Adjusting to life in a new city and college is hard enough on its own. This is especially the case for transfer students who often leave their hometown for the first time. How does the pandemic play into this stressful transition?
The Bottom Line (TBL) interviewed two new transfer students to see what their perspective is going from community college to UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transfer students are coming during a time when Isla Vista (I.V.) is experiencing a housing crisis, courses are being filled up faster than expected, and students are having to adjust to online learning once again. To shed light on the issue, TBL spoke to transfer students Marcus Tellas and Celeste Gonzalez about their transition to UCSB.
Tellas is a third-year psychology major from Modesto Junior College. He loves to discuss the small town of Patterson that he hails from and his experience leaving it for the first time.
When TBL interviewed Tellas, we started off by asking him what his experience at community college was like.
“Going to community college, I was right next to where I grew up, so I always had family and friends nearby if I ever needed something,” Tellas said.
Tellas explained how if he was in trouble there were always friends and family nearby to help him.
He talked about this safety net, one that most of us have in our hometowns. He had people whom he depended on, especially in a time as isolating as this. The move to I.V. was trying enough, but Tellas also went into what life at UCSB has been like since going online.
The transition was one that is similar to what most students experience when they first get to college and are meeting people who are different from the ones they grew up with.
“It was really such a culture shock because I was genuinely on my own, and I had to actually learn how to take care of myself,” Tellas said.
However, Tellas explains that despite the isolation and the culture shock, he doesn’t regret his decision. UCSB was his number one school of choice since high school, and though he’s been online for one of his only two quarters, he still loves his decision to attend school here.
“When I was in high school this was the top college I wanted to go to, and once I got to community college, UCSB kept popping up,” Tellas said. “So I just thought that it must be the universe telling me to go here.”
Gonzalez tells a similar story of adjustment. A third-year English transfer from Bakersfield College, Gonzalez enjoyed her time at her hometown school. She saw community college as an opportunity to make friends and become active in the campus community.
“I felt that the sense of community was a lot stronger in Bakersfield than it is here,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez utilized her transitory time by helping high school seniors register for community college classes. It wasn’t the culture that swayed Gonzalez to come to UCSB but rather the academics. She also mentioned that, despite her dislike of the beach, she loved the school’s location.
“I heard that UCSB had a lot of good departments, especially the English department. I especially liked the ability to get away from home,” Gonzalez said. “I liked the location mostly because it was far away from where I grew up.”
Gonzalez elaborated on how her time at community college allowed her to quickly transition from her previous job of working at her community college’s Early College and Outreach Program to her current one here, working for the public affairs office as a student assistant. However, she said that as far as academics go, she wasn’t adequately prepared for classes at UCSB due to the heavy discussion-based learning of her current classes.
Gonzalez brought up that, due to the pandemic, she felt that there was a lack of resources available.
She said that one of the main resources that UCSB was lacking was its academic counseling. Gonzalez explained how easy it was for her to get this counseling in her previous college, but now at UCSB, she felt like there was a sense of abandonment.
“I think that trying to get the resources I needed from my community college to UCSB, with the pandemic, did not make things easier for anyone,” Gonzalez explained. “Especially when it came to housing.”
Gonzalez talked about how the academic counseling resources she was offered after her transfer do not compare to what she had at community college. This can become a point of unnecessary difficulty for transfer students: Unlike traditional incoming freshmen, transfers students may feel a sense of pressure since they are left with two years to finish their degree after transferring.
Both Tellas and Gonzalez sensed there was a feeling of disconnect from the UCSB campus community. It can be hard to make the transition to a new city when you’re leaving behind one that you know so intimately. The pandemic only exacerbates this nerve-racking transition.
The incoming transfer students interviewed also emphasize the issue that they are not being properly prepared for their time at UCSB. Transfer students sometimes end up feeling estranged from their peers. It can be especially frustrating to try to feel like a part of student life when you’re rarely on campus.
In the end, it was a quote from Tellas that summarized what all UCSB students have been feeling these past few years of online pandemic education.
“I do not feel connected to the community,” Tellas said. “I feel like I was robbed of the college experience. Given the circumstances, I just think there was no other option than to be online.”