I moved in to the dorms on August 3, 1998, well before the start of fall quarter. I’d been admitted to a summer bridge program for “disadvantaged” students. The experience was great and really helped me have a strong transition to college, but it wasn’t easy at first.
The Monday morning I moved in, Danny drove me to campus. He brought along Lori and Adrian to help. I don’t remember why my parents didn’t go, but it was probably related to work and the fact that few days later they’d be on campus for the 1-day parent orientation. Still, they weren’t missed at the moment. The siblings were more than enough help.
Once I’d checked in and received my key, we took my stuff up to my room on the third floor of the north wing. The floor was already busy with other students and their parents moving in.
I don’t remember if Lily had already arrived at the room. The details aren’t scribbled in my old journal. I do know she was in the room before we finished moving and the siblings left. Lily was one of several students from Garfield HS in the program. She left to lunch with some other students from her high school.
The siblings stuck around a little while, but soon they had to leave. I walked them out. They hugged me and wished me luck.
When I returned to my room, all that waited for me were a few boxes ready to unpack. I sat on the bet, a bit overwhelmed and feeling lonelier than ever. And I cried.
Every summer for the past 4 years I’ve gone back to dorms about once a week to meet incoming freshmen for work. I was up there this morning, admiring how “the hill” — the residence hall area — has changed. After my meeting, I walked over to the shiny, new Bruin Café and had a drink. I pulled out the Adrian Tomine book Sean lent me and got to reading.
Except for the newness of sitting in the Bruin Café, sitting by myself at table didn’t feel strange. I wasn’t embarrassed or terrified of it as I was on my first day at UCLA. I didn’t know anyone and didn’t want to eat at a table alone. Rather than go hungry, I bought a sandwich from the convenience store on the hill and ate in my room.
I still feel alone sometimes, far from my family, but I’m more comfortable with it. I’ve become quite independent and there are times when I relish in those quiet moments.
But there are still times when I want nothing more than to be back in Hacienda Heights with the parents and siblings. Invariably, those are the times when I get bad/sad news and just need a hug.