Opinion: From a transfer to you, you’re taking Oxy for granted

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The Academic Quad at Occidental College. Sarah Hoffman/The Occidental

If you hate school online, you’re lucky — try hating it in person too.

I transferred to Oxy from the University of Arizona (UA) as a sophomore in Fall 2019. A fourth-generation Oxy student and Pasadena local, I chose not to attend Oxy as a freshman, and I’m glad I didn’t. Without transferring, I’d probably take Oxy for granted, as I believe many students do. As I was losing hope for an enjoyable college experience at UA, it took a freshman year of confusion and regret for me to appreciate the resources Oxy offers.

UA, located in the heart of Tucson, AZ, is known for Greek life, partying, Division I  sports and famous alumni like Kourtney Kardashian and Rob Gronkowski. Home of the Wildcats and 46,932 students, UA provides the rowdy, exciting and traditional college experience we often see in the movies.

I was admitted into the university’s Border Studies program, where I majored in politics and environmental studies. I attended football and basketball games, joined a sorority and created a vast social network, yet I often felt alone and insecure in my new environment — many of my peers weren’t as interested in academics as I was and weren’t willing to pass up a party now and then. I often heard at UA, “I’m going to work for my dad after I graduate…I’m here to have fun.” My dad is a geochemist; that plan won’t work for me.

I can’t say I didn’t party or take advantage of Greek life, but I often did so more as a form of camouflage — a result of growing imposter syndrome — than as a willing venture. I wanted to surround myself with like-minded people in a smaller, more personal environment, one where I’d have the opportunity to build relationships with my professors and fellow students. I liked that Oxy had Greek organizations, but joining them wasn’t mandatory to be a part of the social scene. Oxy organizations like the Transfer Student Union and Planned Parenthood club enticed me. The prospect of attending Oxy finally allowed me to feel excited about college; I even put my Transfer Orientation badge on my water bottle.

While I don’t regret transferring, my experience wasn’t seamless. When you transfer, you don’t feel like a freshman, sophomore or junior: you feel like an intruder, thrown into an environment where social groups and friendships already exist and where you don’t understand the social order. I wasn’t friends with my roommates, my grades dropped almost immediately and I didn’t understand why people asked for my pronouns or why the department names were so complex. I was confused at why I wasn’t glared at for dressing up for class or for wearing Dr. Martens with a dress and a tote bag instead of a backpack. I found the warmth and friendliness of other students intimidating; at UA, holding a door or smiling at a stranger was often met with a glare or silence instead of a “thank you.” I continue to struggle with my learned insecurities from my year at UA, like reaching out to my professors and feeling totally comfortable in my environment, but the resources available to me as an Oxy student have helped steady my transition.

My academic advisors reached out and encouraged me to see a therapist at Emmons. In my time at UA, I’d never seen a therapist, even though I’d struggled with anxiety and depression throughout the year. The campus health center at UA had four on-staff psychologists for a school of over 46,000 and my academic counselor was the advisor for over 3,000 students. At Occidental, I went to office hours for the classes I was struggling with, visited the housing office, got a job working as the Acquisitions Assistant in the library, created a KOXY show only my parents listened to and even became a transfer O-Team leader. I like that Oxy celebrates the arts, that professors are connected to their communities and that unique academic pairings like Urban & Environmental Policy (UEP) and Interdisciplinary Writing are encouraged, rather than met with skepticism.

Without a previous institution to compare to, it’s easy to grow unappreciative of Oxy. I’ve heard students complaining that their professors use the phrase “you guys,” that their Emmons appointment was pushed back a day or that their class of 30 was too large. Whereas for transfers, Oxy’s resources, from the Bengal Bus to the Green Bean, are a prize because we never had them at our previous institutions. Oxy is not perfect and has a lot of room to grow, but compared to those of larger state schools, our resources are significant.

Although Oxy online fails to compare to the excitement of living on campus, a plethora of Oxy’s resources are still available virtually, so please, from a transfer to you: take advantage of them.