It's home sweet dorm at UC Merced move-in day

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 3, 2013 

Move-in day had UC Merced humming with activity Tuesday, as students lugged their belongings into dorm rooms and parents hugged their children goodbye.

About 500 returning students were expected to move in Tuesday. About 1,600 students new to the campus moved in Sunday.

Gustavo Cruz, 19, pushed his roughly 100-pound, military-style duffle bag of belongings on a dolly into UC Merced's newest dorm, Half Dome. The bag held basically everything he brought, other than a guitar, bike and printer.

"I had a lot more stuff at home I could have brought, but you really just need to know when to say no," said Cruz, who is from Los Angeles. "It's just a part of growing up."

The environmental engineering student said he made the mistake of bringing more stuff as a freshman, but realized it's better to have fewer things to carry back home.

Cruz said he's getting accustomed to the change of pace the Central Valley offers compared to Southern California, but he still misses surfing.

Dorm life also took some adjustment.

"It's very social at times," Cruz said. "Conversely, it's very anti-social — people just hole themselves up in their rooms."

About 2,100 of UC Merced's expected 6,200 students live in the dorms, said Brenda Ortiz, a senior public information officer. The exact numbers won't be available until a campus census is completed about three weeks into the semester.

Ortiz said students will continue to move in through Thursday, when classes start, but most take their spots on move-in day.

Students from Southern California, the Bay Area and the Central Valley occupy the majority of the dorms, Ortiz said. The makeup is about a third from each group.

A number of events are planned this week, she said, to welcome students.

Another returning student, Rebecca Massil, carried her pet betta fish up the elevator, while father David pulled the mini-refrigerator on a dolly.

She was also moving into the Half Dome complex. Finishing touches were still being put on the fourth housing phase for the 8-year-old campus as of last week. It took about two years to build at a cost of $42 million. The building will house 500 students in single, double and triple rooms.

Massil said sharing a room as a freshman last year, which she will do again with two other students, was a new experience.

"I actually enjoyed it," the 18-year-old sophomore said. "Although, I am not used to having to share my space."

Massil, who is from Roseville, said she is still working out ways to stay entertained in Merced.

"There is less to do in town, but the college is great," she said.

David Massil, 50, said his daughter will be following in his footsteps — he's a doctor and she's studying biological sciences.

He was on campus this same time last year to move in Rebecca, and any separation anxieties have mostly subsided.

"We're nervous that our daughter is going away, but it is very temporary," he said. "We're fine."

The sight of parents pushing dollies and students gripping boxes will likely become a more common site, as administrators plan to have 10,000 students by 2020.

The university also plans to add 1,500 more beds and another dining facility in the next few years to try to meet the demand for housing.

Though it was her second visit, Sharie Jackson, 37, of Los Angeles had not totally shaken off the emotions of seeing her daughter, 19-year-old Carli Bardier, step out on her own.

She cried when she moved her daughter in last year. She said she nearly cried again when Bardier used her own money to buy a laptop to bring to school this year.

"It's watching your baby grow up," she said, stopping herself before tears started.

Bardier said she's warmed up to Merced, moving from the bright lights and night life of Los Angeles to the open spaces and farms of the valley.

Bardier, who worked for the university over the summer, was introduced to area restaurants and activities by her co-workers. They helped change her mind about entertainment in town.

"I got to explore Merced with my co-workers," the sophomore said, "because I thought it was boring also, but they showed me a different side of Merced."

Reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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