwear goes much deeper than simple luck. It represents both nostalgia and a path to new opportunity.
Colledge’s tie has accompanied him to other important life events. The tie was a gift from his father when he remarried and has always served as a reminder that even though his father lived in a different city, he was “still with [me] whenever [I] was wearing the tie.”
At Hamilton, Colledge’s tie evokes much of that same feeling of connection — this time to his previous experience in debate. “Some of my closest friends to this day also did debate, and because of that I have a sense of nostalgia I didn’t before,” he says.
In his first semester, Colledge joined Hamilton’s Debate Society. Although he plans to take it a bit less seriously than before, even forgoing a tie at some tournaments, he still smiles when thinking about the “great community of people” he’s met on campus through the club. “It’s definitely not the same as high school, but it’s got the same sort of academic spark to it,” he says.
As Colledge embarks on his college journey, he will keep his lucky tie with him. Whether tucked into his collar or away in his closet while he pursues other interests, the tie represents joy, connection, and the luck needed to continue those feelings into the future.
Ilsaa Siddiqui ’25
When it became apparent that Ilsaa Siddiqui would be going to a different college than her best friend, Isabel, the two decided to set up a trade fueled by remembrance and themed on comfort. “I gave her a Gon and Killua best friends pillowcase,” Siddiqui says with a smile, “and she gave me my squishmallow Caeli because I like to cuddle with things when I’m sleeping.”
When she arrived at Hamilton, Caeli reminded her of home each day when she returned to her dorm. I wasn’t long before Siddiqui found herself growing more comfortable on campus as she experienced everything from an orientation trip to clubs like the Muslim Student Association and the Hamilton Debate Society.
However, when her roommate left early for Thanksgiving break, Siddiqui suddenly found herself in a “dark and lonely” room and more in need of cuddles with Caeli. “I grew up having always shared my bedroom with siblings,” she says. Having her stuffed friend made Siddiqui feel close to Isabel emotionally, even though they were hundreds of miles apart physically. At this point, the squishmallow became more than a memory turned object. It became a source of warmth, a presence that not only reminded her of home, but the feelings associated with it as well.
As the semester concluded, Siddiqui reflected on how “strong” she finished. With Caeli at her side, Siddiqui managed to not only conquer the freshman fear of loneliness, but also made new friends. She plans to study abroad in her junior year, and of course Caeli will be there by her side.
Like the students she wrote about for this story, Alyssa Samuels ’25 is a first-year student. She is already active on campus as a writer in the College’s Communications Office and as a member of the College Choir, and will serve as vocal director for the Theatre Department’s upcoming mainstage production. “Music and acting have always been my passions,” she says. “Before I could even talk, I sang, stringing together stories from syllables that were unintelligible to those around me. Now I compose my own pieces with vocals and piano accompaniment.” It’s no surprise that the most-cherished item she brought with her to Hamilton is a keyboard. She knew her performative passion would accompany her, and we’re delighted that she’s also sharing her writing talents with Hamilton magazine.