A joyous welcome to campus: Summer Orientation 2012

A group of 120 student orientation leaders, consisting of current UCSC students, greeted proud parents and incoming Slugs. (Photos by Carolyn Lagatutta)

Cindy Sphabmixay, 18, of San Diego, looked calm and happy as she chatted with her mother, Sonphet Sphabmixay.

Student orientation leaders Steffi Scheid, 20, left, (College 9, '13, film and digital media), and Savannah Rudroff, 20, (Oakes, '14, marine biology) were on hand to meet and greet.

Where is the nearest bathroom? Which way is the food tent and the cookie tray? Where do students register for classes? Do students have to pay for laundry facilities? And will they be bitten by crazed woodland mammals?

Student tour guides answered these questions and many more during Student Orientation, as excited and sometimes nervous parents and students fanned out across the campus.

The wide range of interests was not surprising, considering the big turnout, one of the largest in recent years. All told, 7,500 students and family members attended the event, said Rosa Plaza, director of student orientation.

To make sure those visitors had a good experience, the campus hired more than 120 current UCSC students to work as orientation leaders, who stood out from the crowd with their yellow hooded sweatshirts.

Summer Orientation has become a highly anticipated campus ritual. Aside from getting their questions answered, parents and students explored the campus, incoming students signed up for classes and looked at their new living facilities. They also attended a series of new "Slug Night" events on campus, which attracted hundreds of people to UCSC’s Quarry Plaza.

By the way, one of those orientation leaders, Savannah Rudroff, 20 (Oakes ’14, marine biology), was actually asked whether parents should worry about their students getting attacked by furry wild animals while on campus.

"My answer was an absolutely 100 percent guaranteed 'No!'", Rudroff said.

During lunchtime, throughout orientation week, students and parents met up at a large resource fair held at Oakes College, complete with a picnic lunch and many information booths.

At the fair, students could order dorm fridges, cavort with a costumed Sammy the Slug character, find out about opportunities to work at KZSC FM radio station on campus and find out about sustainability programs at UCSC.

For students wondering what their living quarters will look like when fully furnished, Nan Ferris of Student Housing Services showed them photographs of actual, furnished dorm rooms at the various colleges.

"Here’s what the rooms would look like if they made their beds," Ferris said half-jokingly. "If you just show them a blank, empty room, they don’t get a good sense of the space."

The photographs show various posters, folding chairs and Sammy the Slug pennants all over the walls.

"We actually had a parent who saw a picture of a dorm room, and she actually went out and bought the same things she saw in the photograph," Ferris said. "She decorated the room so it would look exactly the same as what she saw in the photograph."

While some students and parents were rushing around, looking very excited and sometimes nervous, Cindy Sphabmixay, 18, of San Diego, looked calm and happy as she chatted with her mother, Sonphet Sphabmixay.

Cindy Sphabmixay, who plans to major in sociology with a minor in dance, said she was drawn to UCSC "because of the overall environment. It’s beautiful here – and it’s not deep inside a city. So far, everyone has been so positive and welcoming."

"Besides,” her mother interjected, "she really loves organic food and this seems like a good place for that."

At first, Sonphet Sphabmixay felt conflicted about her daughter attending a campus hundreds of miles from her hometown. "When I first came here, I thought, ‘she doesn’t know anyone.’ But people were so energetic and friendly."

Besides, she’s not too worried about staying in close contact with her daughter during those first few months of her studies at UCSC.

"I’ll probably do a lot of texting," she said.