CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Austin Stoner was surrounded by dozens of females as they sat outside in big circles Wednesday, getting to know each other and learning what to expect in their new environment at college.
He might as well get used to it. The freshman from Mont Alto is among the first male students to attend Wilson College straight out of high school.
His is the first class to start at Wilson since the board of trustees voted this past winter to allow male high school graduates younger than 22 to enroll at the former all-women's college in Chambersburg. Prior to this year, men had been able to enroll only in the adult education program.
Mr. Stoner will study in Wilson's equestrian program, which is what attracted him in the first place. But the switch to co-ed was the deciding factor, he said.
Two other young men are in the same position as Mr. Stoner, according to Brie Burdge, an orientation leader and sophomore at Wilson.
"I think it's going to be really good in a sense, but also at least there's some guys here, so it levels out just a little," Mr. Stoner said.
Despite the historical role he is playing, he is like any other college freshman who must adapt to new educational challenges and living away from home for the first time.
"I'm [less than] an hour from home, so I'm excited. I have enough of a distance to get a taste of what it's like but at the same time, I'm close enough if I need anything," he said.
The campus has housing for women but does not yet have on-campus accommodations for men. He will live in off-campus housing.
Mr. Stoner said he has heard nothing but positive remarks from his new female classmates. Around the time of the trustees' vote, Wilson students spoke out and hung posters throughout campus to protest their school going co-ed.
But now that male students have arrived, women once opposed to co-ed are open to the transition.
Ms. Burdge is among them. She did not like it at first but now does not think it is a big deal.
"I think it will be a nice change," she said.
As an orientation leader, Ms. Burdge was among returning students responsible for leading freshmen and new students in activities to get to know each other and learn the key points of life at Wilson College.
Her motivation to get involved as an orientation leader and resident assistant came from looking up to the "rockin'" RA she had as a freshman.
"I want to be that," she said.
At two hours away from her hometown of Dalmatia, freshman Samantha Schlegel said she is not too nervous about embarking on college life. She is impressed by the positive attitudes she has encountered so far and looks forward to meeting more new people.
A group of six other women in the lobby of Lenfest Commons are each in a far different situation. Their homes are half a world away.
Pakistani Carol Mukhtar is very nervous and said the environment is totally different.
With a smile plastered across her face, Anna Harutyunyan, of Armenia, said, "I'm not scared. I'm just happy."