I Used to Judge Transfer Students Until I Became One

It is not that I hated transfer students. I just did not understand why transfer students, well, transferred. Senior year of high school is the closing of one chapter, but the beginning of another. We are presented with choices about how to form that next chapter. How could you transfer from a school you chose to go to? Didn’t you decide to go to that university in the first place because you loved it?

Photo by Eva Ashbaugh

Maybe my rationality was setting me up to be a transfer student myself. It’s like the universe wanted to tell me, “hey actually, you’re wrong!” Nobody goes into college thinking they are going to transfer, unless you attend community college (which is normally only associate programs for the most part). Sometimes, if you attend a satellite campus, you might plan on transferring to the main campus after completion of your gen-eds, so you can focus solely on your major(s). My transfer student experience is a little unique. I had always wanted to go to Pitt but changed my mind during my senior year. I truly believe the reason why I pushed so hard against Pitt was because my dad graduated from here. I did not want to be in his shadow because this was his school. I wanted something that I could call my own. So, when I applied late and got waitlisted, I decided to look into other schools. Even after being accepted to Pitt in March of that year, I ultimately choose to go to a different school six hours away from home because I thought it was my best option. For the first year and half of my collegiate career, I went to Temple University in Philadelphia. I genuinely loved my school. I saw all the qualities I liked in Pitt at my Temple. It was in a city, had a large and diverse student population and had opportunities for my major (or at least I thought). It was new and exciting, and I was ready to take on the City of Brotherly Love. At the beginning, I liked my school, but I wouldn’t say I loved it. I had a few friends, did well in my classes and joined a few student organizations. Yet, something just seemed off. I had multiple falling outs with friends from high school, and I felt like I didn’t really know anyone. I went to class, turned in assignments and then would just sit in my residence hall and do nothing. Throw in the occasional dinner with friends, but that was it. It was just a cycle. I assumed this was as good as it was going to get. I figured that everyone’s first semester of college is far from picture perfect, and so I held on to the hope that it would get better. I was afraid that transferring would make it seem like I was running away from my problems. So, I decided to stick it out in Philly. However, I chose to ignore what was really wrong. My mental health was far from fine no matter how many times I tried saying differently, I lost motivation for school and I began to go party and drink away my problems.

Almost a year ago, I broke. My strategies for coping just were not working and I started losing friendships. I was anxious all the time, which could make people uncomfortable to be around me. However, I’ve always been very vocal about my mental health issues, and when I began to speak up, I was silenced. I did not have the support system among my “friends” that I thought I could count on. I felt lonely and unsafe, so I knew something had to change immediately. That was the second time I applied to Pitt. My doctor agreed that I needed more professional help for my mental health issues. I will forever be thankful for my mother who urged me to make a therapy appointment while I was home for Thanksgiving break. I was trying to find a regular therapist in Philadelphia, but my insurance provider was not accepted most places. I was paying upwards of $400 per month for just two, maybe three sessions. My anxiety had become so severe that I was put on Lexapro and recommended to see a therapist once a week. There was absolutely no way I could afford that! The universe has a funny way of working, though, because I ended up getting accepted to Pitt on Thanksgiving, right when my mom was serving dinner. As a tour guide, I often joke about how “I thought my mom would be really thankful that her only child would be moving closer to home.” I also accidentally selected Fall 2019 instead of Spring 2019 on my application. Oops. Everything happens for a reason though, right? I made the decision the night before heading back to Temple: I would only return to complete my finals before transferring. If I’m being honest, though, Pitt was the only school I applied to as a transfer student. It was as if I knew Pitt was the only school really for me. I’ve always felt at home here; even moreso now that I’m a student here and not just visiting my dad’s alma mater. I’ve never been happier.

I truly believe the reason why I initially resisted coming to Pitt was because my dad graduated from here. I did not want to be in his shadow because this was his school. I wanted something that I could call my own.

Photo by Eva Ashbaugh

I am grateful to have gained the experiences, the challenges, the friendships and the opportunities that Pitt has presented me with over this past year. There are times that it is challenging without a doubt, but that also shows the strength of transfer students. I believed the stigma around transfer students; they are lazy and looking for an easy way out because their previous institution might have been “too hard.” That is far from the case. Every transfer student has their own set of reasons for leaving their first school. Trying to accumulate to a new school, a new way of learning and a new environment is a major challenge for everyone. Yet, transfer students still do it because it is in their best interest. I’ve truly become stronger and better because of my experiencing as a transfer student.