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Puzzling Day 1 for Some at CSUN : Education: As fall classes open to 26,477 students, newcomers struggle to find meeting rooms and finalize schedules.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

They are the lost, the confused, the green.

They come by the thousands, their backs bowed by JanSport packs, their eyes squinting as they read the itty-bitty type in their class schedules.

They are the newcomers to Cal State Northridge, where classes opened Monday for 26,477 students. That figure will grow between now and the Sept. 24 registration deadline, officials said, as the university adds classes to accommodate demand.

Nebiyu Muluneh sat in the courtyard of the Business Administration and Economics Building flipping through a course guide, exhausted after attending five classes, only one of which he’s actually registered for. Like hundreds of other students, Muluneh enrolled too late to secure a full load of four classes.

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So far he’s signed up for an economics class, but he’s been unable to find an opening in classes for accounting, business law or math--the requirements for an accounting degree.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “In some classes 50 people show up just to try to add. In accounting, more people showed up trying to add than were actually enrolled.”

Muluneh, 22, said he registered late because he had to complete a summer class at Santa Monica College before he could transfer. That class ended two weeks after registration began.

“I might have to go back to Santa Monica College to take those classes, or take them in winter school,” he said.

Kimberly Silva, 23, was also experiencing first-day frustrations as she tried to add a chemistry class at Admissions and Records, where the line stretched out the door.

“She was rude and she wasn’t helpful,” Silva said about a woman at the counter.

Crystal Cohen remembers how overwhelmed she was on the first day of classes.

“I spent five years at Pierce College and then I transferred to this great big university,” said Cohen, 36, of Northridge. “I was just so scared. I was proud to be here, but I was petrified.”

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Cohen has since gained confidence and a better knowledge of her surroundings, so much so that she now sits at an information booth on the first floor of Sierra Hall. No one pays Cohen to sit at her unofficial post.

“I came to CSUN in 1993, and there was nobody around to answer questions--there was no welcome wagon,” she said.

As Cohen talks, she is frequently interrupted by bewildered students.

“I’ve been navigating all day,” said a woman with her finger on her schedule. “Do you know where this is?”

Cohen said she often finds misprints that send students to the wrong corners of campus.

“You’ve got math now,” Cohen said with some urgency. “You’ve got a hike! You have to go by Lindley--do you know where you’re going?”

Cohen, an 11-year undergraduate, said she plans to graduate next year with a degree in geology. But in the meantime, she says she will work to make Cal State Northridge a more navigable place.

“Excuse me,” another lost soul said. “Do you know where the bathroom is?”

Of course, some students glided right through their first day. Cindy Young, one of 2,625 freshmen enrolled this fall, has her heart set on a physical therapy career.

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To her, the college experience, with all its coed, beer-swilling excess, is beside the point. So is prestige, school spirit and dorm life. Young said she will live with her parents in North Hollywood to save money and plans to hit the books as hard as any Stanford student.

“A lot of my friends said they have to go to UCLA or Berkeley and they kind of look down on CSUN,” Young, 18, said as she walked across the gymnasium for her volleyball class. “At first I felt bad, but at the same time I know the physical therapy program is good--so I’ve got to do what’s good.”

Andre Citizen, 28, who transferred from Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, also plans to keep his priorities in order.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said of the university. Then he smiled, adding: “There sure are a lot of ladies on campus.”

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NEW START A CSUN branch campus that could evolve into Cal State Channel Islands opened its doors at the site of a former hospital. B11

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