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Transferring out

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NOVEMBER 27, 2017

Eyes glued to the dimly lit screen of my outdated iPhone 5, palms sweaty, knees weak and arms are heavy — social anxiety already. I am not sure which assumption from other UC Berkeley students is more embarrassing — that my phone-staring meant that I was an 18-year-old freshman or that I was still playing Pokémon Go in fall 2017. Really, I was just a week three junior transfer feeling lost and out of place.

A shout out during convocation for transfers is not enough to mitigate these feelings of exclusion. The UC Berkeley community, with its rigorous academics, can and should undergo a paradigm shift in how it receives transfer students. This starts at an interpersonal level with each of y’all.

After writing 11 of these bad boys, I’ll admit that the No. 1 question I receive is not “how do you look so devilishly handsome in your headshot with that white-lined, navy blue polo of yours?” Instead, I usually get sneers followed by a blunt “how the fuck are you going to write about transfer students every week for an entire semester?”

By brainstorming with faculty, my transfer friends, academic counselors, my GSI, my Tang Center therapist and others, I’ve made it through the semester, and now I’m ready to transfer out of this column.

A few home runs and many strikes later, I’m here to reveal the ultimate surprise curveball. My target audience for this weekly special on “transfer student issues” has always been nontransfers, although I have also striven to provide a relatable narrative for other transfer students.

UC Berkeley transfers don’t need to be told that their kind often experiences severe imposter syndrome or that institutional support is scarce. In other news, the sky is blue, grass is green, and capitalism is failing.

Transfer students need individuals who understand and address their unique struggles. Instead, most nontransfers simply stop at pleasantries such as an unironic “Go Bears” or “Congratulations on getting into Cal.”

Recently, I met Maureen, a nontransfer and reader of my column who voluntarily shared a Google Doc full of political internships and job opportunities. She understood that transitioning as a junior transfer is hard enough without the added cherry on top of having to immediately consider career paths, before even comfortably settling down.

Nontransfers and faculty don’t usually go out of their way to be extra accommodating, but they should. Here, the distinction between Maureen and most nontransfers I’ve met is one of being welcoming versus being inclusive.

If you’re an upper-division GSI, reserve extra patience for transfers who might not have learned academia’s verbose jargon while in community college. If you lead an organization or club, think of ways you could build a leadership pipeline for those who did not jump into UC Berkeley straight outta high school.

It takes a village to raise a child, and so it will take every member of the UC Berkeley community to create an inclusive campus climate for transfer students.

I entered my first quarter at De Anza College relying on five times my recommended antidepressant dosage. I felt irrationally paranoid of how my upper-middle-class, four-year-bound peers might perceive my community college status, so I maintained absolute low-keyness, sometimes untagging myself from De Anza posts when I felt extra insecure.

Years later, I’ve exposed myself. It’s no mystery that I went to community college, and it’s certainly no secret that I transferred into Bear territory. For me, my identity as a former CC student has become inseparable from who I am and my outlook on life.

At De Anza, I witnessed far too many students struggling to pay for food and an already-heavily subsidized tuition. Community college is where I realized the true power of solidarity and the importance of providing an accessible path toward upward mobility for disadvantaged students.

Folks transferring into the No. 1 public university in the world are entitled to programs and resources of unparalleled excellence. Instead, the school fails to guarantee housing — a basic human right — for transfer students.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so maybe I won’t witness a more inclusive UC Berkeley within my limited two years here. Regardless, the goal of “community-less college” has been to create a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be a UC Berkeley transfer in hopes of fostering a better environment for future waves of incoming transfer students.

Neil transferring out.

Neil McClintick writes the Monday blog on transfer student troubles. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @neil_park.

NOVEMBER 27, 2017