Like many other 18-year-olds, Jimmy Ng is excited about ditching his hometown, leaving his family behind and jumping into the independence, social scene and, of course, academics of college life.

“Finally, I can be on my own,” says Ng, an El Monte, Calif., native and soon-to-be biological sciences major. “But I’ve been away from home for only a day, and I’m homesick already.”

The transition to college can be overwhelming, and UC Irvine’s Student Parent Orientation Program aims to calm the nerves of new students. More than 4,300 freshmen Anteaters and their parents will hit the campus through August for SPOP. The two-day orientation covers everything from dorm life to nightlife.

“SPOP is the best way to help new students, and their parents, transition into the UCI family,” says Jill Halvaks, director of new student programs. “You get academic advising, you enroll in classes, you find out about resources, you meet other freshmen, and you get to meet successful current students.”

“If students can come with an open mind and a sense of humor, that’s all we ask for,” Halvaks adds. “We will give them everything else they need.”

She has five goals for the students:

  • Define personal and educational milestones.
  • Understand UCI’s core values.
  • Learn about campus resources.
  • Develop Anteater pride.
  • Build a commitment to personal responsibility.

For the most part, 130 student volunteers make sure freshmen master these objectives.

“Most other colleges across the country have a much smaller staff for new students, and the staff is paid. The people who approach orientation as volunteers rather than paid staff are different, and we benefit from that difference,” Halvaks says. “Since our students are volunteers, they are not getting a penny to be here; so they really care and want to get students connected to UCI. They love UCI so much, they want to give back. They’ve told me this year after year.”

Rachel Kimmerle, an incoming English major from Santa Clarita, Calif., appreciated the welcoming atmosphere created by the staff.

“I was surprised by the sense of community,” Kimmerle says. “I wasn’t expecting that.”