The Charles Sturt University campus had been eerily quiet for most of 2020, but on Wednesday it was flooded with fresh faced first years attending their orientation week welcoming ceremony.
A total of 761 new students had their university debut at the Wagga campus, which is resuming face-to-face classes after a year-long hiatus.
CSU vice-chancellor academic Janelle Wheat said life was almost, but not quite, back to normal at the university.
"We might be leveraging some online learning, but not very much," Professor Wheat said.
"We do recognise that part of the reason students want to come to uni is that social experience and the social connection with their peers, so where we can we are going to have our classes back to normal."
With steep job losses and a sharp drop in revenue, Professor Wheat said the university was still recovering from the impacts of COVID.
However, following on from some drastic cost-cutting measures, Professor Wheat said the university was on track to balance its budget by the end of this year.
Despite the tough road ahead, Professor Wheat said she was "just so thrilled" to be able to see the campus full of bright young students again.
One of the new students starting her university life is the precocious Chenny Sabay, who graduated from Wagga Christian College last year at the age of 16.
Now she will be going off to study nursing at CSU with a view to further medical training down the track, following in the footsteps of her father who is a registered nurse and her mother who is a pharmacist.
"I've always been interested in health," Ms Sabay said.
"I like to mix a bit of the problem solving and being hands-on with people."
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Her father Noel Sabay said he was overcome with pride to see his daughter flourishing in Australia, after having migrated from the Philippines in 2013.
"We're very happy and grateful to Australia for taking us in," Mr Sabay said.
"I'm very happy and grateful to god."
Another student leaving the nest is Alexis Gifford, who will be studying animal science in order to chase her dream of becoming a vet at Taronga Zoo.
Ms Gifford grew up on a 20-acre farm in Bundanoon, where she learned the ropes of looking after foals and horses.
"I've always wanted to be a vet," Ms Gifford said.