The Class of 2023 Then and now

By Johnny Andrews, University Communications

Four years as a Carolina student can go by really fast.

As the Tar Heels in the Class of 2023 prepare to graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill, University photographer Johnny Andrews invited a few of them back to the spots where they started their Carolina careers to reflect on the past four years and offer advice to their younger selves.


raduating seniors look back at images of themselves during their first year on the UNC campus

Nasya Richardson

Nasya Richardson arrived on campus as a first-year student a little earlier than most of her fellow Tar Heels in August of 2019 to join Carolina Kickoff, a three-day orientation for students. This semester, Richardson returned to the same spot in front of the Campus Y, where she had started her years as a Tar Heel.

“After my family moved me in, I remember feeling excited yet nervous about this new chapter of my life. When I arrived at the Campus Y, many of my worries went away as I was surrounded by others who were also eager to meet new people and to create new memories. I had no idea what was in store for me at UNC, but I was more than ready to start my journey.

“Advice that I would give to the ‘first year on campus’ version of myself would be to always remain confident in everything that I do. I would tell myself that time will go by very fast, so have fun, attend as many games and events as possible, and be open to trying new things. I would tell myself to take more time to discover new interests and the importance of self-care early on and to take advantage of the many opportunities that UNC has to offer.”

graduating seniors look back at images of themselves during their first year on the UNC campus

Michael Barnes and Charles Jeon

For most incoming first-year students, move-in day is the first time they’ll meet their roommates. It can be an intimidating moment. But for Michael Barnes and Charles Jeon, who met at East Forsyth High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the biggest concern about moving in was trying to get their new futon into their room.

The two first-year roommates returned to Hinton James Residence Hall shortly before graduation.

“To my younger self, I would say, ‘Don’t be afraid of failure and enjoy life.” Michael Barnes

“My advice is to please love yourself more, be more confident, be more outgoing, be more open-minded. Everything will be tough at the beginning, so you’re going to have to experience a lot of failures, but that doesn’t mean you’re a failed person. You’re young, and you have four years to go, so please don’t give up early.” Charles Jeon

graduating seniors look back at images of themselves during their first year on the UNC campus

Diane Gildehaus

Another Carolina Kickoff alumna, Diane Gildehaus, returned to the Campus Y to relive her first day on campus, where she ran through a tunnel of Tar Heels the moment she arrived in Chapel Hill four years ago.

“I remember I was so excited to start college. My parents had just dropped me off at Carolina Kickoff, and I had been torn from my car by the Carolina Kickoff counselor without a moment for a tearful goodbye. I was a little nervous, and I remember as I was running towards the Campus Y telling myself to just go for it and live in the moment. Looking back on it now is a reminder to my senior-year-self to finish strong with the same kind of optimism and enthusiasm I began college with.

“It is true that all good things take time. Be authentic, be true to yourself and go take chances on the things that fill you with excitement. Failure, quitting and the rejection of perfectionism are all signs of strength. Don’t train yourself to be miserable. Value joy and peace, and seriously consider what a life worth living looks like to you. Are you living that truth at this moment? What are you waiting for?”

graduating seniors look back at images of themselves during their first year on the UNC campus

Junead Khan

Eager to begin his time at Carolina following tradition, Junead Khan waited in a long line to take a sip from the Old Well on the first day of classes on Aug. 20, 2019. From his first sip to graduation day, Khan says he’s learned a lot about himself as a Tar Heel.

“The advice I’d give myself as a freshman is: ‘You’re in a place where the people are as smart, curious and driven as yourself. Don’t be intimidated by others, be inspired by them, but still remember your worth.’”

graduating seniors look back at images of themselves during their first year on the UNC campus

Jada Burroughs

Jada Burroughs didn’t waste much time getting to work at Carolina. By Aug. 27, 2019, the Tar Heel had already staked out a space in the Robert H. House Undergraduate Library. Four years later, she returned to her first-year study spot.

“Breathe. Four years goes by so fast. Please give yourself grace and realize that change is inevitable, no matter how hard you plan. Allow yourself to see the bigger picture and realize the millions of possibilities there are to accomplish just one thing.”

graduating seniors look back at images of themselves during their first year on the UNC campus

Grace Hoover

The first time Grace Hoover met her classmates at Carolina Kickoff, she wasn’t sure how she’d fit in at UNC-Chapel Hill. But when she returned to the spot of her first day at Carolina four years later, the Tar Heel did so with more confidence.

“I remember showing up to campus feeling completely unsure of my potential and feared that I may slip through the cracks when trying to thrive at this big new school. Over my four years at Carolina, I learned how to stand up and stand out. I found the most wonderful community who truly taught me how to grow into my own skin in this big world.

“As you go into these four years, never be afraid to speak up and fight for the things you want. Do everything you do with an ounce more confidence and power than the day before. Be bold, kind, aware and never be afraid to laugh at yourself.”