It was 11:02 p.m. on a Monday night. My roommates were asleep, and under any other circumstances, I would be too. Instead, I was frantically trying to pull up a picture of the campus map on my iPhone in the dim light of my dorm room. It was my third day on campus and, despite my roommate’s best efforts to help me find my way around, I still ended up lost more often than not. I had scheduled a job interview for the following morning at the Newcomb Media Suite. I had never heard of Newcomb Hall, let alone the Newcomb Media Suite. So, in a moment of desperation, I typed out a quick email explaining my situation to the scheduler of my interview. I wrote that I was new to campus, I was still finding my way around and that I had absolutely no clue where we were supposed to meet tomorrow morning. I hit send and leaned back against my pillow. All I could do now was hope that this person was kind enough to answer my plea.
I transferred to Occidental College from DePaul University in August 2020. This was objectively a super weird time to transfer to a new school and I spent my first year at Oxy taking classes online from my bedroom.
When the time finally came to be on campus again, I assumed that the transfer students who started at Oxy in the fall of 2020 would receive a reorientation process since we, alongside the freshmen and sophomores, had never actually been on campus before. Instead, around mid-July, I started receiving emails that all said something along the lines of, “Welcome back to Oxy!” I was confused. How could they welcome me “back” to Oxy when I had never been there before? More time passed, and I received emails about course registration, a room draw I had to participate in and info about my move-in date in August. As this date approached, I held out hope that I would receive something, anything, about a transfer student reorientation.
I wasn’t asking for three days of icebreakers and group bonding activities — I would’ve been happy with a transfer mixer on the quad. But alas, nothing came.
I was lost. The lack of any kind of orientation session for 2020 transfers left me lonely, confused and more anxious than ever. I felt so disconnected from a community that I had only ever been part of virtually, and I was missing some crucial information about how campus life functions. During the week before my move-in, I spent hours jumping from one thought to the next — If I was living with upperclassmen, how would I make friends? Wouldn’t everyone already know each other? How would I find my classes? How does the Marketplace work? Who would I eat dinner with? Should I have just stayed in DePaul, in a familiar city surrounded by familiar faces?
The most frustrating part about this is that I was excited to be on campus. I had waited a year for this — two if you count the year I spent unhappily enrolled in DePaul. I was excited to begin this new chapter of my life, but it was slowly overshadowed by anxiety I had about moving in, starting classes and making friends. I wasn’t sure anymore whether or not I would be able to carve out a space for myself at Oxy. As awkward and boring as orientations can sometimes be, I think it’s a great first step for new students. Even if the friendships made are superficial, at least there are some familiar faces around campus.
Oxy was proactive in putting together a Sophomore Experience, which acted as an orientation for the sophomore class who spent their first year at Oxy online. This took place alongside the usual New Student Orientation. While I do feel the Sophomore Experience was necessary to introduce sophomores to campus I also feel that transfer students have become somewhat of a forgotten group here at Oxy. Online orientation and a year of Zoom classes were decidedly not enough to prepare me to be thrown into the sea of returning students this fall
I think that better resources for transfer students, especially after this past year, are essential in feeling part of the Oxy community. Something as small as a transfer student Q&A would’ve eased my mind and made the process a little less confusing, a little less lonely. In the meantime, I urge all 2020 transfer students to look around for other people in this same boat. We’re out there. We’re feeling as weird about it as you are. Bond over a coffee at the Cooler about how awkward it was moving in and starting classes a day and a half later. I can promise we’re all feeling similarly about this strange situation we’ve gotten ourselves into. And maybe keep a screenshot of the campus map on your phone, just in case.