(U-WIRE) FULLERTON, Calif. As the new semester kicks off, there are literally thousands of new faces on the Cal State-Fullerton campus, some of them experiencing anxiety amid the uncertainty of starting a new chapter at a large, heavily populated university.
With around 4,000 incoming freshman with an average age of 17.9 years old, according to statistics from a CSUF Fall 2005 study, there will be many small fish entering our big pond in the fall. Among the new students on campus, concerns range from getting the right classes to making new friends to learning the terrain around a Yellowstone-sized campus.
“It’s much bigger,” said Jaime Turner, a fresh-faced 20-year-old psychology major. “This is the real deal.”
“I’m a little bit anxious,” said Joylynn Irons, an 18-year-old nursing major. “I’m curious how hard the professors are. It’s not too bad though, I have a few friends that go here already and I’m getting to learn [my way around the campus] more.”
Leada Ghareaghadje, a 17-year-old business major, shared some of her qualms upon embarking onto the university grounds.
“I get lost a lot finding my classes,” Ghareaghadje said. “There’s a lot more people to interact with [than I’m used to.]”
With an expected 3,500 transfer students making their debut this semester, some have found the administrative processes exasperating as they officially become Titans.
Christiene Carter, a 24-year-old graduate student from Pepperdine University, expressed a sense of frustration in her transition from a smaller private school to a larger state university.
“This is different than what I’m used to; it’s a lot less personalized and harder to get things done,” Carter said. “Everyone’s been nice, but I’ve run into a lot of problems — you go to one office and they tell you ‘We don’t do that, you have to go over there,’ then you go to another office and they say the same thing.”
“I waited too long to find my classes,” Erica Alvarez, a 23-year-old child development major, said as she waited to speak with a faculty member in the department office. The transfer student was optimistic about the challenge of making new friends amid the sea of new faces.
“I’ll find someone that has the same major, someone to study with,” she said.
In addition to the pupils from high schools and community colleges, some fresh-faced transfers are adjusting to life in a new state or even country while they get their feet wet at CSUF.
“I just moved here two days ago,” said Kirsten Kuiken, a 22-year-old graduate student in CSUF’s theater arts division. The Iowa native migrated to sunny Southern California to continue her education in acting, only an arm’s length from the show business opportunities up the 5 Freeway.
“It’s tough getting information at times,” said Kuiken. “And I still need to get my parking permit.”
Cristy Shier is a 29-year-old nursing graduate student who relocated to CSUF from Texas, where her university did not offer a midwife program. She detailed the stressful nature of an interstate, back-to-school relocation.
“It’s kind of overwhelming; I don’t know anybody here, plus the added stress of starting graduate school,” she said.
Two exchange students who transferred to CSUF from Trinity College in Wales, England, have the dual task of acclimating themselves into American culture and collegiate life. Twenty-two-year-old Rachael Davis and 20-year-old Kate Morey, both theater majors, conveyed a sense of nervous excitement upon their enrollment at CSUF, and the other issues they face setting lives up on a new continent.
“It’s a completely different atmosphere,” Davies said. “It is very image conscious over here, everyone seems self-obsessed. It’s been a challenge finding accommodations as well, we saw one place they wanted us to pay over $700 [apiece] to share a room.”
Morey detailed the culture shock of the transition.
“We’ve been told that everyone here is very strong-minded. Everyone seems friendly, though I’ve noticed most of the drivers have a bit of road rage.”
The peppy English girls explained what drew them from tea and crumpets and to oranges and elephants in the first place.
“We met an exchange student in the U.K. who told us of the school’s good reputation,” Davies said.
“It’s quite different, as we didn’t go to a big [school] in England; it had more of a community atmosphere,” said Morey.
One way students can accelerate their Titan indoctrination would be getting to know the campus terrain and looking into programs, clubs, fraternities, sororities and the like to help get used to their new surroundings. There are a multitude of on-campus programs that welcome new students with open arms to help ease the transition into the deep CSUF waters.
“One of the things we encourage for new students, especially ones fresh out of high school, is to become involved in an organization or activity,” said Maruth Figueroa, the assistant coordinator for freshman programs, located in McCarthy Hall in Room 142. “It makes for better learning for them to establish those connections with students and faculty members.”
Campus Tours, located in University Hall in Room 178, is a program that conducts theme-park-like go-rounds of the entire campus, led by knowledgeable students known as “Titan Ambassadors.”
“We want to get students connected to the campus and these events bring a personal touch to it,” said Brett Robertson of the Campus Tour center. “We target different students and help them connect with the resources they need.”
All in all, with the buildup of butterflies with the onset of a new semester, it is clear students feel besieged with many of the overwhelming circumstances. As the heat of the summer fades into the coolness of the fall, most of these issues should fade away, as new students gradually morph into full-fledged Titans.