Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

UCF stu­dent read­ies for sum­mer re­turn to Cooper City

- By Gabrielle Rus­son Staff writer

When she moved in, the living room in her dorm looked like a lobby of a walk-in health clinic, and the white cin­der-block walls re­minded her of pri­son.

But this was home — Shan­non Lopez rev­eled in the word — and she hung her “Star Wars” posters and pho­to­graphs of her high­school march­ing band on her bed­room walls, hid­ing the white.

Now, Lopez, an 18-year Uni­ver­sity of Cen­tral Florida fresh­man, is leav­ing.

This week marks the fi­nal days of the spring se­mes­ter be­fore stu­dents re­turn to the awk­ward dance of mov­ing back home for the sum­mer.

Fresh­men must deal with their par­ents’ ex­pec­ta­tions and ac­cli­mat­ing to life back home, said Karen Hof­mann, direc­tor of UCF’s Coun­sel­ing and Psy­cho­log­i­cal Ser­vices.

“It’s

just

not

va­ca­tion now,” Hof­mann said about the next three months. “There’s an­other tran­si­tion that stu­dents and par­ents are go­ing to go through day to day.”

In some ways, Lopez is ready to let go and move on.

The night be­fore, she stayed up un­til 4:30 a.m. fin­ish­ing her fi­nal project in her writ­ing class. When she spell-checked it, her brain was in delir­ium, and she spelled many words wrong, to her dis­may. She was tired.

“I’m so over fi­nals,” she said.

She is ready to leave her col­lege dorm — a room so small that throw­ing one shirt on the floor could make it look clut­tered — and go back to her full-size bed in her par­ents’ home out­side Fort Laud­erdale in Cooper City.

Lopez is ex­cited for her sum­mer trip to Peru, her fa­ther’s na­tive land, where she would re­con­nect with na­ture. She won’t mind stay­ing in a home that doesn’t have elec­tric­ity or run­ning wa­ter.

In be­tween

her

trav­els, per­haps she could job shadow the event plan­ner who or­ches­trated her Sweet 16 party. Lopez, a hos­pi­tal­i­ty­man­age­ment ma­jor, hopes to work for the theme parks some­day.

She is ready to see her Cooper City best friends.

Lopez was part of a trio, a group of friends who met in high-school band and be­came close. There was noth­ing to do in her “rinky­dink” home­town, she said, so the three friends looked for ran­dom en­ter­tain­ment, like peo­ple-watch­ing at the air­port or vis­it­ing fish at a nearby hunt­ing-goods mega-store.

“Un­con­ven­tional fun is a good way to put it,” Lopez said.

When they sep­a­rated in high school, Lopez was the only one who went to UCF, the lone school she ap­plied to. Her two friends chose Florida State Uni­ver­sity. They texted con­stantly when they were apart.

Lopez sur­veys her dorm room, still mostly un­packed. The check­list is taped to her front door, re­mind­ing ev­ery­thing she needed to do be­fore she moved out.

Trail­ing down the hall­way — and hang­ing from the kitchen ceil­ing, too — are pas­tel stream­ers that had been up for months.

Col­lege is some­times ran­dom like that. Dec­o­ra­tions when there was no party. Climb­ing to the top of the tallest park­ing garage on cam­pus to watch the sun­set. Driv­ing on the back roads, look­ing for an adventure.

Lopez is friendly and out­go­ing; she fig­ured it wouldn’t be hard to make friends in col­lege. And it wasn’t.

Lopez, a clar­inet player in the UCF bas­ket­ball pep band, joined a soror­ity full of other mu­sic-lov­ing stu­dents who re­minded her of her quirky high-school friends.

“I know when I come back in the fall, they will be there,” Lopez said.

Al­ready, she is plot­ting how to es­cape Cooper City and sneak back to cam­pus dur­ing the sum­mer.

 ?? JOE BUR­BANK/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER ?? Shan­non Lopez, a fresh­man from Cooper City, prac­tices on the clar­inet in her dorm room at the Uni­ver­sity of Cen­tral Florida.
JOE BUR­BANK/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER Shan­non Lopez, a fresh­man from Cooper City, prac­tices on the clar­inet in her dorm room at the Uni­ver­sity of Cen­tral Florida.

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