Name: Cristina Puente
Hometown: Davis, California
Her Campus: Where did you transfer from?
Cristina Puente: My transfer path, like most, is unconventional. I did community college classes while I was in high school and I did three different community colleges because each one offered different classes and variety that fit my schedule. So I took courses at Sacramento City College, Mendocino College, and Foothill College. Mendocino and Foothill are in NorCal and aren’t near me, so I did online classes through those and I did an in-person one at Sacramento City College. I would study for these courses after my high school workload and throughout the summers and continued that combination until I graduated in June of 2014, then I applied to transfer in that fall to start my junior year of college the following fall 2015. So I’m a pretty young transfer, I came in at 18 and I’m 20 now.
HC: Did you know you always wanted to transfer?
CP: I didn’t. So how it started for me is that I had a mentor back at home, like a family friend, and she has two sons who are my age and she started enrolling them in community college classes in high school because they were very strong academically. She had told me and my mom about it just to see if I wanted to take new classes that weren’t offered in high school. And so I did it as a trial and error type of thing, just for fun and to see what was out there. I started off taking a social problems class, like sociology type of stuff. I really liked it! [Taking community college classes] was a good way to save money and I could do it while I was in high school so yeah it kind of started off randomly. It was something I’d ever planned to do until my mentor suggested it. And so she’d been my mentor ever since, she counseled me throughout everything. The more units I took, coupled with AP credits, is what let me transfer.
HC: What was it like doing college classes in high school? Was it difficult balancing that with everything else?
CP: It was sometimes hard to balance everything but honestly I learned how to be independent and organized and also how to manage my time. With the online classes especially, since you don’t have a professor that you see physically that tells you when things are due, you have to be really on top of checking all the time, which is actually a lot harder than you think because no one is telling you to do it. You really just have to be self-sufficient and also, which helped develop my self-advocacy skills like asking for help for classes that I found challenging: Economics and Math. So I got tutors from UC Davis and friends to help me understand the material. Once I knew I was committed to the transfer path during my senior year of high school, I scheduled my high school classes to have a certain rhythm so that I wasn’t taking anything too rigorous that wouldn’t allow me to balance both. This required a lot of planning with my amazing mentor, which allowed me to take the classes that I would need to transfer, like statistics, not in high school but through my community college to get the university credit. Instead, I took classes I had strong skills in like AP English, AP Art etc. Also since I did classes in the summer, I think that was one of the most difficult parts initially because at that point in high school people didn’t take summer classes to get ahead, it was unusual. I remember once my junior year of high school, when I began taking college courses, I went to Tahoe with some friends for the weekend and I had to bring my computer and spend time studying while my friends were entirely free and on vacation, which did take a lot of motivation to begin and stay focused. Essentially, I learned early on throughout experiences like this and throughout my path that life happens differently for everyone, and college does too–so I think that was good because it helped me develop my sense of self, be comfortable with being unique, and be proud of what I was doing.
HC: When you applied into UCLA, you applied as an Anthropology major, so did you always know since you were young that you wanted to study that or do you think that it was because you were taking college classes in high school that you developed your career path earlier?
CP: When I was younger, I definitely had different career visions: growing up I wanted nothing more than to be a designer, specifically in fashion. But in high school, I became really interested in social activism/justice careers so I thought about working with non-profits, law, international relations, political science etc. But by taking community college classes in high school in some of these areas, I quickly realized that none of those were what I was truly passionate about. In that way, taking those college classes while I was young was undoubtedly part of maturing since I was learning about more complicated topics. The college classes allowed me to explore more and made me realize that I enjoy disciplines that deal with people so I sought out my Associates Degree for Transfer (AA-T) in Sociology. Even though I liked Sociology, I decided Anthropology would give me a broader and more holistic understanding of the human experience going forward at my four year university. Therefore, definitely having those classes in high school allowed me to find that out sooner and define who I was earlier on in my life.
HC: How was your experience as a transfer student at UCLA been so far?
CP: I’ve been at UCLA for about a year and a half now, I transferred in fall of 2015. I was able to live in the transfer dorm last year, so I would say out of my whole transfer experience that was definitely the most positive and memorable transfer-specific community that I was part of. I would highly recommend that to all transfer students coming in. I think it’s really exciting living with people who had a similar path as you in the sense that they’re non-traditional students. It was cool too because everyone had different backgrounds, ages etc. What’s so unique about transfers is that everybody has a different story that I think many traditional students don’t – at least not in the same way. That isn’t to say that students that come in as freshmen don’t have their merits, but transfer students have very specific and interesting reasons why they didn’t do college right after high-school. I mean for me, it’s just that I decided to get to a university differently but I’ve met people who went to another university first and decided they didn’t like it and wanted to start over; and people who decided to work first or live abroad etc. So I actually think because of that, transfers end up being more sure of what they want to do because they’re starting university later and so they know why they’re here and what they are interested in-major or career wise, whereas I think freshmen coming in may be here because it’s the traditional next step after high school, and is what people “usually” do. And usually some transfers, not all, have endured some sort of difficulty to get where they are so I’ve noticed that transfers are very resilient as a community and diverse in their experiences. Most of my peers are older; I was the youngest on my floor last year and on the younger-side for transfers overall since I was 18 when I started, but my roommate was 23 and the majority of my friends ended up being a lot older than me which has only added to my own growth and unique college experience. Overall, living with transfers was the most immersive way to get involved in the transfer community and it shaped my experience here in these great ways.
HC: What have you been involved in at UCLA since you joined and what do you hope to get involved in when you graduate?
CP: When I arrived at UCLA, I joined a sorority which was a good way to meet more people and I made some of my close friends from that. Last year I was also involved in the USAC elections and helping do campaigns for a friend of mine who ran for president. I helped with planning for video shoots, marketing, and social networking to promote her campaign. I liked being a part of a more political and social cause on campus, which certainly also allowed me to meet many friends who are advocating for critical social topics in our own campus–which is certainly a microcism of the “real world.”. I’m also an artist so I intend to join creative clubs and recreation classes that involve that. I’m planning on doing research with one of my professors too, so apart from these I’m trying to get more involved in the academic side besides simply going to classes and doings readings but actually contributing to my field of study in a hands-on approach. But I am graduating soon, unfortunately the transfer experience is short and so it’s difficult to make it so rounded because you have to balance arriving to a new place, getting good grades, meeting new people, and making new friends, forming relationships with professors etc. It’s not even 2 years, it’s 2 sets of 9 months so that short amount of time really limits how much you can do and get involved in sadly.
HC: If there was one thing you could change about the transfer process/experience at UCLA what would it be?
CP: I don’t know how this could be implemented as a change, but I feel like because it’s so fast-paced for transfers, there’s not enough time to network with professors, while juggling all the factors that I mentioned above and you’re limited in that you can only get to know the professors whose classes you take, so I think there needs to be more of a sympathy among the faculty and student body. I mean for people who arrive as freshmen, there’s more time to get to know faculty members and network because chances are you’ll have more repeat professors. But as a transfer you’re sort of at a disadvantage with the short and quick experience that is lived on campus, this I assume is much harder also for transfers who are also commuters. In general, the nature of being a transfer is different than beginning there as a freshman and so the opportunities and experiences will be different in some of these ways-simply because the issue is about needing more time.
HC: So on that note about awareness, what is one thing that you would want everyone at UCLA to know about being a transfer?
CP: I feel like a lot of people underestimate transfer students. Within the transfer community, I think transfers really celebrate each other and get excited about getting to know one another. But I think sometimes traditional students look down upon transfers because there are some people that assume that it’s easier to get in as a transfer, or that transfers didn’t know what they were doing and were wasting time before coming here. Also for older age transfers, it also might be harder to even find communities that accept you because some clubs are selective and prefer to have younger members or members that will be involved for more than the typical two year transfer experience. I think this disadvantages transfers because it makes it harder to network and get involved in student organizations so it would be nice if transfers were judged on a different scale because even though you can’t be in those organizations for 4 years you still want to be involved so it would be great if that was taken into consideration more.
HC: Given everything that you’ve gone through, your process to get to UCLA, and your experience at UCLA, what’s one piece of advice you would give to incoming transfers?
CP: Because everything moves so fast I would say that they should be aware that they’ll graduate so soon and take every opportunity possible! Also be proud that you’re a transfer and be confident about your path despite what other people say. You shouldn’t be ashamed that you got here in a different way because you worked as hard as everyone else to get here and deserve to be a part of the Bruin community. And also don’t get intimated by other students and what they’re involved in or have already done at UCLA, just focus on making your own experience and how you can make it as well-rounded and rewarding as possible.