An orange traffic cone holds open the door to room B5-104A of UCLA's Delta Terrace.
Inside, Eleni Karas, an 18-year-old music student, packs her Air and Radiohead CDs. Her roommate, Erin Shimazu, gleefully tosses out her chemistry notes. "That was very cool," says Shimazu, a 19-year-old art major. "I didn't like that class very much."
Karas and Shimazu began the slow teardown of their dorm decorations midweek. That's when they peeled the photos from their walls, rolled up their purple shag carpeting and discovered $3.11 in change, which they used toward a pizza.
Like the 7,200 other students in UCLA residence halls--and many thousands more on other campuses--moving out of the dorms the other day capped a week that began with the stress of finals, segued into the relief of school ending and finished with the sadness of saying goodbye to friends.
But the trickiest part for many first-year students may well be moving back home for the summer. "I'm not really looking forward to it at all," says Karas, who is spending the break at home in Tarzana. For starters, she says, the Internet connection is slower. Her mother has also redecorated her bedroom.
But the biggest source of anxiety in returning to a life under her parents' roof is that "I'm used to being able to do whatever I want to do, when I want to do it." Translation: eating at irregular hours, staying up all night and going to 10 p.m. screenings at the movies.
"It's going to be OK," says Michael Kaiser, an 18-year-old political science major moving home to Porter Ranch for the summer, where he'll take some classes and has an internship. "I get along well with my parents." As he says this, his mother and father are standing next to him, holding boxes filled with books, a rug and a Britney Spears poster.
The Kaiser family caravan joins the traffic jam at an elevator that leads to the parking garage--there are boys in cargo shorts, girls with tapestry suitcases and more parents pushing carts loaded with microwave ovens, boomboxes and TVs.
One father is holding four plastic boxes topped with Humphrey, a stuffed camel belonging to his 19-year-old daughter, Marissa Winn. "I'm soooo excited," says Winn, who had her last final in microeconomics Thursday morning and is headed back to Roseville, near Sacramento. This summer, she'll be stuffing envelopes at her mother's office. "This school is the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life; I'm just glad to have the summer off. Some people are taking summer school. I'm like, no way. I'd rather just work and sleep and eat good food."
After a year of cafeteria style salad-and-potato dinners, she says she's looking forward to nights at Chevy's restaurant.
Chris Tan, a first-year history student, doesn't share Winn's excitement. "I don't really want to go home. It's a lot of fun here," says the lanky 18-year-old who's returning to Sacramento and will be taking some summer classes. There is a 6-inch-wide wet spot on the back of his T-shirt where a friend water-ballooned him.
"My mom wants to see me home because I'm an only child and she misses me, but after this year I won't be going home for the summer anymore.... Here I have to be more independent and take care of myself. A lot of my friends who go to community college or live close to home, they still take their laundry home and have their parents do it for them. I do all of my laundry. I'm quite proud of myself."
And hey, he's learned the value of a quarter.
Even though thousands of students are moving, the Sunset Village area of UCLA's campus is pretty calm. That's because it's also finals week and there's a daily requirement of "22 Hours of Quiet" in the dorms so students can study. Fliers to that effect dot the walls and bulletin boards of Sproul Hall, next to notices that read "Refrigerator Sale!" and 'Summer sublet!"
Moving out of the place that for most students has been their first home away from home is chock-full of real-world details. Like a collegiate version of the Ten Commandments, a handmade poster on one floor lists the things students are required to do upon moving out. The Check Out Check List instructs students to "Pay attention or pay $110" and reminds them, among other things, to "clean your room, take all your stuff and dump trash."
Christine Cho, a 19-year-old pre-business economics major, is chipping ice from her mini fridge with a kitchen knife. Lana Lam, a 20-year-old psychology student, holds a green sucker in one hand while she packs boxes.
"Moving is a pain," says Lam, dressed in flip-flops and a white tank top. "There's so many little things to organize and stick into boxes."
What, exactly, did she acquire during the school year that is making the move so difficult?
"Oh my God," she says, adjusting her glasses. "Like half the stuff, you know, well, gosh, I don't know where to start. A lot of clothing I guess. Just little things here and there. Like the wall decorations and stuff I bought during the year. I don't know. Yeah."
Still, she says, she is "relieved and kind of happy that I'm going to go home and see my family and friends."
Justin Lu lives down the hall from Lam on the seventh floor. A second-year psychology student, he says the worst part of moving is the elevators.
"There's only two, and everyone's moving, so it gets really crowded," says Lu, who is watching Pokemon on his computer while he packs boxes. 'It's a slow process."
His roommate moved out two days earlier, but that is not obvious from the vast amount of stuff scattered across the beds and floor, including T-shirts, books and two small aquariums--one for fish, the other housing a turtle.
"I haven't even thought about that," admits Lu, who is putting his things in a storage locker while he travels to China for six weeks.
Anyone need a turtle?