Sure enough, a Jeep with Arizona plates towing a U-Haul trailer sat parked outside Miller Hall on Tuesday at the University of Montana.

Brianna Rowe pulled open the door, and she and her parents started hauling up the belongings that would turn a dorm pod into a home for at least the year.

A record player. Hamper. Penny skateboard.

On early check-in day at UM, a trickle of students filled with excitement and apprehension started moving into campus dorms.

Rowe felt nervous about just one thing.

"I'm very far away from home. That's pretty much the only thing," she said.

In fact, her father, Alex Rowe, said she felt like UM was a match the first time she set foot on the campus as a visitor.

"She wasn't here more than an hour. She was like, 'This is my school,' " he said.

Rowe plans to be at UM for eight years to get a bachelor's degree in exercise science, master's in athletic training, and doctorate in physical therapy – and undertake some therapeutic activities of her own.

"She's actually excited about doing the rapids in the river," Alex Rowe said.

Brianna Rowe has been texting her roommate for a few months about going to football games, and the things they'd need for their pod – a couple of private bedrooms connected with a shared study area. Her roommate is set to show up Wednesday, when they will meet in person and dive into the school year together.

"I'm not unpacking all my stuff until she's here," Rowe said.

Outside the dorms, a crowd that looked a little bigger than usual stood around the Galloping Griz food truck.

A young man walked a slackline set up near the Memorial Row evergreens.

The Oval smelled like freshly cut grass.

***

Sue Tinsley didn't wear eye makeup on purpose Tuesday. She and Ed Tinsley were helping their son, Sam Tinsley, move into the dorm room and launch into the rest of his life, a promising one from the sounds of it.

"I've already cried, like twice," Sue Tinsley said.

Sam Tinsley is a freshman, but he already knows he wants to teach world cultures. To reach his goal, he plans to learn geography, history and government, and he was ready for the new chapter of his life.

"The excitement has been building up the whole summer," Tinsley said.

Maroon and silver run through his blood, since his father is a UM alum.

"I've always loved the University of Montana since I can remember," Tinsley said.

Ed and Sue Tinsley love football, and the Helena residents were heartened to be able to return to Missoula to see the games – and their son at the same time. School starts Monday, and the parents would be back in Missoula in just a week and a half.

Ed wore a maroon ballcap with "Dad" stitched across the fabric, and at the start of his son's first semester at UM, he cheered on his child and his alma mater.

"Go Griz," he said.

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