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A Northeastern Student on What It’s Like to Be a College Transfer in a Pandemic

This year, college was difficult for students of all grades. Most people feel for the freshman class, who was robbed of both their senior year of high school and their first year of college, but what about the kids whose only college experience happened at a place they didn’t feel comfortable at? What about the transfers?

Lizzie McClennon transferred to Northeastern University from the University of Miami this past fall. She is now technically a freshman again because of the Northeastern co-op program, so instead of graduating in 2023, she will graduate in 2024. McClennon is a Biology major planning on minoring in Spanish. 

McClennon said she went to Miami because she wanted to major in Marine Biology and loved the ocean.

“At the time, I thought I needed to get out of New England and away from my family,” she said. “I wanted to experience something totally different.”

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However, when she got to UMiami, she did not feel at home. Even as she appreciated the school's "beautiful" location and "strong" Marine Biology program, McClennon missed New England. She made her decision to transfer as quickly as four weeks into her college experience.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that was not my place,” McClennon said. “In four weeks, I had met so many different people and I still felt like I wasn’t finding anyone that would be my kind of person.”

Then the pandemic hit.

“[The pandemic] made me excited,” she said. “It really made my decision so clear, the fact that I was excited about never having to return to that school… that really speaks enough on its own.”

However, coming to a new school in the fall where all clubs, meetings, and classes were virtual was not an easy transition.

“It was definitely really difficult. There was no way to meet people except through my roommates," she added. “Everyone has masks on, so no one is smiling and waving and you don’t just randomly start up conversations with people anymore.”

McClennon said that she has struggled with her social life more than with her academic because she was already used to online school from her last semester at Miami. She met her roommates through an online portal and lives with three other transfers off-campus.

“Living off-campus and being transfers has its ups and downs, but we’ve made it work,” McClennon said.

One of her best friends goes to BU and having her right around the corner is “really a saving grace.”

McClennon said her decision to transfer to Northeastern was definitely the right one. Now that life is moving back in the direction of normal, things are getting a lot better.

“I absolutely love it now,” McClennon said. “Being in Miami brought my mindset to a negative place, but being in Boston around people who I feel like are happier and more like me helped clear up my headspace.”

Transferring also helped McClennon focus more on her academics. She said being happier where she is has made a huge difference in her work ethic and interest levels. 

“I would go to the library for hours every day at Miami and sit there and do work to distract myself, so I got good grades, but I felt like it was just a chore,” she said. “Now I actually enjoy doing school again and I feel rewarded by doing my work.”

[bf_image id="832c6cjw5q6s4jrqs4cw4wz"] McClennon said that she is now more able to focus her energy on other aspects of college rather than just getting by every day. She hopes to take some time after college to teach English to kids in South America before she hopefully goes to veterinary school. Being at Northeastern gave her the confidence to make that decision, whereas she doubted herself while in Miami.

“I just want to be happy and give back,” she said. 

McClennon recommends transferring despite the difficult things she has been through as a result of her decision. Doing it in the pandemic was definitely not ideal, but the hardest part is behind her.

“I did have my doubts about transferring,” she said. “Going through the whole college process again was so draining, but I wouldn’t change it. Every day I am so happy to be in Boston and so grateful that I was able to transfer. Always trust your gut.”

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Catherine is from Boston MA. She is a junior in the College of Communications at Boston University. Her hobbies include reading and taking walks, and she is also a member of BU's sailing team. Catherine has been a writer for Her Campus since the fall of 2020, and recently joined the editing team this past fall. She is currently pursuing a major in journalism and a minor in English.
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