The Jekyll and Hyde of transfer students

There’s an uncomfortable art to belonging as a Hamline transfer student.

Lydia Hansen, Reporter

In many ways, I think being a transfer student is one of the most awkward things I’ve ever done. And as a person who is awkward on a pretty regular basis, that’s saying a lot.

But since starting classes this fall, I’ve been able to correlate most of my recent awkwardness and discomfort to the experience of being a transfer student. Although I can’t speak for all transfer students, I’ve come to realize that certain things about that experience have set me apart from the rest of the student body and created some of these unique and awkward challenges.

At the top of that list of awkward things is feeling like a junior and a first-year at the same time. On the one hand, I have junior standing in credits. As a community college graduate, I arrived at Hamline this September with an associate’s degree and two years of college experience already under my belt. But for all that, I still feel like I’m reliving my first year of college, complete with the awkwardness of knowing that I don’t have a clue where to find anything, including classrooms, faculty offices, study spots and places to get food.

This dichotomy of conflicting identities leads me to draw some parallels between myself and the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (although my situation is much less Gothic). Still, reconciling my feelings of being both a junior and a first-year is complicated and uncomfortable and even frustrating, particularly because I don’t think traditionally enrolled students understand what I’m struggling with.

To be fair, Hamline has made a concerted effort to make transferring easier and to make campus more welcoming for those with nontraditional college experience. Just this year Hamline expanded New Student Throwdown events to include transfer students, and Oct. 22-26 marks the first time Hamline will celebrate Transfer Week. As a whole, the college is stepping up to recognize and celebrate those who have taken a different path to get to Hamline.

I also don’t think anyone at Hamline deliberately intends to make transfers like myself feel awkward. No one makes fun of me for getting lost or not knowing how to place an order at Piper Grill. But it’s hard to feel like I really belong and have found my place here when finding the laundry room in my dorm is such a challenge.

And it’s not just the Jekyll and Hyde feeling of my credit standing and unfamiliarity with campus that makes being a transfer student awkward. As a transfer student, it’s easy to feel I’m running out of time to have the full Hamline experience, particularly when I compare myself with other juniors in my major. Where they’re already taking advanced classes, I’m just getting started. Similarly, talking to other students about their research projects is uncomfortable because I know most students with my class standing have had a year or so to develop the relationships with faculty members that made those opportunities possible. The importance of those relationships was emphasized over and over again during Piper Passages, but because I plan to graduate in two years, I already feel I’m running out of time to forge them.

I say this, not to bash Hamline, but to highlight the challenges facing myself and my fellow transfer students. Hamline faculty, staff and especially other students need to realize that many of us are fighting an unusual battle as we accelerate through the learning curve of a new campus while still trying to have the full Hamline experience. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. And it’s awkward sometimes.

But it isn’t impossible. If anything, by choosing to go through with the transfer process and by surviving the first six weeks, we’ve shown that we can overcome a little awkwardness for the sake of our goals.

I applaud Hamline for recognizing that transferring isn’t easy and making an extra effort to make us feel welcome. More importantly, I salute my fellow transfer students for Jekyll and Hyde-ing with me like the total bosses we are. Feeling like we belong at Hamline can be harder for us than for most students, but we can still make it work.