Return of the students: new frosh, parents, families converge on campus

(Photos by Carolyn Lagattuta)

They showed up in SUVS, trucks, RVs, and trailers. 

They brought 12-cup coffee makers, stackable garbage cans, amplifiers that connect to iPods, and duffel bags big enough to contain a full-grown person.

In other words, the sleepy days of summer are over at UC Santa Cruz. Welcome Week brought thousands of parents and new students onto campus in an annual tradition that ran from Wednesday through Saturday.

Some families made a vacation out of it, including the Metzgers, who drove an RV from Lake Tahoe and camped up the road from UCSC.  Laurie Metzger, a physical therapist, and Don Metzger, a pharmacist, had a good time but worried about saying goodbye to their 18-year-old daughter Kelsey, who is thinking of studying environmental studies and plans to take a sustainability class.

“We’re close,” Don Metzger said. “We have a 14-year-old daughter, too, and she’s not really looking forward to four years of just mom and dad. I told her, 'Well, Kelsey’s four years older than you, so it was just us and her for the first four years of her life.’”

Some of the parents made treats for their kids as part of the send-off, but few took as much trouble as Teri Sheets of Davis, who stuffed, sewed, and embroidered a four-foot-long, two-foot-wide Sammy the Slug throw pillow with foot-long antennae.

The project took 25 hours. The slug needed plumping, so Sheets stopped at Scotts Valley’s Kmart for supplies. By the time she finished the project, Sheets had stray bits of stuffing sticking out of her wedding ring.

Sheets’s daughter, Renee, wants to pursue a double major in linguistics and digital film and media. “I am proud of her, and I just wanted her to have something squishy,” Teri Sheets said. “I wanted her to be able to lie on it if she wanted. When you’re in Slugland, you need a slug. We’re just so stoked our daughter is here. It’s a victory for us.”

Nasheli Hau, 18, of San Rafael had no squishy slugs to send her off on Friday, but she showed up on campus with plenty of support. Her sister, brother, and parents were there to see her off. Her Mayan parents come from the Yucatan Peninsula. She’s the first in her family to attend a four-year university.

“We’re excited, and pretty sad, too, because she’s been living at home,” her father, Michael Hau said. “But we are so proud of what she’s done. She worked so hard in high school. I want to thank her for all she’s done, and she’s done it almost all by herself.”

Nasheli Hau has gone off to camp before. She remembers what it is like to feel homesick, and expects to go through that again. “I’m not looking forward to that part of it,” she said. While she thought about going to a small, private Catholic university closer to home, “I wanted to challenge myself, step out of my comfort zone, and reinvent myself.”

While she hopes to study human biology, she would also love to take art classes on campus.

In previous years, the first-year students converged on campus during two busy days. This year the campus decided to stagger the students’ arrival, spreading out welcome week over four days.

This year also marked UCSC’s first-ever international student orientation event, with 12 students showing up from China, Singapore, Thailand and Kazakhstan.