- The Washington Times - Monday, August 28, 2000

Sarah Lavalle liked her new room at the University of Maryland at College Park all right. But her 4-year-old sister, Marie, seemed to like it even better.

"Can I please stay with you in the dorm, can I?" she implored, quite taken with the small room with two twin beds, matching dressers and a mirror.

Meanwhile, Sarah's mother, Barbara Lavalle of Laurel, Md., was doing a little bit of exploring. "There are stairs out there," she said, peering out of the window. "I am worried someone might be able to get in." Her husband, Steve, and Sarah laughed off her fears.

Finally, taking a deep breath, Mrs. Lavalle declared, "We are ready for this."

The scene was repeated over and over at hundreds of dorm rooms at the university, which started registering resident students yesterday for the academic year that starts Wednesday.

Cars jammed the roads leading to the university as parents, siblings and friends dropped off apprehensive students with their clothes, books, music, refrigerators, televisions and everything else that makes up the bare essentials of student life today.

There are nearly 33,000 students at the College Park campus, and about 8,500 live on campus, said volunteer Karen Luensman, who had been helping students register since 7:30 a.m. at the front desk of the office of resident life in Annapolis Hall. She estimated they would register hundreds of new students yesterday.

Eight volunteers worked nonstop at the front desk, which is open 24 hours a day. Everywhere on campus, security officers tried to make sure traffic moved as smoothly as possible and ensured they were "available to students excited about moving in," said Cpl. Mary Brock of the university police.

Connie Chow and Kathy Tokuda, both 20, looked worried and very tired as they registered after a day of traveling from Hawaii. The two are in the same student exchange program from the University of Hawaii and met recently in Honolulu.

"It is 9 [a.m.] back home right now," said Miss Tokuda, who looked just a bit homesick as she moved into Allegany Hall.

"I am going to miss all my friends… . People don't seem [as] friendly here as they do in Honolulu," she said, pushing a cart overflowing with her luggage and Miss Chow's.

Miss Chow, meanwhile, had other things on her mind as she fumbled with the key to her third-floor apartment in Prince George's Hall, which she will share with five others.

On the door were pasted six cardboard cutouts shaped like cars, each carrying the name of one of the apartment's new residents.

"This is really nice," said Miss Chow, who glanced at the sunny lobby with its television set, and then headed for her room.

After surveying its interesting lines it is the room right under a sloping roof she opened all the drawers to make sure there were no unpleasant surprises.

"I am really excited about meeting my new housemates," she said, adding that she had already spoken with the girl who would share her room. "She seemed really nice," she said.

Ramnik Aulakh, 17, already had found a friend Aman Johar, 19 who was showing him around the first day. One of their first stops was the University Book Center, where they wanted to get textbooks before the supply ran out.

"Living on campus is going to be great," said Ramnik, a freshman. "I've heard some great stories."

"There'll be partying, freedom … being able to do what you want to do," Mr. Johar said.

But there were also some fears, especially about new roommates.

Yuki Yayama, a graduate student in mathematics from Japan who is a mentor for her apartment's residents at St. Mary's Hall, remembered having roomed at Maryland with someone who was "real picky."

"Her half of the room would be very neat, and mine would be really messy," she said with a laugh. "She was also really noisy; she didn't seem to realize she was not at home any more."

As she welcomed Sarah Lavalle to her apartment, she said she was happy so far with her new housemates. But there was always some apprehension, she said. "I have to live with them. What if the person listens to music really loud? What if they like to party late? There are always some worries," she said.

But there were no such worries for Michele Fowler, 20, who got her own single room, her boyfriend to help her carry her stuff in and her mother to hold her hand when she cried her eyes out that evening.

"I will give her all I can, short of robbing a bank," said Arlene Fowler, who drove her daughter from Jamaica, N.Y., and bought her, among other things, a microwave, a television, a VCR, a refrigerator, a music system. "And there will be phone bills that'll be the most expensive of them all," she said with a laugh.

"School sure wasn't so expensive in our times," she said.

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