What Nobody Tells You When You Transfer

Illustrated by Bridget Rios

Char Velasco

Contributing Writer

As spring and summer arrive, college tour groups and families swarm campus to see what UC Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) rapidly climbing academic reputation is all about. The next school year signifies another chance for students to make up for lost time since COVID-19 restrictions impacted the way we live. However, the hopeful faces envisioning their next four years here exclude a certain group of students already on UCSB’s campus: transfer students. 

How many of the visitors are prospective transfer students that are unprepared to get thrown into the deep end? According to the Office of Admissions, one third of UCSB’s population comprises transfer students, which is a high percentage of the community. 

I am a transfer student myself. Coming from UC Riverside, where I was well-established with my professors, peers, and community, I felt I was unprepared for the hardships that lay ahead of me at UCSB simply because I didn’t know a lot about the campus life. 

In light of the impact that COVID-19 made on our everyday lives, the satisfaction of transfer students and their experiences at UCSB has declined. In recent interviews with transfer students, they recall what they wish they’d known about UCSB and the difficulties they’d have to face. 

Kiara Gulati, a geography major and earth science minor that transferred from Santa Monica College told The Bottom Line (TBL), “No one told me about the housing crisis situation, and as a transfer, you’d want to know about that. That was already a bad start before I’d even stepped foot on campus.” 

During last year’s housing crisis, students were shocked at the lack of housing in Isla Vista (I.V.) and surrounding areas. As transfer students, a warning about the housing shortage in I.V. would have benefited Gulati, as well as many others, in finding stable and secure housing for the school year. 

According to the Santa Barbara Independent during August of 2021, Dino Vicencio, an incoming transfer student at the time, realized the severity of the situation and created a petition to have UCSB negotiate for more housing for students in the area. This effort is one of many extra steps that transfer students have had to take in order to secure basic needs for their wellbeing.

Another element of the housing crisis that carries on into the school year for transfer students is the difficulty of establishing friend groups and support. 

Neema Nawabi, a third-year sociology major and education studies minor, transferred from Cal State University Fresno and began attending UCSB in fall 2021. When TBL asked her about what she would have liked to know when coming to UCSB, she replied, “I wish someone had told me how lonely you feel as a transfer student. Everyone has already established friend groups. Those are the people they’re going to live with in upcoming years. Those are the people they’re going to study with so they can get A’s in classes. Transfers don’t have that.” 

The social aspect is crucial to I.V. and the school’s charm, so it is understandable many transfer students feel alienated or pressured with the struggle as there’s a barrier between them and their new peers. However, Nawabi also added that, “It isn’t anyone’s fault that it’s hard to make friends. I think COVID-19 really impacted that part of our social skills. Sometimes it’s just hard to put yourself back out there.”

Seeing flocks of people excited to come to UCSB and touring the campus makes me happy because I realize how others will get the privilege to attend this school and continue our education at a rigorous level. However, with my academic journey and background, along with many other transfer students experiencing the same barriers, it is a bittersweet moment. I wonder how many of them will find themselves stepping foot on campus this fall, wishing they’d been warned, too.