NEW PALTZ, N.Y. -- Thursday was an exciting day for more than a thousand first-year students who are beginning their college careers at SUNY New Paltz.

“They’re entering a new journey," said Perla Reyes, a SUNY New Paltz sophomore, helping move in students. "They don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Reyes knows what these first-year students are going through. Last year, Reyes was a freshman herself, leaving home and moving into a college dorm for the first time. This year, she's a residential assistant, helping these anxious students get settled in.

"Honestly from high school to college, it’s just like 'wow,' " Reyes said. "The independence is going to come rapidly.”

"It’ll be fun but it’ll be hard at first and then it’ll be exciting,” said Emily Papas, a first-year student.

On Thursday, SUNY New Paltz welcomed the incoming freshman Class of 2020 and their families as they transition into their new lives.

This new chapter brings mixed emotions for parents and new students, especially for those leaving home for the first time.

“It’s sad in a good way," said John Papas, Emily's father. "Kids aren’t going to stay with their parents forever.”

Classes officially begin Monday. Students will have a few days to get acquainted with the campus and the town as they begin to build that college experience.

“They’re going to learn a lot," Reyes said. "They’re going to explore and they’re going to become better, productive members in society.”