The transfer student experience

Most juniors and seniors have had two years at USF to acclimate to life away from home and stumble academically. But for transfer students, the culture shock of becoming part of the ninth largest university in the nation, and the unforgiving intensity of upper level courses, comes all at once.

Transfer student Tyler Sloan breaks down obstacles these students face in the first few weeks.

I remember sitting in transfer student orientation listening to the first of many speakers. A man went on and on about how, as transfer students, we had a “leg up” on the other incoming students.

We’d been there, done that, and this was just the same old thing. I hoped that this would be the case. I didn’t want to be one of those people who struggled to adjust to college life.

I wanted to prove to myself that I could make as smooth a transition as humanly possible.

I received my associate’s degree from Indian River State College in Ft. Pierce. This state school isn’t small, but only has half the number of students USF Tampa enrolls every year.

Having two years of college experience under my belt, I felt like I should already know where everything is and how everything worked. I felt like I wouldn’t be allowed to falter, as some incoming students do.

It’s not easy being a transfer student, and some of our first days here are harder than others’. Alexandrea McGlynn, a senior majoring in music education who also transferred from Indian River, had an added handicap.

“My first few days here were rather difficult because I was in a wheelchair at the time,” she said. “I didn’t really know my way around.”

Though I at least had the use of my legs when I arrived, I can relate to McGlynn. My first full day here, I decided to walk from Holly F Apartments to Juniper-Poplar Hall. Sweating profusely, I approached the Marshall Student Center and realized that I had no idea where I was going.

As I walked around looking for a map, I stopped when I heard someone calling my name. This happened less than 24 hours after my transfer, and the only three people I knew on campus were people I went to high school with.

I turned and it was Jake, the cashier from Jamba Juice. I’d given him my order earlier that morning. He asked me if I needed any help, as apparently I looked a little lost. I told him I needed to get to Juniper-Poplar Hall, and he quickly set me straight.

Though we have experiences in the college classroom, some transfer students consider moving away from home the most difficult part.

Victoria Burg, a junior majoring in art history and a transfer student from Broward College in Ft. Lauderdale, said it’s been difficult learning to live alone.

“The moving was hard,” she said. “I lived in the same five-mile radius my whole life.”

Many of us are living on our own for the very first time. That feeling of both personal responsibility and fear can weigh on us, and though we may not be new to college, we’re still new to the university lifestyle.

“Living on my own four hours away from my family was hard to deal with at first, especially since I shared a room with my twin sister for most of my life,” McGlynn said. “I definitely cried on the drive to Tampa from Stuart that summer.”

Some transder students found the academic side of USF suprising.

“I think I found the classes easier than I expected,” Burg said. “Transferring from a community college, I expected something completely different. I expected mobs of people, larger class sizes and professors that didn’t care about their students and more.”

Calon Webb, a junior majoring in psychology who transferred from Hillsborough Community College, found the academic side of USF more accessible.

“Something positive is that I feel all the professors are open and encouraging,” he said. “I do not feel I am imposing on them to go deeper or to guide me. I am grateful for that.”

Unlike Burg and Webb, I found myself continually struggling to keep up with the daily flow. I’m stubborn, and it’s become evident this semester that when I feel something going wrong, I need to confront it immediately.

After three weeks of sleepless nights, slipping grades and mental anguish, I’d finally had enough.

I’d never dropped a course before. I considered it a sign of weakness. Nonetheless, I still dropped one course, and now my grades are returning to the level that I believe they should be. I have time to breathe now, even relax.

My first few weeks taught me a lot about college and myself, giving me the experience I’ll need to finish this semester and eventually my degree.