An Alternative College Experience, from the Eyes of a Transfer Student

OpinionStaff Op-Ed

Arlene Banuelos / The Triton

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From age to life experience, transfers bring a diverse perspective to UC San Diego. We come from different universities, community colleges, and other paths. Yet, with my conversations with other transfer students, it seems that we come to UCSD with an expectation that we too would have the “traditional” college experience of making friends easily, finding our place in our new community right away, and taking advantage of all the opportunities our university offers.

But being a transfer student does not come with the same sense of community or experience that students build in four years here. Instead, we are confined within two years to create as much of a college experience as we can, all while struggling to “catch up” with everyone else. That means, in two years, we expect ourselves to have a fulfilling social life and strong meaningful connections with other students all while keeping up our grades, finding internships, and adjusting to the quarter system. I’ve often wondered if it is even possible to fit all of these experiences within two years.

Plus, since many transfers are at different stages in our lives, we do not have a real collective identity. Transfer housing in the Village tries to bring us together through res-life events but ultimately fails to create a sense of culture. Many of the transfers residing in the village do not interact with one another outside of their apartments because there’s a lack of real common spaces for students to meet outside of study rooms. And many transfers live off campus due to limited housing for them on campusthe Village has had to relocate some three to four hundred transfers to other housing options in the past, which was due largely to the administration’s protocol on housing. These transfer spots were eliminated to make room for first-year students’ overflow housing, which led to an even larger divide between transfer students and four-year students.

First-year students often have the advantage of taking the same sequence of classes with the people in their college, which provides common ground for discussion as well as an opportunity to potentially have classes with the same group of people throughout their undergraduate career. The goal of the distinct GEs for each college is to provide students with a small-college feeling on a large-university campus, but this system fails transfers. Usually, transfers come into UCSD with all of their lower-division courses completed, so they’re either finished with college GE requirements, or the classes are different. For instance, ERC’s writing sequence for transfers (MMW 121 and 122) is a different sequence than what four-year students do. This system deprives transfers of one potential opportunity for bonding that the college system purportedly provides. Additionally, transfer students who live on campus do not live within their colleges, and, as a result, oftentimes miss many of their college-specific events, which furthers this disconnect. Being placed into colleges and taking GE classes is largely a formality because the small college feeling does not come as easily to transfers, if at all.

And housing isn’t the only aspect of student life where UCSD does not do much to cater to transfer students. UCSD offers transfer year experience (TYE) courses, but such classes merely introduce transfers to how to navigate the college system and use university resources, such as the library database. TYE courses also tend to be smaller than First Year Experience (FYE) courses and can be hard to get into by the sheer lack of classes available each quarter. While TYE courses may be practical, they do little to provide a sense of community on campus.

Transfers do not make up the traditional narrative of the college experience. We have to own our unique experience. Rather than waiting for college experiences to appear through our res-halls, transfer experience courses, or our GEs, we must build our own. Although UCSD does not provide a clear path, we must make the first step by establishing connections.

One of the most alienating aspects of being involved on campus while being a transfer is the simple fact that we’re often older than many of our fellow peers, which can inhibit us. My own  experience was like that of many other transfer students. I felt lost, especially on a campus where the processes of joining organizations were geared towards first-year students. I truly didn’t know whether I belonged in anything. Joining a sorority, professional fraternity, and other organizations in my twenties were a lot harder when the vast majority of students who were a part of it were a lot younger than me. Honestly, it felt like I had missed the opportunity to join things that most college students were a part of because I was a transfer. I had to spend a lot of time self-reflecting to realize that I deserved the same college experience as others. It wasn’t easy, I sat in my apartment a lot, giving myself pep-talks to raise my confidence before I was able to get out and join any organizations. But it was because I came out of my comfort zone that I was able to build my own community by creating friendships. The people I have met through my sorority, fraternity, and other organizations I’ve been a part of the past two years have given me my own unique college experience. Through my pre-law fraternity, Kappa Alpha Pi, I was able to develop myself professionally and made lifelong friends. Through my sorority Pi Beta Phi, I was able to become more confident, social, and found great friends who make this campus feel like home. Overall, through my involvement, I have become more confident, social, and comfortable with where I am. It’s easy to fall into the mindset that we shouldn’t be involved in anything and should just focus on finishing school because we already missed out on the experience, but having a college experience is still possible even if we don’t fit the traditional narrative.

While this isn’t the same route as other students, and while transfers only have two years to create our college experience, we have to realize that our experiences will always be inherently different than those of four-year students. We will all find our place at UCSD, but not if we continue having unrealistic expectations of what our college experience should be. Our experience is characterized by being different, stepping into new experiences, and making long-lasting friendships. Being transfer students and coming from our diverse backgrounds should be a source of pride, and we can still create a fulfilling college experience in two years, even if it’s not what tradition dictates.

Simone Singh is a Contributing Writer for The Triton.