Move-in 2021: Relief and excitement as students return to campus

A campus kept quiet for 18 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic came back to life as students moved in before the start of the fall quarter

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Romario Linares (right), a Crown College freshman whose major is computer science and game design, said making some changes is among his priorities. His mom, Rachel, said she's looking forward to all the new experiences college will bring him.
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Grady Clark, a freshman at Merrill College majoring in applied linguistics, is looking forward to working in the pottery lab in his dorm, meeting cool people, and finding cool spaces.
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Amaya Cummins, a Crown College freshman majoring in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, said she's "really looking forward to finding a good group of people to surround myself with and finding a sense of community."
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For Dalya Salih of Fremont, a Crown College freshman majoring in biomolecular engineering and bioinformatics, the leap to college is a big change, but the distance from home is just right.
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Friends Shireen Sabouri (left), a politics major, and Maria Movsesyan, a proposed biochemistry major, moved into Parkman House in Cowell College.
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Sammy the Slug was beyond excited to see students back on campus, helping them move into their dorm rooms with a spring in his/their step.
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Thumbs-up all around, for Sammy and for students back on campus. (Photos by Carolyn Lagattuta)

A traditional late-summer heavy marine layer clamped over UC Santa Cruz on Thursday, but nothing could dampen high spirits on the first day of move-in 2021 after a long period of distance learning. 

A campus kept quiet and sparsely populated for 18 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic came back to life. Cars stuffed with belongings lined up alongside grazing cows on Hagar Drive and on the way into the campus's Performing Arts Center area for parking lot check-in spots. At the colleges, yellow moving carts were filled with boxes, bags, suitcases, snacks, blankets, and fringe-covered pillows. 

Fall 2021 move-in runs from Thursday, September 16, through Wednesday, September 22.

UC Santa Cruz is welcoming almost 6,100 new students for the fall 2021 quarter4,150 freshmen and 1,890 transfer students. About 18,600 students will attend UC Santa Cruz this academic year, with 9,300 living in campus housing. 

The majority of classes—approximately 68 percent—will be in-person this fall, with expectations to have even more in-person courses in winter and spring, providing vaccines continue to be effective against COVID-19 variants. 

The campus and larger community are thrilled to welcome students back—the campus has partnered with downtown Santa Cruz organizations to host the first Downtown Day on Friday, September 24, which will be an afternoon full of fun activities, student performances, free goodies, lots of prizes, and ending the day with a free viewing of the movie Us.

But one campus personality is perhaps the most fired up of all. Sammy the Slug made an appearance during Thursday's move-in, dancing, posing for photos, helping students roll their moving carts, and spreading joy and good cheer.

Fulfilling goals, finding diversity

For Romario Linares, a Crown College freshman from Hawthorne whose major is computer science and game design, making some changes is among his priorities. 

"I'm looking forward to really just changing who I am right now. I have a lot of goals in mind that I want to fulfill here, and just living on my own, too, 'cause my mom is super careful, a motherly mom," Linares said, as his mother, Rachel Linares, sidled up and handed him his coat.

Becoming independent is on Rachel Linares's priority list for Romario, as well, even though the step of dropping him off at college is bittersweet. 

She said she's looking forward to all the new experiences for Romario, "so meeting different people, going on his career path—I think he's in an excellent place to get there in computer science," she said. 

Her impression from UC Santa Cruz's communication so far was one of care and support.

"There felt like a great amount of wanting the kids to succeed. The level of support I feel with this school is, you want everybody to be successful," she said. "For me it's like a peace of mind, knowing that." 

Grady Clark of Boulder, Colo., a freshman at Merrill College waiting in line below the East Field, expressed relief and excitement at the start of the quarter. 

"I was just very hopeful that we'd be in person this year, and it's good to see that it's actually happening," said Clark, an applied linguistics major. 

Clark said he's looking forward to working in the pottery lab in his dorm, meeting cool people, and finding cool spaces. 

"I guess to meet more queer people as well, be in a more diverse space," he added. 

Community and freedom

Amaya Cummins had done the eight-hour drive from North County San Diego the day before. The Crown freshman, a molecular, cellular and developmental biology major, was nervous but excited. 

"I've never been to Northern California, so it's going to be an awesome experience," she said. "I'm really looking forward to finding a good group of people to surround myself with and finding a sense of community. And I'm really excited to explore life up here and the town and the campus." 

Cummins's stepfather, Jason Poole, was waiting nearby in the parking lot. 

He said Cummins is already pretty independent, but he's looking forward to seeing her grow and gain confidence. 

For Dalya Salih of Fremont, a Crown College freshman majoring in biomolecular engineering and bioinformatics, the leap to college is a big change, but the distance from home is just right. 

"I don't live too far, so I can go visit, I can see my siblings, but I can also have my freedom here. It's a good ratio," she said.

'Nice to finally be here'

Carrying overflowing baskets and stuffed animals, friends Shireen Sabouri and Maria Movsesyan, both of San Jose, were moving into Parkman House in Cowell College. 

Sabouri is a sophomore majoring in politics, but she'd never been on campus because of pandemic distance learning. 

"I honestly enjoyed the academic sense of distance learning and being at my own pace with most things, but I definitely missed the social aspect of the freshman year experience," she said. "It'll be nice to finally be here."

Movsesyan, a freshman with a proposed major of biochemistry, agreed. 

"I'm really excited to be here," she said. "It's long overdue."

Parent Rob Judin of San Ramon was waiting outside Parkman House as his son, freshman Jeremy Judin, unpacked in his dorm room.

"It's pretty exciting, but sad, but very happy at the same time—very proud of him," said Judin. 

He's looking forward to his son, a biology major, meeting friends, networking, experiencing being out on his own, and gaining freedom. 

And, he said, "Learning some lessons, some of which might be a little hard, but I think all part of the growth, growing up, taking care of himself, being responsible."