Being a transfer student, in general, can be a bit uncomfortable and challenging. The transition is different than maybe going from a private school to a public school growing up. Or transitioning from high school to college. I knew at the beginning of this year I wanted to transfer to a university by August, so I could finish my Bachelor's in Journalism by 2022. The process was nerve-wracking, meeting with my advisor, the endless double checking if I had my general credits in, and the application process. I applied to the University of Missouri, University of Southern California, and American University. I wanted to have a variety of choices and I felt all these schools had something great to offer. When I got accepted into MU in February, my heart literally skipped a beat, and I was already looking for a place to live.
Mid-March comes around and things took a wild turn. I remember walking towards my car (the last day before spring break) and I had just finished my Spanish exam. Happy. Excited. Ready to work some extra hours at my job. The news was something I did not read much or pay attention to (regarding COVID-19) because I was not afraid of it. I then realized things were getting... Really bad.. And I received an email three days into spring break. The email was regarding the extension of spring break, online classes, and how to sign up for graduation early. It was really stressful, discouraging, and all I could think of was: "Should I just take a year off after spring semester ends?"
Fast forward to being in quarantine, ending my spring semester with good grades, and signing up for my fall classes. I started and ended my summer pretty calmly. Nothing super crazy happened. There was no traveling, concerts, or spending nights at friends' houses. I did move in and began my new school year in a different city, in a different living area, and with a different audience of students. So what was going through my head (and quite frankly - my other transfer student - friends head) while we assisted 80% of our classes online? Definitely a rollercoaster of emotions.
1. New state, new city, new school, and a fresh start
My friend Gianna Maiello who is a transfer student from Illinois shared her thoughts about transferring before, during the first few weeks, and currently. "When I first found out I was going to a new school, I was super excited. All of my close friends who are a little older - loved their college experience," said Maiello. Who does not love hearing from others how great their experiences were, their take on college, and the emotions we (students) get when we think about going to school. I personally related to this comment because my friends who have been at a four-year university shared their own experiences with me. Everyone seems to have a different take on college, but the overall experience is pretty similar.
2. All classes are online (again) so now what...
"I broke down and honestly regretted choosing to go away. I was so scared that I wouldn't be able to meet anyone with everything being online," said Maiello. This is such a normal and common reaction many transfer students have. I remember talking to my transfer student coordinator and she mentioned how almost every day she received emails, about the stress, anxiety, and doubt students faced. The beauty of it all comes down to how we all are in the same boat, no one is alone during these times, and that in a way can be comforting. When I was interviewing Gianna, I felt such a relief that I was not the only one feeling this way. I encourage anyone who feels this way, to reach out to a friend or coordinator because you will find out there are many people experiencing the same emotions
3. Finding the happy medium in the middle of this all
After settling in, whether in a dorm or an apartment, there is a point we all try to find a new routine to our new life. "I feel comfortable being here for the most part, but for sure struggle a lot with feeling alone," said Maiello. The great thing about being a transfer student at our school, we have a club specifically for transfer students, called 'TEAM.' This club meets every Wednesday, we have our own mentors, and we get to do activities outside of our Zoom meetings. For example, I signed up to join the homecoming "Decorate the District" committee. Where we go to a local business and paint on their windows to get everyone excited about the weekend. Activities like these are what makes school (during a pandemic) a bit more exciting and keeps our hopes up for better days ahead.
4. So... How do I meet people?
I consider myself an outgoing person. I like to be involved, engaged, and communicate with others. As easy as it is to FaceTime or Snapchat my friends and family, I wanted to make a goal for myself, to get involved at my university. When COVID-19 hit at the beginning of the year I was not really taking it as seriously as everyone else. For starters I thought it would go away in two months, life would go back to normality, and I would be able to go about my daily life. Things began to take a turn for the worse all around us, so I began to think "How would I get involved, make friends, and have a good time at my school in the fall?" Fast forward to the month of October, I have been more open and outgoing with my classmates. Although it has been hard to go grab a bite to eat, coffee dates, or go shopping. I appreciate the small moments where my classmates and I can work on a project together or study in the library. The physical connection has helped me a lot because I do not feel as lost, alone, or secluded from others. There is hope for us transfers, and I encourage you to sign up for clubs, message a classmate you have sat with the last seven weeks in class by, or go to a local event to meet others. It can be scary and I was feeling the same way but I overcame my fear. I believe you can too.
5. Club meetings all via Zoom. All semester long.
This is a hard one to really talk about for me, simply because I am so tired of Zoom meetings every day. I am thankful I have some blue light glasses, (please buy a pair - it'll save your eyeballs) because my eyes tend to get tired after a five hour day of being glued to a screen. Although these clubs meet via Zoom my favorite part about it comes to break-out rooms, where we engage in a smaller setting and talk about how we are doing. Recently, I joined a magazine club on campus where the editor had us in break-out rooms, told us to find a few things we all had in common and a few things we differed in. I loved that activity because I met so many bright, funny, and down to earth people. I could tell a lot of us were having a good time talking to one another, and, to an extent, it felt like we already knew each other. Clubs may be virtual for some time but the positive about it all comes down to how we connect with new people on the other side of the screen.
6. What is COVID-19 gets worse?
If you have not had this thought in the back of your head, feel free to contact me and explain how. I had this thought the first two weeks of classes running around in my head. I was already planning how I would move back home, possibly work, and forget my social life altogether. I had some insightful conversations with my friends, therapist, and family who helped me ground these moments of frustration. I realized I was not happy if COVID got worse, but relieved I would not deal with transfer student problems anymore. I mean, no one really knows if you are a transfer unless they deliberately ask you. I decided to tell myself every day my affirmations, talk to my teachers about how the semester will look like, and find time to be on campus more often. I like my campus, there are so many areas to study and finding places outside of my apartment helped a whole lot.
7. (Finally) Finding people involved in your interests
The greatest satisfaction of finding people to talk to and share common interests with you can be so comforting. I recently spoke to another journalism student who is a semester ahead of me and she gave me some pointers when choosing my emphasis. Conversations that are insightful like these really make us feel more included. I also enjoy being in group chats with other students who are in the same field or grade. In general, being around people who share common goals, interests, or hobbies makes anyone feel included and wanted.
I hope that whether most of your courses are in person or online, that you find that happy medium. Do not hesitate by reaching out to coordinators, counselors, or other students who might be feeling the same way you are. I also recommend watching some YouTube videos about how to transition into a bigger school (or a smaller one). Seeing and hearing other people's perspectives can be encouraging as well.