My Favorite Finals Weekend Memories—Rodrigo Bustamante ’20

Blog | February 22, 2019

I remember packing up for Final Selection Weekend on an evening in early March of 2016 back home in Miami, Florida. As I was haphazardly throwing clothes into my bag, I remember thinking about how quickly high school was coming to a close; many of my friends had already committed to a university and I was still clueless as to where I would end up. That sense of unease filled me as I did not know what to expect from the upcoming weekend.

I lay in bed that night thinking about the endless possibilities that could be presented to me over the next four years. The following day would mark many firsts for me: my first time flying alone, my first time touching down at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (a place I know like the back of my hand now), and my first time arriving at a place that I would very quickly learn to call home–though I truthfully would have never expected this.

Though there are countless moments that inspired me, provoked deep reflection, and managed to permanently fix a smile on my face, I will share the story of two instances that helped me fall in love with the Morehead-Cain and Carolina, respectively.

I remember waking up on Sunday extremely eager for the day. The night before, UNC men’s basketball had beaten Duke and many finalists and I rushed Franklin Street, oblivious to how much this meant to our scholar hosts. This energy filled me as I got ready for the Summer Enrichment Program Breakfast—the first time I would have the opportunity to hear more about the wild experiences scholars had over their summers.

I sat down at my table and just listened for the next few hours—something that is usually pretty difficult for me to do. With every story, a new idea was born. By the end of the breakfast, I was exhausted as a billion different ideas flooded into my mind. I had never truly grasped what feeling boundless or limitless could be like, until that moment. It became so tangible to me that these experiences that once seemed so far out of reach could become a reality for me. As a relentless adventurer, and a relatively impulsive decision-maker, I began to conjure up various plot lines about what my four years at Carolina would look like (none of which resembled the path I have ended up taking). I wanted to write and create and feel and share with anyone and everyone. I remember going back to my room awestruck by how possible the impossible was. There was still so much of the weekend left, but I was already sold.

During my downtime later that afternoon, some of the other finalists and I decided to go on a walk. We passed through the arboretum and made our way down to Forest Theater. After the craziness of interviews, this walk around a new part of campus filled me with ease. Sitting on those steps, I was present as I listened to the birds and watched the colors change as the sun set lower and lower. Though it was getting far too cold for my Miami blood, I was transfixed as this wave of peace continued to fill me. It was a simple moment, but one I will treasure forever because I realized then how right things felt . . . not just with the Morehead-Cain, but with UNC.

There are various adjectives I could use to describe the weekend in its entirety, but the best way for me to adequately express how profound the experience was to me is homecoming. I am always grateful to the Foundation for giving me the opportunity to live this beautiful and oftentimes crazy life. Final Selection Weekend is a special time, and if I could impart any kind of wisdom on incoming finalists, I would say to enjoy yourself, to welcome UNC and the Morehead-Cain with open arms, and to be present. This weekend changed my life, and I hope that many of y’all will come away with nothing less than that.


Rodrigo Bustamante is a junior from Miami, Florida. He is majoring in global studies with minors in sustainability studies and entrepreneurship. He loves photography, videography, and outdoor adventures.