Navigating the tribulations of transfer-student life


Photo courtesy of Aidan Bovee

Members of the Illini Transfer Ambassadors pose for a picture during their final meeting last year. Students discuss the trials and tribulations of being a transfer.

By Faith Allendorf, Features Editor

When I moved into Scott Hall last August, I felt so out of place. Attending Welcome Week was even worse since it felt like it was aimed solely toward freshman students. Every speaker mentioned the “Class of 2025,” while I was the Class of 2023.

It seemed like nothing was meant for me, a transfer junior from a small community college in southern Illinois, who knew no one at the University. I spent weeks by myself in my dorm, refusing to exit the shell I curled up in, while my classmates went out every weekend.

I asked myself questions: Will I always be behind? What if I never find my people? Did I make a mistake not coming here first?

The answer was no — I did not make a mistake. Although the University of Illinois was not a first college experience, other transfer students and I feel at home in the orange and blue.

However, while not impossibly difficult, your first year at the University as a transfer student will be challenging.

Connor Gerald, senior in FAA, who transferred from Shawnee Community College, said he felt more behind than his peers who started at the University in 2019.

“When you’re a freshman, everyone’s in the same situation,” Gerald said. “But when you’re a transfer student and transfer in your junior year, you’re part of a smaller group and not in the same situation as everybody else.”

Annie Zei, junior in Education and a transfer student from DePaul University, wished she would have known to schedule her academic plan ahead of time. Zei said she is behind in the typical class schedule.

“I kind of got myself into a bit of trouble,” Zei said. “I have to take six classes the next two semesters, and I think if I would have looked at it a little harder, I could have moved things around better.”

Muhammad Rahman, senior in AHS, who transferred from the College of DuPage, said being a freshman with the rest of the senior class would have made adjusting to the University easier. He also said that two years at the University was not enough time.

“I would have gotten more time to strengthen my friendships and explore all of the campus opportunities I missed out on,” Rahman said. “I just came here a year ago, and I’m leaving in a year — I feel like I missed out on so many growth opportunities.”

Adjusting to the big-university social scene was also hard, and finding good friends who shared similar interests and values was like searching for a needle in a haystack. Gerald said he felt this way too.

“A lot of people make their friends early in college, so it’s difficult to break into friend groups when you’re a transfer student,” Gerald said.

Finding friends was Zei’s biggest worry about transferring to the University. She said she was “terrified” that she would not make any friends.

As it turned out, making friends was not as petrifying as Zei thought it would be. She said she reconnected with a high school friend and met the rest of their friends. Zei also found other transfer students.

“That’s where I met the core group that I hang out with now,” Zei said.

It might take a while, but you will find those life-long friends everyone talks about. For me, it took a semester and a half.

Aidan Bovee, senior in Media and a transfer student from the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he also took a semester and a half to start making lasting connections.

“Finding friends started when I started getting jobs on campus,” Bovee said. “I made friends that way, and it helped me feel more involved — that was the biggest part.”

Rahman also found friends and said it was not as hard as he thought it would be. He and his friends shared a common struggle: being a transfer student.

“I also met people who happened to be transfers as well,” Rahman said. “They’re in the same boat trying to look for people to hang out with, so it got a lot easier after that, and they’re my lifelong friends now.”

Of course, we sometimes question if not coming to the University first was a bad idea. However, while some might answer “yes,” there are some things we would not change about our educational path.

“I feel like sometimes I wish I came here my freshman year, but at the same time, I feel like the person I was my freshman year wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I do now,” Zei said. “Community college was the best decision I ever made.”

Rahman said the best way to adjust to University life is to put yourself out there, and when you do, it will get easier.

For transfer students, the best way to put yourself out there is through joining transfer groups like the Illini Transfer Ambassadors, as well as attending Welcome Week events.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks and push yourself,” Rahman said. “Try out everything there is to do on campus because you’ll be a senior and ready to graduate before you even know it.”

Navigating University life gets easier as you find your place on campus. It might take a while to get there, but I promise you that you will.

Being a transfer student is scary, but I don’t think I made a mistake by being one. Everyone has their own path, and this is ours.

Welcome to the University.


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