1. Problem: Making friends As scary and anxiety-provoking as it may be to be a freshman at a new school, there are not only hundreds of kids on your own campus in the same exact situation, but there are millions of kids across the world in the same exact situation as you. On the other hand, as a transfer student, there are only a few dozen of us. Everyone in your year has already made their friends, established their routines, and figured out their place on campus. The summer before arriving on campus I couldn’t help but worry: Why would anyone need new friends? Where do I even start? What if I relate more to freshmen than to juniors? I felt like I would always be on the outside, regardless of the age group or friend group.
Solution: Variety, variety, variety! The anxiety about perpetually being “on the outside” ended up being a blessing in disguise. As soon as I reconceptualized the idea of being on the outside as the freedom to create relationships without the boundaries and expectations that come with already belonging to a group, I realized the beauty in being an outsider. I found myself with the ability to create friendships all over campus including students in my transfer groups, students in my grade, freshmen students, students in my classes, students I knew from home, etc. I realized that I could relate to each in an entirely different way, and found myself reaping the benefits of having such a diverse array of people to choose from-- and the best part is, no one questioned it and I didn’t have to sacrifice anything. I find this to be the best perk of being a transfer student.
2. Problem: Comparing schools The big question all transfers face is: Did I make the right decision? The question is heavy, complex, and ambiguous. Of course, this question is easier to answer for some than for others. However, this question functions as a constant lens for which we view the world around us and forces us to analyze our moods and days to an unhealthy extent. If the never-ending analysis wasn’t enough, the second the thought arises that something may have been better at the previous school, a spiral of dark thoughts and emotions may begin.
Solution: Focus on the good, get out of your head, and talk about it! Easier said than done, yes. However, there are a few things that are important to remind yourself:
- There is no such thing as a perfect fit.
- Every school is so different, and has unique benefits and issues. Focus on all the wonderful things this school has that your other school never had.
- Embrace the present. The grass is always greener, so stop thinking about it!
- At the very least, you made the empowering decision to change your life. You made a difficult choice of leaving what was familiar and easier (in many ways), and put in hard work to be at a place you thought you could give and gain from so much more. Wrong or right, you are learning a lot about yourself and that’s pretty cool!
- You have an amazing story to tell, and people are curious about it! I find sharing my story and explaining the differences between my previous school and this school’s campus cultures is not only great for my mental health, but also a topic that almost everyone is fascinated about!
3. Problem: Fear of being seen as a misfit Before even deciding to fill out transfer applications, one of my biggest fears about transferring to a different school was that people would see me as someone who is unadaptable, inflexible, insatiable, or difficult. I was nervous people may think of a transfer student as someone who had to try again or start over because their first school just didn’t work out. After talking with transfers, I found that a lot of us were terrified that most people would think that we transferred schools because we couldn’t find a way to be happy, that we couldn’t make friends, that we didn’t know ourselves well enough to choose the right school to begin with, or that we weren’t smart enough to get in the first time around. While us transfers know that usually our situations are not that simple, and often have nothing to do with those factors (and even if they do, that that’s normal too!), it is hard to face the fact that to some people, being a transfer student inherently means we’re less competent in some way.
Solution: We’re at Brown. How lucky are we! Unlike the other two problems and solutions, this solution only applies for us Brown transfer students. More often than not, the people I’ve encountered see transfer students as incredibly dedicated, hard-working, brave, independent, and committed. They often see and are curious about the complex situations that prompted us to want to continue our education here at Brown. This community, more than any other, understands the ups and downs that come with the journey in figuring out who we are and deciding who we want to be. The open curriculum, and the way it encourages students to go out of their comfort zones and to test out different things perfectly aligns with the mindset of many transfer students, and genuinely reflects the attitude of the community. To conclude, the Brown community has not only eradicated my fear that people would see transfer students as lesser, but the Brown community, through their praise and remarks in which they can relate, has actually made me proud to be a transfer student.