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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Opinion: A letter to freshmen considering transferring

From a student who loves AU

The following piece is an opinion and does not reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff. All opinions are edited for grammar, style and argument structure and fact-checked, but the opinions are the writer’s own.

Dear freshman looking to transfer,

Upon receiving the decision notification from American University, my hands were slightly clammy, but not shaking in anticipation. My heart was beating a bit quicker than usual, but not to the point it jumped out of my chest. Opening the letter, I was elated, but not the electrifying, exhilarating kind. The reaction was inevitable: American was not my first choice, and while I was excited about my journey, I also had to come to terms with the fact I was not going to be attending my first-choice school. 

Perhaps it was my lack of crazy expectations, or perhaps it was luck: I learned to create a home for myself at the University and love the aspects that drove other students away. If I had one message to give you, it would be to give it one more chance. A difficult first year does not predict the rest of your experience. 

When I think of “home,” I strongly believe that people are your home, and this applies to both friends and professors at the University. This is my biggest “why AU?” answer, and developing such relationships and finding those people did not come at the snap of a finger. 

People do truly make a place, but at a school like AU, with a heavy internship and networking culture, it is easy to forget that professors are not just an outlet for connections, but real people who deeply care about their students. 

I was lucky enough to have great professors in my required freshman courses. If this hasn’t been your experience, I believe the quality of professors becomes especially spectacular when you begin specific major-related courses. This is partly due to the low student-teacher ratio of AU, but unlike the typical college experience of students being thrown out to fend for themselves, professors here see each student as an individual instead of watching them bunched together in an enormous lecture hall. It relieved me that I was not a “nobody” or forgotten in a wave of similar peers. 

In both my School of Communication and School of Public Affairs courses, almost every professor has been extremely detail-oriented in providing feedback to students, whether through line-by-line edits to a paper, audio recording feedback to each student or class time to provide collaborative comments on projects and resumes to each classmate. When I spoke to students who contemplated transferring, they emphasized outstanding professors or relationships they developed with them over time that became the deciding factor to stay. For those who did transfer, they reflected on the great quality of professors at AU. It is difficult to see this perspective as a first year, but the course material does get better, as do the professors. 

Another enormous impact on my sense of home at AU was my friends. I am well aware that students transfer out for not finding “their people,” but again, this takes time, and there is no secret recipe to it. To transfer out means beginning this process again from scratch.

After graduating from high school, the reality that I couldn’t maintain all of my relationships hit me. I understand why huge friend groups rarely exist in adulthood and the beauty in developing and nurturing closer relationships with fewer people. Instead of spreading myself thin and wide to juggle all the relationships I made, I took the time to spend my energy and effort on those who would have the same energy towards me, while also keeping an open mind about new people. 

Since AU is considered a mid-sized school without much school pride, I understand the sense of lacking a community and that it can feel like a slightly larger version of a high school with cliques. However, by creating a support system that went below surface level, I was able to find comfort and a sense of security at school. This did not all happen in my first year, and it was not until the first semester of sophomore year that I finally felt this way. Developing these connections and finding “your” people is not a sudden switch, and although things may not have clicked the first year, it does not mean they never will. 

There are also certainly other exceptional aspects of AU, such as location and opportunities, as well as smaller joys in familiar faces on campus or the vibrant quad on a warm spring day. Surrounded by an accessible city and a plethora of opportunities, D.C. gives every major a chance to gain field experience and a unique experience, especially if you are interested in politics. Exploring the city, which is a melting pot of rich, diverse cultures, is another way I integrated myself, but I will always go back to my belief that surrounding yourself with a community you can call your home makes a place. 

Despite all of my positive experiences, I acknowledge that I am very privileged to truly like this University. I recognize that issues with administration, financial burdens, being a predominantly white institution and major-related matters out of your control lead many people to transfer. While I have no intention of invalidating anyone’s experience, I sincerely hope that this second-year student’s perspective sheds some light on aspects that may not have been considered before. 


A second year who stayed 

Sara Shibata is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle. 

This article was edited by Alana Parker, Jelinda Montes and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti.

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