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My Experience Transferring Universities

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at LUC chapter.


I can remember the exact place I was when I decided to come to Loyola, overjoyed imagining my new life. But unlike most people, this moment was not in a high school college counselor’s office, or on a tour with my parents my senior year. It was on the top bunk in my freshman year dorm, alone and overcome with my newfound anxiety, and frankly out of options. It was in that moment of desperation that I filled out my application and made what ended up being my biggest life-altering decision.

    All my life, I have been someone who likes to have a plan. From as simple as needing to know what I’m going to have for dinner this upcoming week, to having an intricate “life plan”.  I take massive amounts in comfort in being able to fight the unknown and control my future. Since  third grade, I had planned on attending the University of Iowa with my best friend. Her beautiful older cousin had attended, and at nine her life seemed so perfect, it was an easy choice for my friend and I to want to follow. All throughout my time in high school I maintained wanting this image of the cliché college experience for myself: the large school, the football games, and the wild college parties. When I was looking at and applying to universities, nothing that didn’t fit this image made the list. I was picking an experience for myself based on what I thought I was supposed to want. Before I knew it, I was actually committing to the school that I had joked about going to all my life. My perfect life plan was fully on track.

    But, I guess I needed to learn that plans don’t always matter. The life that I had thought was so right for me made me miserable, alone, and caused me to sink to a dark place I had never been before. Everyday felt like a constant battle against a school that felt like it was rejecting me. Every night was a constant battle against myself wondering if it was really the school that was the problem, or if my unhappiness was caused by the even more terrifying reality that I couldn’t handle college. I felt like a failure seeing everyone I knew thriving and loving their new lives, while I felt like a ghost going through the motions in a life that felt so foreign and unfulfilling to me. And yet, I just accepted this as my new reality and lived counting down to graduation. I can honestly say I have never been in such a dark place. On a much needed visit home, I finally broke down to my parents, explaining how wrecked I now was with anxiety being at Iowa, how lonely I felt, and how scared I was of my own emotions. By the time I returned back to school that Sunday night, I knew I needed to transfer. On October 23, 2016, sobbing alone in my dorm, listening outside my window to all the fun I wasn’t able to have, I applied to Loyola, in a desperate need to escape a life that made me feel so empty it terrified me.

    By thanksgiving break, I found myself on one final college visit that I never had planned to be on, touring Loyola’s lakeshore campus. I wish I could romanticize one perfect detail of my visit, one message from above that meant this was a turning point for me, but there was no sign for the universe that makes for a good story; only a feeling like I could finally breathe.

    I wanted, and frankly still do want, just a normal college experience. I wish more than anything for my transfer experience to be just a blip on my radar, a weird little side story about my past, but the reality is, it can never be. When I started writing this article, I almost didn’t want to include details about my time at my previous school, because to me that feels like focusing on a toxic past and not allowing myself to move past it. When my high school friends came home this summer and we swapped stories about our freshman years, I felt like all of my stories were inherently bitter and sad because my experience had been so bitter and sad, and soon I felt like I was defined by this horrible experience I couldn’t escape. I fight a constant battle between wanting to move on and forget my horrible time at Iowa, but yet not being able stop comparing every new experience here to the previous ones because, in a way, that’s all I know. Leaving for fall break, I was terrified, because my only experience of going home for a break is being so hysterical to go back to school that I can’t function. Despite rationally knowing how much I enjoy my life here, and despite wanting to completely erase the experience that created these new fears, I can’t rationally stop myself from being afraid.

What I think can be harder to face is the reality that sometimes moments or experiences do in fact define us. Sometimes these times of complete raw emotion change us and shape us in ways that we never anticipate. I cannot pretend that I had a typical start to my college experience, believe me I cannot escape that if I wanted, but more so, I cannot pretend that I am now suddenly having a normal experience here either after my transfer. I cannot tell you that what I learned about myself in that time hasn’t changed the way I look at the life every day now, for better and for worse. But what I am learning is to acknowledge this change in me and see the successes I’ve made when I do find myself comparing and push myself to see those ‘betters’.

I know for a fact that I am a completely different person than I was two years ago when I applied to Iowa, and I know that all the deep, genuine joys I’ve felt being at Loyola since then have been accredited to the way I got to know myself during this struggle. I have an honest sense of self now, and a perception of reality that feels far more grounded.  I know that I would not have ended up at the place I was meant to be, had I not first attempted to be where I thought I should be. I chose Iowa because I thought it would shape me into who I thought I should be in order to be happy, but I chose Loyola because I knew it would shape me into who I need to be to be happy. But I wouldn’t even be able to begin allowing this school to foster my happiness, had I not had my experience at Iowa teach me these skills to know myself well enough to facilitate my happiness.  Loyola has been the home I never thought I could find in a school: a place where I feel comforted and supported enough to explore myself and grow to who I want to be. I finally feel like I am somewhere there is at least the potential for connection, because I finally feel like the student body are ‘my people’ and I don’t have to live a life that doesn’t feel like mine. After having felt so rejected from Iowa, Loyola feels like a beacon of inclusion. I never saw anywhere for me to grow when I was at the Iowa, but in just my short time at Loyola, I see potential for my life that I never thought possible. I find myself excited to be on campus or excited to face new opportunities and I know that comes from finally feeling like I am a part of a community. I cannot honestly say that it has all been an easy transition, and my life did not one-eighty to perfection, but I am now physically and mentally in a place where I can finally at least see potential for me to grow to be the person I want; and none of this would be possible without my experience being at the wrong university.

That’s the thing though, that experience deeply shaped me. It did and I can never pretend anything different. What’s important to me is not whether or not this experience defines me, but how it defines me. And that choice is all mine, and it’s a choice I make every time I feel homesick and worry this means I’m failing here too, but remind myself I am grounded enough now to overcome this; and it’s a choice I make every time I make one more friend than I had at Iowa and decide I am connecting with people the way I want because I know my values now. I can decide that this experience defined me in teaching me about myself and giving me the perspective to now say I really am in love with my life.

And that statement in and of itself is the biggest victory in having a “normal college experience” I could have ever imagined for myself. If you told me a year ago that I would be writing an article saying despite all the daily ups and downs, I am genuinely, sincerely content with my life, I would never have thought it possible. But that is the cliché thing about harsh defining moments; we need them to push ourselves to the place we only dreamed we could get to.





Sophomore at Loyola University Chicago
Annie Kate Raglow is a fourth-year honors student at Loyola University Chicago. She is a journalism major with a music minor, and she enjoys her role as contributor for the LUC chapter of Her Campus. Annie was Campus Correspondent when the chapter re-launched at LUC. She has a passion for traveling and meeting new people, as well as advocating for social issues. Career goals (as of right now) include opportunities in investigative or documentary journalism. Music is a huge part of Annie's life, and one of her favorite pastimes is performing at local Chicago "open mic" nights. She also loves finding independent coffee shops! Annie is ambitious in pursuit of her journalism and music skills, and loves everything that Her Campus has to offer.