A high school graduate for less than three months, Brian Minkin of Camarillo is undaunted by the prospect of committing nearly the rest of the '90s to earning a college degree.
"If it takes me five years, I'll go for five years," the Ventura College freshman shrugged Monday, waiting outside the cafeteria to complete his class schedule. "I'm not too stressed."
Already, the English major has noticed a difference in the caliber of students.
"I'm more relaxed here than at high school," he says, inching closer to the front of the line. "There aren't a bunch of idiots here who don't want to be here."
Thousands of students returned to classes Monday at Ventura County's three community colleges with the usual assortment of long bookstore lines, closed classes and late registrations.
Still, thousands of others walked onto the campuses for the first time Monday, eager to pursue their post-high school education and marveling at their newfound independence.
"I like this," said Tom Karisko, an 18-year-old psychology major from Camarillo attending Moorpark College for the first time. "It's more grown up, so you have to be more responsible."
At Moorpark College on Monday, parking spaces were at a higher premium than most freshman English and math classes. Many students said they prowled the parking areas for more than 30 minutes looking to pounce on a place to park.
"You come late, stuff like this happens," said Pete Kahn, a 20-year-old engineering student from Simi Valley, who spent a half-hour searching out a parking space. "The first week is always like this."
Yet Kahn and other students said they probably would not take advantage of the new VISTA bus service running almost hourly to Moorpark College from Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley.
"I've got stuff to do after school, so I need to have a car," he said.
Officials were still working out the kinks in the new VISTA bus schedule Monday morning. One of the first of 16 buses was late, in part because the driver was unfamiliar with the new routine.
"I'm new on this route, so I'm still trying to figure it out," driver Charles Patterson said. "I'll get it right tomorrow."
Although registration totals are not yet available, all three campuses were jumping with activity Monday.
At Ventura College, hundreds of students crowded around the quad area, awaiting chances to alter their class schedules or sign up late for courses.
"Ninety percent of these people probably are adding or dropping a class," Registrar Joan Halk said, looking over the lengthy queue.
One of the late sign-ups was Kelley Winter, a 28-year-old Ventura woman who at the last minute decided to switch from a health sciences curriculum to a liberal arts program.
"It'll set me back a little, but oh well," said Winter, who grew impatient standing in the long lines. "It's overcrowded, and everything's closed. If you're not registered four months in advance, you have to try and crash classes."
Suzannah Frisbie registered early for her classes at Ventura College. She spent part of Monday afternoon sitting under the sun, waiting for her next class.
"I'm not intimidated," said the freshman foreign language student from Camarillo. "It's just like high school, except that you can smoke on campus and wear hats."
Outside the bookstore at Oxnard College, Greg Stanton waited patiently with a group of friends in line to get inside the campus bookstore, which was packed with buyers.
"It's going, but it's going to take a lot of time," the 20-year-old telecommunications major said. "But amazingly enough, I got all my classes. Now I just need to buy my books."
Lisa Garcia said she brought a fistful of cash in hope of buying used books from students who had dropped out of classes.
"I've been holding my money all day trying to find people selling books," the 18-year-old premed student said. "I might have to pay full price, but I hope not for all of them."
Oxnard College spokeswoman Cathy Garnica said the first day of classes at the campus was going well. Garnica spent her afternoon serving as a bookstore gatekeeper.
"It's kind of controlled confusion," said Garnica, allowing one student to enter the bookstore for each student leaving. "But the students are being real cooperative."