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The school year started Sunday night by welcoming 4,195 first-year students and 852 transfer students to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during the New Student Convocation.

On the first day of their Carolina careers, the Class of 2023 gathered in Carmichael Arena for a “pre-game pep talk” from legendary soccer coach Anson Dorrance urging them to take full advantage of their experience as Tar Heels.

“I am a proud son of the University of North Carolina,” Dorrance said. “I have lived an extraordinarily gilded life, and that gilding started here because I took advantage of everything this amazing paradise offers.”

Dorrance, the National Soccer Hall of Famer who has led the Carolina women’s soccer team to 22 national championship titles, served as the keynote speaker for the annual New Student Convocation, which marked the beginning of 5,047 new Tar Heels’ journeys at Carolina.

Interim Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz welcomed the students to UNC-Chapel Hill and encouraged them to shoot for the stars.

“We want you to be ready so that whether you are an artist or a business leader, a lawyer or a dentist, a scientist or a historian, or even an astronaut, you can get to where you need to go,” he said, with a nod to the astronauts who trained at Carolina’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center before landing on the moon 50 years ago this summer.

Guskiewicz urged students to look to their classmates for inspiration along the way and to learn from the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of fellow Tar Heels.

The fall 2019 first-year class is the most geographically diverse and globally engaged of any incoming class in Carolina’s history. It includes 300 students with military affiliations, 218 international students and nearly 800 students who will be the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to being exceptionally well-prepared academically, the incoming Tar Heels are committed to serving their communities, exploring the wider world and engaging in dialogue with those who are different from them.

Guskiewicz and Dorrance encouraged students to celebrate their diversity and to continue seeking out opinions different from their own.

“Go listen to speakers, especially the ones you disagree with,” Dorrance said. “Go to strengthen your own convictions, if you’d like, but work to become empathetic, inclusive, and universal, and of course, educated.”

At the end of the ceremony, students ripped open Carolina blue envelopes in unison to receive copies of the UNC-Chapel Hill honor code and tassels signifying their end goal: graduation. The students linked arms and sang out “Hark the Sound” together as a class — for the last time until they meet again at Commencement in 2023.

Following convocation, students attended FallFest on Hooker Fields, where hundreds of student organizations, volunteer groups, sports clubs and recreational league teams were stationed to welcome the new Tar Heels home.

“I speak for everyone on this campus when I say that we are so excited for you — excited to see what you achieve, how you will grow and the amazing ways in which you will work together and change the world,” Guskiewicz said.

Story by Emilie Poplett, video by Aaron Moger, University Communications

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