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Moving in, moving on

As freshmen pack into dorms at UCLA this weekend, students are eager to begin a new life. Parents have a hard time letting go.

September 22, 2008|Gale Holland | Times Staff Writer

After a slightly longer hug than usual, Nathalie Anyakpor's father left her in a dorm room at UCLA this weekend, with the teenager admitting to feeling "totally weirded out" at being on her own for the first time in her young life.

Then the pre-med student, 18, heard that her dad, Emmanuel Anyakpor, had pledged to call her every morning between 6 and 7. The Gardena grants administrator said he wanted to "keep [Nathalie] focused" on her studies.

"Whaaat?" Nathalie yelped, reeling backward. Then, "What?" again, even louder, accompanied by spurts of astonished laughter. "No! My God, he's crazy. I won't be awake. I'm not answering," said Nathalie, a graduate of Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy in Wilmington.

And so it went on freshman move-in weekend at UCLA, a time of laughter and tears -- laughter for the eye-rolling, embarrassed students, and tears for their parents, loathe to say goodbye. UCLA officials said they expect to enroll nearly 4,900 freshman this fall, with instruction beginning Thursday.

This was supposed to be the "teacup" generation, students so sheltered by their hovering, overprotective parents that they would crack without mom and dad at their sides. But many of the freshmen checking into the Hedrick Summit dorm on the UCLA campus Friday appeared to be bursting with impatience to start life on their own. Some of their parents, however, were a bit of a wreck.

"I'm not worried about her at all. She's been ready for this for a year," said Denise Sheldon of Laguna Niguel, slipping daughter Breanna's gold high heels into an over-the-door shoe organizer. "She'll be fine. We'll be a mess."

Denise Sheldon, a flight attendant, and her husband, Bob, a commercial pilot, said they had worked out their schedules so that one of them would always be home for Breanna and her younger brother, Bryce. Breanna, who graduated from Aliso Niguel High School, is a U.S. Water Polo Academic All-American who will play for UCLA's No. 1-ranked women's squad. Her major is such a mouthful that it's usually known by just its initials: MIMG (microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics).

Breanna, 18, didn't get where she is by shilly-shallying. Her blond braid flying, Breanna efficiently stowed her extensive gear around the room.

"I have enough clothes and underwear for about 1 1/2 months," Breanna said airily. She planned to take her dirty laundry with her on her first trip home -- to see her brother and five dogs, not her parents, her mother said pointedly, pretending to be miffed.

"You offered to do it," Breanna protested.

"I'm glad to do it," her mother responded.

Denise Sheldon said she's happy her son is home for a few more years, but life in an all-male household, well . . . . "They just don't get it," she said. "You have to explain everything. Breanna gets it."

Breanna, meanwhile, had discovered a box of oatmeal and a plastic bowl her mom had packed for late-night snacking. "I don't want her out walking around at night, no way," her mother said.

She reminisced briefly about her own departure for college. "I was the one who didn't want to leave. The total opposite of her," she said, speaking of her daughter. "Little Miss Independent," Bob Sheldon chimed in.

On the way to lunch, they passed a postal station. "That's where you can send letters and cards," Breanna's mother teased.

"Letters! I can text you," Breanna retorted.

"It better be more than five words," her mother warned. "Or I'll turn off your phone."

The mother and daughter had been preparing for this day for weeks and had made a grueling trip to Wal-Mart and Costco. Still, they'd forgotten things, including a clip-on reading light and an extension cord.

Denise Sheldon said she would bring them by, maybe the next day. Still, when it was time to go, the tears came.

"I'm so proud of you," Breanna's mother said, embracing her daughter. "We're going to miss you."

"Are you OK?" Breanna asked.

"Yeah, I'll be OK," her mother said. Seconds ticked by quietly.

"Stop crying," Breanna said.

"It's all good," Denise Sheldon said, pulling away.

Across the plaza in Hedrick Hall, K.C. Thomas, an attorney from Los Angeles, and her son, Andrew Thompson II, were also unpacking. That is, Thomas was unpacking. Andrew, 18, a graduate of Fairfax High School and the third generation of his family to attend UCLA , sprawled on a top bunk, taking his mother's orders.

"Here's your extra comforter. Put it on the top shelf," Thomas said, pulling items from one of the many bags she had brought. A first aid kit, shower caddy, manicure set, desk organizer and stapler followed.

"Here's trail mix. Eat plenty of it. It's good for oils and antioxidants, particularly with the cranberries." As his mother tore into plastic packaging, Andrew text-messaged on his cellphone.

Thomas, who lives in the Miracle Mile area, said she planned to bring her son a scrapbook she had made, a sort of "Big Book of Life" full of a "mother's wit and wisdom."

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