By Charlize Althea Garcia and Darren Loo, August 29, 2023
Incoming Business Finance student, Sophie Nguyen leads her parents, Audrey and Linh, to her dorm while pushing a blue move-in cart. They enter the red-bricked lobby of an austere design, although adorned with balloons and “Welcome Home” decorations.
Nguyen enters her room and quickly surveys the sparse furnishings that usually make up a college dorm. Within seconds, she feels an acute urge to unpack.
The three of them trumped the image of how move-in usually is with students and their families — stressful and argument inducing.
They swiftly begin to place belongings in its new rightful place. After a few minutes, Audrey and Linh step out to make another unloading trip from their car, leaving Nguyen a moment to herself in her new room.
Nguyen had made the most of her high school experience. Following an end to a beloved sport, artistic gymnastics, she filled her time there by joining various clubs and attending school events. Her eager-beaver attitude transferred naturally to her plans in college.
Though her optimism shines brightly, she describes feeling contrasting feelings when it comes to the thought of parting ways with her family.
“It’s pretty scary actually,” said Nguyen. “I’m a little nervous. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. When I was packing my stuff, I was thinking that my parents are going to be six hours away up there, and I’m going to be down here by myself.”
Emotions are running high as new students move into their new homes. For some it entails running mascara and puffy eyes, for others it is met with sighs of relief, both for parents and their children. Regardless, an abundance of emotions finds its way into each person.
Feelings of parting ways are never easy for child and parent, a slow burn of homesickness, worry and longing will eventually take its place. But with change comes growth.
Linh and Audrey, when around the same age as Nguyen, left home on their own. The two explained though the act of leaving home was the same, their experience was very different, not having the same luxuries as their daughter.
“It was different because my parents were not as involved,” said Linh. “They didn’t have the means or resources to support me to even go to college. Audrey and I were on our own.”
Linh’s time at college was filled with both academic and financial challenges.
“As a parent, we want to make sure she doesn’t have to deal with all that,” Linh said. “We’ve given her everything we could. Hopefully, she’ll be successful.”
Audrey and Linh continue traipsing around the room frantically unpacking their daughter’s, Sophie, suitcases.
Now as parents, feelings of excitement for their newfound independence in their youth are replaced with caution and hesitant hopefulness.
“As a parent, you’re always going to worry no matter how old you are, and it’s not so much about them making decisions,” Linh said. “Sometimes, it’s the world making the decisions for her. So, that’s the hard part. We trust her. We allow her to make mistakes. But I think, it’s what you know about the world that’s scary.”
The family have found themselves in a rhythm. Linh assembles his daughter’s storage boxes. Audrey folds her clothes while Sophie makes her new bed.
But they soon drop everything as they’re asked to reflect their lives after their daughter leaves home.
“We’re looking how quickly they grow up, and it’s hard to lose that, said Linh. “The house will be a lot more quiet.”
“…and empty,” added Audrey.
As a keepsake, Audrey leaves a Tupperware of banana bread for her daughter.
While some families and students feel nothing but worry, some are excited and looking forward to the change in environment. Pushing a cart overflowing with belongings alongside his dad, Jacob Ringo, undeclared student, was ecstatic to see his new home on the upper floors of the residential halls.
Being an only child, Ringo, an incoming freshman from Morgan Hill, California, wants to experience what it’s like to live with someone other than his parents. One of the reasons Ringo chose to come to CPP was because throughout most of the COVID-19 pandemic, his time was spent staying at home with his parents. He said he felt if he stayed at home for college, it would stunt his growth.
In high school, Ringo said he loved band and a few classes like physics, and English but disliked the monotony of school as it made him feel like he was dragging his feet around. Now he is at CPP, he is excited to explore new facilities and do new things during his free time. When asked what he expects college to be like, Ringo said, “I’m sure some days are going to be a drag, but some days are going to be great.”
Moving out, like for most, was chaotic for Ringo and his family: lots of packing, dealing with technological issues, struggling with putting on bed sheets and figuring out where everything should go.
“It’s a little chaotic, but it felt good because we had something to focus on, you know?” said Wendy Ringo, Ringo’s mother, as she smiled at her son.
Through the chaos, they felt like it was a good way to get their minds off other things and to work as a family one last time.
Moving away from home brings independence, allowing Ringo to go out, explore and do what interests him.
When asked how he feels about his newfound independence, he said, “I guess it would be good for me as a person because you’ve got to learn how to be an adult.”
Although his parents will miss him, Ringo’s mother said she is also excited about Ringo’s newfound independence. She explained their college experience was quite different from Ringo’s. Going to community college, Ringo’s parents never moved away from home.
Independence is also a way that Ringo is seeking to grow. Being independent means having many more responsibilities compared to what he had at home. Ringo explained at home, he felt like he was becoming too comfortable and moving out was a way for him to change things up.
“At home, I felt like I was in my own bubble, but this is one of those things that I felt like I had to do to break out of that bubble,” Ringo said.
While he does miss his parents, his independence seems to surpass feelings of nostalgia. The memory he treasures most is the comfort of his pets.
“This feels like my new home now, at the moment,” Ringo said.
Life on campus differs for everyone. Incoming students at Cal Poly come from all over the world and at different stages in life, all reaching at the same destination.
Joshua Ventura, mechanical engineering student, is a transfer student from Long Beach. He pushes a cart alone, waiting for the elevator. Unlike the two incoming freshmen, he is greeted by three other suitemates and their families.
As a transfer student, Ventura had the chance to get a taste of college life. However, like most students, the pandemic obstructed his path from high school to college which led to Ventura’s decision to attend community college.
“I wouldn’t want to pay that money just to sit around in university,” Ventura said. “That’s why I did community, so after COVID I could go to university, and it was cheaper.”
The community college experience is still very different when compared to the university experience. Ventura felt people at CPP were more outgoing compared to community college. Community colleges, usually being fully commuter schools, make it hard to socialize with others.
“You just want to go and leave,” Ventura said. “There is no point in trying to put yourself out there because you just want to go home, go to work, you know.”
After spending two years at community college, he made the decision to transfer to CPP, his original first pick, because of its great mechanical engineering program.
Ventura is later joined by his mother, Guadalupe “Patty” Ventura. They unpack with ease; Patty asks him where she should place his belongings while Ventura sets up his computer and hangs up his clothes.
Though home is only a two-hour drive, and Ventura is the second child to move out, his mother feels the same gloom. Although, the sadness is overcome by elation.
“I’m just glad he’s figuring himself out,” said Patty. “It’s the best thing for them at that age. It changes everything.”
For students who have a background in community college, one defining difference can be the knowledge of their own character.
“He’s very forward and knows exactly what he wants,” Patty said. “I’m proud of him.”
Feature images courtesy of Darren Loo
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