Ben Zacaroli sat on the grassy lawn just outside Murchison Gym at Westmont College this week, patiently waiting for the start of Orientation 2013 and an accompanying opening address from the college President Gayle Beebe.
The 18-year-old freshman from Ridgewood, N.J., passed the time with his family, who had flown in the night before to help send their second son off to college on the other side of the country.
The Zacarolis moved him into his dorm Thursday, along with 360 other new students and parents who arrived on campus beginning at 8 a.m. in preparation for the first day of classes on Monday.
“It was pretty easy,” Zacaroli said of the move-in to his residence hall, noting that two unknown-until-arrival roommates had readily offered help.
Zacaroli said he loved the school and campus during previous visits, and now was ready to spend his weekend involved in a flurry of orientation festivities in which he could make new friends and become familiar with a campus that will soon feel like home.
He joins a freshman Westmont class that boasts students from 26 states and nine countrie, with 13 international students representing Australia, China, Dubai, France, Japan and others.
According to college records, about a quarter of all new students — 19 percent first-year and 53 percent transfer — are from Santa Barbara County.
Two-thirds of the 300 first-year students at the liberal arts college in the class of 2017 have earned academic merit scholarships, ranging from $10,000 to full tuition.
Westmont students can expect to see few major changes from last school year, although the college has recently launched a first-year learning community experience that links two course sections — Perspectives on World History and Philosophical Perspectives on Truth and Value, according to Scott Craig, a college spokesman.
Students are enrolled in both courses and participate in joint discussions where some topics overlap.
Not far from where the Zacarolis sat this week, Chris and Jeff Zippi of Templeton also waited for the start of orientation festivities and for their 18-year-old son, Peter, who was walking to the gym from his dorm with some newfound friends.
They planned to stay the weekend to take in their son’s new home, and to participate in some college-planned parent discussions and events.
“It’s a bittersweet day,” Chris Zippi said of soon leaving her son. “It seems surreal.”