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Sarah Buoni (left) and Connor Dorney are two of about 4,000 first-year students who are scheduled to move into University of Delaware residence halls on Saturday, Aug. 24.

Almost in college

Photos by Evan Krape | Photo illustration by Jeff Chase

Two incoming first-year students share hopes before moving to UD

Blue Hen spirit runs deep in the Buoni household. That’s why Sarah Buoni, 18, decided to join the University of Delaware’s Class of 2023. Her parents, Charlotte and Michael, graduated from the University. 

For them, it was an obvious choice.

“I feel like I’ve been going to UD my whole life,” Sarah said. “When it came time to actually search for colleges, I really wanted to just stick with UD, but my parents wanted me to look around at other colleges just in case. At the end, I just knew I was going to be going to UD.” 

Sarah and other first-year students are scheduled to move into UD residence halls on Saturday, Aug. 24. A few weeks earlier, Sarah and her parents gathered around the kitchen table in their Millsboro home to pore over her schedule, the books she will need and the campus map. As they went through her classes and matched up the buildings, her parents chimed in with their memories. The blue kitchen walls with yellow trim fittingly set the scene. 

Sarah is one of the more than 4,000 students who will make up the incoming first-year class at UD. Like many others, she held a mixture of excitement and fear around moving away from home, making friends, taking the next step toward her career and the idea of being independent.

UD first-year student Sarah Buoni attended Sussex Tech where she focused on graphic design.

“There are a couple of times I can get shy, or not be super aware of my surroundings, but I’m not really that nervous,” Sarah said. “There’s the whole idea, like what if I don’t make friends? Or what if I’m late to my class? But I know me and I don’t think that’s really going to be a problem, but what if? The thing I’m most nervous about is what I don’t already know. What’s going to happen that I can’t prepare for.” 

The unknown is a fear for many. Just 30 minutes away in Lewes, incoming first-year student Connor Dorney shared similar thoughts.

“I don’t really know what to expect if I’m being honest,” Connor said. “So I’m just trying to prepare myself for whatever comes next. I’m a little nervous, but really excited. I’m ready for some change.” 

Getting ready

Connor became familiar with UD when his brother, Sean, a rising senior, started at the University. 

During the summer Connor Dorney worked two jobs. One job was at a seafood restaurant in Rehoboth
During the summer Connor Dorney worked two jobs. One job was at a seafood restaurant in Rehoboth.

“I always knew that it was a good school,” Connor said. “I went and visited [Sean] a couple of times and really enjoyed the campus. It seemed like the best choice for me financially and I like how it is the perfect distance from home. It’s just a great school.” 

One of the perks of having an older brother already in college are the hand-me-downs. Conner said he still has a few more items to buy for his room in Russell, but thanks to Sean he has most of what he needs. 

What he really hopes to work on before the semester begins, is his sleep routine. During the summer he worked two jobs — one at a seafood restaurant in Rehoboth and another at a nearby pizza shop on the boardwalk — for his financial needs. 

Although he developed interests in psychology and history at Cape Henlopen High School, Connor plans to major in marketing in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. He figured it would give him the best job prospects of the three.  

“I would love to work with an organization, probably in the advertising area,” he said. “I feel like that’s just something that I would be pretty good at.” 

Both brothers are looking forward to being on campus together. 

“I’m really excited to have my brother on campus,” Sean said. “I already have a group of friends and he’s pretty much already a part of my group of friends and they all love him. So I get to have another best friend on campus. And I miss him sometimes… we still talk all the time, but it’ll be nice for him to come over to my apartment and hang out.” 

The Dorney family from left to right: Connor, Jackie, Kevin and Sean.
The Dorney family from left to right: Connor, Jackie, Kevin and Sean.

Even with their busy schedules, the brothers found time to hang out during the summer. During one Monday in early August, the duo played pool in their basement. 

Sarah, who has a younger sister, is the first child in her family going to college. She did a lot of shopping in preparation for her move to James Smith Residence Hall on the Laird Campus. She connected with her suitemates to coordinate.    

At her family’s home, in the right corner of Sarah’s room next to her bed, is the area designated for her school supplies. Tupperware, notebooks, pads, pens, a larger book of newsprint, extension cords, glue and a host of other items line the wall. 

She attended Sussex Technical High in Georgetown, where she chose graphic design as her focus. She laughed looking over some old projects and noted how much better she is now. Her meticulous attention to detail and an eye for design is revealed through her work.  

Thanks to this expertise, she landed a job in October of 2018 working remotely for the Etsy store, Dea and Bean Paperie, where she turns photos submitted by clients into cartoon-like graphics. Cocktail signs, wedding invitations and logos for companies are examples of some of the projects she has completed. 

Sarah Buoni’s graphic design skills served her well as she landed a job working for an online Etsy store and will major in art to continue working on her craft at UD.
Sarah Buoni’s graphic design skills served her well as she landed a job working for an online Etsy store and will major in art to continue working on her craft at UD.

“I really like it,” she said. “It’s great practice and I think I’ve become a better graphic designer because of it. There’s so many tips and tricks I’ve learned through doing this process.”  

Given her passion from graphic design, Sarah plans to major in art in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). Ceramics, photography and drawing are a handful of the courses she will complete her first year.  

For her high school senior project Sarah created her own company, Buonasera — a mishmash play on the inverse of her name and the word that means good evening in Italian. She continued the play on inverse in her design and choice of colors for the logo, pricing sheet and business cards. While it is not currently running, Sarah hopes to open for business one day.  

Transitioning to college

Starting college is a unique time. Although the experience is very individual, the feelings of fear and joy that come with beginning this new chapter in life are common. It’s not only a change for students like Sarah and Connor, it is also a transition for their families.

What will their parents miss most?

“Everything,” Charlotte Buoni said. “We’re a pretty tight family. We go places together all the time, all four of us. We’re used to spending our free time together. So [Sarah] will be missed in many, many ways.”

Sarah Buoni (left) looks through her parent’s photos from their time at UD.
Sarah Buoni (left) looks through her parent’s photos from their time at UD.

In certain moments, like only setting the dinner table for three, the reality will sink in. That said, Sarah’s parents agreed she is ready.   

“You know you did it right, when your kid is counting down the days,” Michael Buoni said. “We know we did our job.”

The pair met at UD in the ‘90s. Charlotte majored in nursing while Michael majored in biology. They share a handful of warm memories, from their dates at Klondike Kate’s, to the lifelong friendships they formed on campus and the invaluable lessons they learned during those formative years.    

But a lot has changed, including professors and the campus itself. The Chrysler plant was a staple when they were students. Now that space has evolved into the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus. 

They also noticed much more emphasis on student health.   

“I was very impressed with their attention to the individual student, safety and mental wellness — all of these things that I really didn’t expect the University to take responsibility for,” Michael said. “I was very impressed with how seriously they take it. I actually feel really safe sending her there because of all of the different steps that they told us they’re taking.”

Even with all the changes, they agreed the soul of UD remains the same. 

During the summer Connor Dorney worked two jobs. His second job was at a pizza shop on the boardwalk in Rehoboth.
During the summer Connor Dorney worked two jobs. His second job was at a pizza shop on the boardwalk in Rehoboth.

Connor’s parents, Jackie and Kevin, are also familiar with UD because of his brother Sean’s experience. Although she is incredibly proud of her sons, Jackie gets emotional thinking of Connor leaving for school. 

“I will be an empty nester,” she said. “That’s going to be a big adjustment. What I’ll miss most? Doing for them. I don’t do it anymore. They do it themselves. So it’s tough, but exciting at the same time.”  

She said, teasingly, she expects Connor will struggle to make it to morning classes, but she has no doubts he will make the most of this opportunity. Kevin concurred.

“Our hope is that he just makes good choices,” Kevin said. “That he makes the most of his time in class, goes to class, meets a lot of new friends and gets exposed to a lot of different things from all over the world.” 

Both Sarah and Connor know people from their graduating class who will be attending the University. 

It’s impossible to plan for everything. Sometimes there are unforeseeable bumps in the road. During the summer, Connor’s roommate assignment was changed, but he is hopeful everything will work out.

He has shifted his attention to the ways he can get involved on campus. During high school, he mentored both special education students and those with difficult home lives. Hearing about UD’s Alternative Break (UDaB) program during his New Student Orientation (NSO) piqued his interest. 

How college classes will compare to high school, is one of Connor’s concerns. But he chose to look on the brighter side and hope for the best. 

“What I’m most looking forward to is meeting new people and experiencing new things,” Connor said. “I know that UD has a lot to offer and is just very diverse in a lot of ways. I’m excited to broaden my horizons.”

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