Dear Transfer Student,
You’re just over a month in. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. You’ve been corrected on UVA lingo more times than you can remember – “It’s Grounds, not campus.” “No one says Trinity Irish Pub. It’s Trin.” “You’re not a sophomore. You’re a second-year.”
You attended the Activities Fair, urging yourself to sign up for anything and everything. Not another second can be wasted; you have to make up for lost time.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you clicked immediately with your roommate and now automatically have a plus-one to conquer college life with. The unluckier transfers either don’t jive with their roommates or come to know absolute solitude with their assigned single room. Regardless, nothing feels quite as bad as the walk back to your cramped quarters, knowing you don’t have plans on a Thursday or Friday night while everyone else passes you on the way to the Corner.
You look around and wonder how you’re the only one with these surface-level friendships while everyone around you- first-years and even other transfer students- post on social media and gallivant around Grounds like they’ve known their new peers for years.
Your parents tell you to give it time. It’s only been five weeks; This is the territory that comes with transferring. After hearing those words a thousand times, you want to believe them, but they do nothing to pacify the dejection you’re feeling.
So take it from me, a transfer student in her final year – it will get better.
I transferred to UVA after I spent my first year at James Madison University. Stuck in a single dorm in the Johnson/Malone/Weedon residence halls, the absolute BFE of UVA (a literal 30-minute walk to the Corner if you are interested in nightlife of any sort), I can attest to the absolute loneliness you might be feeling.
Slowly, though- and I do mean slowly- I found my stride. And you will, too.
Remembering how it felt to be in your shoes, I offer some (unsolicited, so if that’s not your cup of tea, feel free to click to the next article) advice to help navigate the ups and downs this semester may present:
My first piece of advice is to let your passions lead you to your people.
I joined a club that I knew, regardless of whether I would make friends with other members, I was participating in an activity that truly was a passion. I knew early on the mission and values of the CIO would enrich my development as an individual. The organization aligned with my envisioned career path – their speakers, club activities, and opportunities would open doors for me professionally. I asked myself, “Would you still be a part of this organization, even if the friendships didn’t come immediately, or truthfully, even at all?” For me, the answer was easy. Absolutely.
So, to the person reading this, asking what their next steps should be, I urge you to lean on your passions. Your passions will then lead you to your people. I can attest to this. I put all my effort into one organization that checked so many boxes for me professionally, academically, and socially, and now, not only do I have some of my best friends, but I have leadership within the organization, as well.
My second piece of advice? Say yes more than you say no. You will never regret placing yourself in opportunities where the doors are freely open for you to walk through. Whether it is a speaker that interests you, a UPC activity, a club social, or even an event from one of the various flyers you see posted around Grounds, one “yes,” as crazy as it may sound, can transform your life in ways you were least expecting.
My third bit of advice may appear to be in direct conflict with the previous two pieces, but I stress: do not spread yourself too thin. You may have numerous passions, and college is the prime opportunity to explore; however, focusing on quantity over quality makes it challenging to develop authentic relationships as quickly. Invest in quality friendships and experiences that you see as the best fit for you, not just for the sake of acquiring resume boosters.
Fourth, take some time to self-reflect on your goals and the reason you chose to make UVA your home. There was a reason you left your previous institution to come to Mr. Jefferson’s University. Don’t let your temporary circumstances damper the reasoning behind your decision to be here. Remember the bliss of opening your acceptance letter. Think about those who would do anything to be where you are currently. When you question whether you made the right choice coming here, remember your “Why UVA?”
Fifth, and finally, envision the person you want to be when walking down the Lawn for graduation in just a few short years. When you don’t have particular goals to keep you on track, it’s easy to hone in on all that is not going your way. However, when you have an arrow pointing you to an end goal, it’s easier to zero in; regardless of what life throws at you, have a clear vision of who and where you want to be. Your goals don’t have to be concrete plans; perhaps they’re more abstract. You may want to become more extroverted, or maybe you seek to be better with your time-management skills. Maybe you want to become more firm in your faith. Regardless of where or what you envision for yourself come Final Exercises, this reminder helps find purpose on even the worst days.
I look back on my past two years at the University of Virginia, and each one has proven to be better than the last. The anxiety and dread that used to accompany coming back to Grounds after a university break has turned into an exhilarating rush to return to savor every last dwindling moment of my final year here.
From one former transfer student to another, I have no doubt you will reach this point, as well.