How I Beat the Transfer Blues
She went from feeling like a stranger at Rutgers to feeling at home
My experience as a Rutgers transfer student began a little more than two years ago. I entered RU in the fall semester of ’07 as a sophomore from Montclair State, a university totaling 246 acres compared to Rutgers-New Brunswick’s 2, 681. I had been so excited about coming here, but shortly after I arrived my anticipation was eclipsed by angst.
Navigating the sprawling New Brunswick campuses looked like an impossible feat. I found the bus system intimidating, and although I was told about tools like Degree Navigator, Webreg, and MyRutgers to give me information and direction, I hadn’t a clue how to use them correctly.
It was like being a freshman all over again: Nothing was familiar, and it seemed like everyone belonged to a culture I hadn’t yet learned and would never be part of. But I kept assuring myself that my feelings were normal – and that if I wasn’t fit for Rutgers; surely, Rutgers would not have opened its door to me.
Luckily, this unhappy period did not last long, thanks to the pace of RU life which drove me to learn the ins and outs quickly – and a lucky coincidence. At the same time I was in search of my place at Rutgers, the university opened a Transfer Center to assist students transferring into the then-new School of Arts and Sciences. (SAS)
Staff at the center in Lucy Stone Hall on the Livingston Campus were developing dynamic programs to engage students like me. And there are a lot of us. I later learned that approximately 2,000 students transfer to the New Brunswick Campus each year (and about 1,000 students to Newark and Camden) – and these numbers are growing. One program that played a key role in my acclimation to the university was Students in Transition seminar, a one-credit class required of all new transfers. Not only did I learn more about the essentials of Rutgers, I was also able to meet others who were having similar experiences to mine. The seminar became a refuge where we could ask the questions we were afraid to pose to the ‘real’ Rutgers students and make acquaintances, even lasting friendships.
During that first semester the center also initiated a program for which they were seeking mentors: transfer students who could educate new transfers about the programs and services and help them adjust. With feelings of uncertainty and anxiety still hovering, I jumped at the chance to become more involved with the university, and, more important, to help students who I knew would be feeling overwhelmed.
This is my fifth semester mentoring transfer students, and the experience has truly made a difference – for the students and for me. I remember a particular day last year when I knew I had moved from being a stranger at Rutgers to feeling at home. I was attending a S.T.A.R. day (Students in Transition Advising and Registration) and spotted a young man looking incredibly frustrated as he struggled to put together his schedule. I recognized that anxious look, so I pulled up a chair. He started talking about how he was stressing over classes and scheduling.
He complained about how confusing things were. And I could relate to it all. They were the same feelings I had during my S.T.A.R day. I told him I knew exactly how he felt, and, amazingly, within a few minutes of his venting, I could see him physically begin to relax. He could now navigate the web pages with more focus and less emotion. At that moment, I felt like a true mentor.
I had made the transition into Rutgers less strenuous for at least one person – which brought me much further in my journey from transfer to Rutgers student.