Opinion: Being a transfer student at AU is not for the faint of heart
I still grapple with complicated feelings about the overall experience of being a new student
I remember the day I decided to apply to American University as a transfer student.
After taking a semester off from Emory University for my mental health and spending four months trying to rediscover myself, I finally felt like I was getting better. I had no idea where my life was heading next, but I knew I didn’t want to go back to Emory. It wasn’t the place for me. In April, I started looking for new schools close to home, like Northern Virginia. I had never considered AU before because, in high school, I wanted to move out of state for college. But, as I sat on the couch and scrolled excitedly for hours through AU’s website, looking particularly at the School of Communication, I realized that this was where I wanted to complete my degree.
Now that I am here, I’m experiencing something similar to what I experienced as a freshman four years ago at Emory. When I joined AU last fall, I felt the thrill and hope of the application process fade away as I struggled being the new kid. It’s been a difficult adjustment since starting classes in the fall and AU hasn’t always made it easier.
First, there’s the most obvious side effect of transferring: isolation. It’s hard making new friends, especially when you don’t have social media. I’ll give AU credit for organizing a few social events at the beginning of the semester, which allowed me to meet other transfers like myself. Of course, those awkward mix-and-mingles can only do so much, particularly for the socially anxious. Somehow I got lucky and randomly matched with three roommates, two of them being transfers, who kept me from feeling alone.
Now, moving on to the experience of transferring credits, I’ll confirm that the back and forth emailing with the articulation office for weeks was tiring. I understand that the workers there were swamped at the time and trying their best to respond quickly. Yet, while going through this painstaking process, I couldn’t help but wonder how much more efficient a 30-minute Zoom discussion would have been than five emails asking me to send two to three syllabi at a time for processing.
Even more frustrating, not every course I took at Emory transferred successfully. Despite being on track to graduate early at my previous institution, at AU I’m crossing my fingers that I can graduate next year. Admittedly, being a double major in film & media arts and literature makes things harder. Nevertheless, the sheer amount of requirements I have yet to meet weighs on me. I’ve decided to take 19.5 credits this semester and will need to enroll in at least two courses this summer if I want to stay on track.
While sometimes it feels like the AU bureaucracy is out to get me, the people I’ve met at AU, professors, classmates and advisors, have continually made me feel welcome and warm. I enjoyed the classes I took last semester and I know I’ll be proud of what I’ve accomplished by graduation.
A senior who has spent all of her college years at American University, once said to me that what unites and drives the people at AU — “the most liberal college in the U.S.” — is the continual fight against the administrative body. This often makes me smile when I’m dumbfounded by an inexplicable action AU administration has inevitably taken, for example, to stiff students out of half of a sandwich or take student workers for granted.
The most stressful part of being a transfer at AU has been dealing with financial aid. Of course, I knew when I applied that I was taking a gamble since transfers often receive less aid. But I didn’t realize that AU places a “cap” on the aid transfers received. Since I could not find this rule on the AU website, I only learned about it when I contacted my financial aid advisor, concerned about my award letter.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the financial and academic consequences of my decision to transfer. I wonder what could have been: What if I had stayed at Emory? What if I had applied to AU when I was 18? But when I consider my choice honestly, I know that I did the right thing. At AU, I’ve finally experienced at least a little of that feeling of belonging that college life can sometimes offer.
I love AU because it represents all of the messiness and contradiction of my nonlinear journey towards a degree. Likewise, I know that, despite my struggles here, I still benefit from a certain privilege: I have the financial and emotional support of family and friends. So, in 2022 and the age of Omicron, I’ll keep attending class, riding the Wonk Bus and occasionally getting bubble tea with my roommates. I accept the trials with the triumphs and try not to think too hard about what comes next.
Kamryn Olds is a junior in the School of Communication and College of Arts & Sciences and a columnist for The Eagle.