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Moving In, Leaving Memories Behind

Freshmen roll onto campus and into varied residences with help of proud parents who grapple with mixed emotions.

Moving In, Leaving Memories Behind
Along with the overstuffed suitcases, endless boxes and plastic storage tubs, families at Move-In Day were juggling emotions.

Excitement. Pride. Anxiety. Awkwardness.

As parents and students stacked beds and maneuvered the measured paces of a dorm room, both parties were acutely aware that these cubicles and rectangles were the opposite of confining. For parents and students, they represented a newfound sense of space.

“The family dynamics will never be the same again,” said a wistful Regina Rea of Walnut, who was waiting with her freshman daughter Laura Rose, 18, outside Fluor Tower. Her husband Rudy, Laura Rose’s 15-year-old sister Marissa, grandmother Rosemarie Miranda and a huge stuffed dog named Scruffy filled out their move-in team.

“My husband and I didn’t have the dorm experience and so we encouraged her to go away and live in a dorm,” Rea said. “But when the day came, we had mixed feelings. We’re proud but we’re sad.”

The farewell scene in freshman Joanne Kim’s room in Birnkrant Residence Hall was repeated throughout the campus. Her father David fiddled with her computer and printer set-up. Her mother Christine organized her closet, including a carefully folded stack of five new USC sweatshirts and T-shirts. Her sister Jessica, 17, took one last opportunity to rifle through her big sister’s stuff, trying on some cute new shoes she had her eye on.

The Kims of Diamond Bar are a close-knit family. Christine didn’t sleep at all the night before. “We’re a little nervous,” David said. He looked up from his extension cord duty, struggling to smile. “I don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye to my daughter. I’m going to get the tears maybe.”

Earlier around 6 a.m., the day began with the aroma of grilled Spam, linguica sausage, Japanese rice, scrambled eggs and guava and mango juices at the traditional Aloha Breakfast at the University Religious Center.

Sixteen bleary freshmen who had taken the red-eye from Honolulu and landed at LAX at 5 a.m. were present, along with their parents and the welcoming staff of Asian Pacific American Student Services and members of the Ohana Faculty and Staff Club and USC Hawai’i Club.

“We try to make it homey,” said Dawn Kita, an administrative coordinator in USC’s Civic & Community Relations who was expertly twirling rolls with Spam, rice and sheets of nori. She estimated that the Aloha Breakfast tradition stretches back two decades.
Another USC tradition is parent volunteers, who take a day off work to dress in cardinal and gold and stand for hours outside residence halls, providing smiles, advice and encouragement for newcomers.

Grace and Ron Mitnick (’79) of Tarzana, who were dispensing wisdom outside of New Residential College, have done this for three years. “It’s what makes this campus so unique,” Grace said. “We want to share the Trojan Family.”

Debbie and Ben Wong of West Covina organize the 50 parent volunteers, a group that includes parents whose children have graduated. “We also did 11 student orientation and transfer sessions all summer long,” Debbie said.

At the squeaky clean, newly reopened Webb Tower, where RAs decided to make soap products the theme of Move-In Day, parents and students were thrilled with the new appliances, cabinets, furniture and checkered carpet tiles in the hallways. Lucky students who received Webb in the housing lottery even shunned the long elevator lines to bound up many flights of stairs for a first look.

Catherine Lyons of Elk Grove, Calif., whose daughter, Catherine, a sophomore, was moving in to Webb Tower with three friends, had the more laid-back demeanor of a Move-In Day veteran. “This is my daughter’s first apartment, and they need to do it their way – and have a great time doing it,” she said.

As vehicle trunks and backseats were emptied into enormous orange tubs, what was being wheeled across campus were thousands of memories of home, along with gigantic boxes of cereal, bedspreads, extra long sheets and hopes for a new year.

The official tally won’t be made for three weeks, but a jubilant Katharine Harrington, dean of admission and financial aid, already knows this entering class of approximately 2,700 Trojans is a special group. It is the product of the highest number of applications in the university’s history – 33,978 – and its lowest admit rate – 25 percent. (Just two years ago, the admit rate was 33 percent.)

Average SAT scores have continued to rise (1372 as compared to 1364 last year, using the old scoring), as have the number of international students. There are 294 new international students – the biggest international class in the history of USC. The numbers of African American and Latino students are up over the past two years as well.

Thirty-two percent arrived from Los Angeles and Orange County, 18 percent from other areas in California, 37 percent from out of state and 13 percent from other countries.