Back to Square One: Tips for Transfer Students

The start of August is filled with firsts for many university students, none so much more than the just freshly plucked from the garden of high school: those who were high school seniors become freshman once more, eager and terrified of stepping into the diverse and all too humid jungle that is the University of Puerto Rico.  

There are dozens of well-written and sympathetic articles dedicated to making that first dip a lot more bearable.  But in all the humdrum and excited murmurs, there’s a quieter, anxious whisper that is just as eager but a little more cautious when it comes to this change, especially since it isn't their first day in college but it is their first day here. Yes, when it comes to being a transfer student from another university, be it second or fourth year, they might as well be squeezed in with the freshman, because that’s exactly how they (and their yet-to-be validated credits) will be feeling. Not to mention the less than glamorous experiences that you’ll encounter the first few months in your new habitat.


The Code Words

LPM? COPU? DMN? ABC? What are these fascinating hieroglyphics painted on my enrollment papers? Is it a sign? A message from a celestial being? Nope, they’re where all your classes reside.  Each one dedicated to a different building or section throughout the university.  Depending on which class, you’re just one click away from having a five-hour break to a two-minute run from one building to another, most of the time on different corners of the campus. Jogging, anyone?


The University’s website actually has a map containing the codes and where the buildings reside.  Find a focal point where you can easily locate yourself and go from there, and don’t be afraid of humming the Dora the Explorer theme song while you wander around trying to create shortcuts from one building to the other.


The Devil Professor

Yes, the very whisper of their name includes a soundtrack of yowling cats, horses neighing in fright, and a distant cry of a lost child with a broken toy.  But because enrollment papers don’t include warning signs like skulls or tears, you naively sit in the classroom and wonder, why is there a tumbleweed rolling by and why is the person sitting next to you praying? Little do you know that the growing pit of horror beginning to hover over the chalkboard isn’t an illusion, simply your professor bidding a warm hello. 


The professors are a big factor when it comes to transfers and/or changing majors.  If you get stuck with a professor that's a requisite for your major, don’t panic, and don’t reconsider your choices.  Either try to look for a different section or class to transfer into, or join forces with your fellow classmates to help each other out.  It’s a great way to make new friends and to test out your dedication to what you love. 


Lunch Hour

What once was the highlight of your day has become a painful reminder of your present lonely state.  Having transferred at a period where friends have already been established, groups defined, and places designated as their “spot,” there’s little for you to do other than slowly poison your body with Burger King at an empty table until you find other alternatives.  That, or consider the vending machines as your buffet because money is also a painful luxury.  


Start small: to avoid spending too much money on junk food, make your own lunch, or bring a bag of healthier snacks to help you survive the day without migraines and empty stomachs.  After you’ve gained a little more confidence in your surroundings, look around your area.  There’s usually stands with good food at good prices on-campus (Las Mamis in front of Educación, Los Vegetarianos in Humanidades, etc.). Outside of campus there’s plenty of good choices that doesn’t involve emptying your wallet. Try Taquería Azteca, el Obrero, la Plaza de Mercado, Vidy’s, the recently-opened Mona Lisa, Arrope, La Tertulia, or Mercado. Be adventurous and walk around Rio Piedras: not only are you guaranteed to find somewhere to eat, it'll aid you in familiarizing yourself with the area.

Also, lunch hour may be lonely, and making friends is always hard, so stay distracted, text or call the ones you know while you eat.  Read a book or do your homework ahead of time.  While it sounds boring or bothersome, you can gain a lot out of it, and you might even find some classmates and plan to study together.  Give it a shot!


Changing Majors

One of the main reasons why someone would transfer universities is because they decided to change their major.  Be it Biology to Literature, Music to Anthropology, Architecture to Business, everyone finds a better alternative in one place or the other.  

But changes, be they good or bad, come with their fair share of consequences, and changing majors is no exception. Every area of study is a whole new world and a whole new concept of work expectations where the people will speak a completely different language (literally and figuratively speaking).  Not to mention the new terms and ideas that you’ll have to learn to get through the day.


The internet isn’t just for cat videos and funny gifs, it’s for education! (Regularly. Some of the time.  After this video of a dog teaching a baby how to crawl, I swear!) Use it to learn about anything new that you might not quite grasp, look for advice, download that how-to video.  And if that fails, go to the library (yes, they’re not just useful for sleeping and printing last minute essays, you learn there, too!) and ask a counselor for any classes you think you should take as electives to help you advance or just for the fun of it. 


Friendless and Wandering in the University

Last but not least, one of the most painful sacrifices you commit when it comes to transferring (other than giving up most of your hard-earned credits) is leaving behind the safety net that are your friends.  The lunch hours, the evil professors, the confusing codes for buildings, it all jumbles up inside until you start questioning your choices and wish for the reassuring words of your close friends.  Was it worth leaving it all behind to start over? Is what I’m studying worth the mess I’m getting myself into? 


The answer to this part is entirely up to you.  Questioning the actions you make today because of how it’ll affect your tomorrow is normal and so is being afraid of walking down those crowded halls alone.  Making friends is hard, and it’s terrifying to start over.


But this is a chance to start fresh.  The good thing about transferring is that you already have experience, and now you can use it to your advantage.  It’s never too late to start something new, and transferring is but a small part of the better things that will come your way.  Meeting new people can be as simple as saying good morning to the person sitting next to you, or complimenting someone’s shirt, or even sharing the same look of despair when you know you failed a test.  It can also be as hard as telling your parents that you want to transfer, or stepping into the campus for the very first time.  

Go slowly but confidently.  Try new things, ask for advice, raise your hand in class, this is for the better as long as you believe it is. 

After all, you've come this far, haven’t you?