I have transferred universities twice during my studies. Once, as an undergraduate education student, and again as a post graduate studying creative writing.
The reason for my transfer as an undergraduate was due to several contributing factors, but the biggest one being that the major I wanted to study, which was English, seemed to only have subjects which fit around the timetable, rather than being chosen for their relevance to education students. I had some spare class credit, so in first and second year I chose two classes ‘for funsies’. I had completed a course in Children’s Literature and another, practice based one called Introduction to Creative Writing. I had loved both.
My university usually had students begin their majors during the third year of the course. The semester beforehand, I sat in the sun at a bus stop and opened a letter listing the subjects for each major. I had always wanted to major in English, but none of the listed subjects piqued my interest. I had no interest in adult literature classics or pre-war writing, or a history slash English class. It was all theory based. This wasn’t what I wanted at all.
Despite having very limited skills in dance, I decided that I would major in this subject area and take some drama courses. Despite having completed a course entitled Introduction to Art, Dance and Drama the previous semester, my beloved visual art did not featured in the course options.
On top of the major major issue, I found my small college difficult. I had ended up on the bad side of a faculty member, and felt like I had a target on my back. I had a close group of friends who I met at the beginning of the course — there were five of us to begin with, two had pulled out of the course and one was due for early graduation. Being a Christian college, we had a huge focus on theology and understanding of the Bible. I had really enjoyed this aspect, but again, theology was not an option for a major.
I decided I wanted to transfer to a different university. I had a choice of three in my city, so I called each of them to ask if I could come in for an interview to talk about transferring. Only one of them said yes, and I was able to meet with the faculty head within a fortnight. I took in a copy of my transcript, a program four year outline and my current college’s subject handbook. The faculty head spent about an hour with me, scribbling over the outline, circling subjects I would get credit for, and advising me to drop two of the classes I was taking. She then told me about a co-current program with the Lutheran College, which would give me some credit for my theological studies.
The application process in my state is centralised, so it was a wait of about four months to find out whether I had been accepted to the university. I got in, to the surprise of no one, and started my last two lonely years of my degree.
Although my new university allowed me a full two year’s credit, I had a lot of subjects to make up. In my first semester I studied first year psychology, second year social understanding, fourth year philosophy and an elective in creative writing. The first years were very welcoming, but the other groups were well established and it was a bit hard to break in. I had good friends outside of university which made it a lot easier, but my study buddies I had when I started my course weren’t around anymore. I ate lunch in my car, or went out to the mall (a twenty minute drive!) during my two hour breaks.
I found my new university to be more academically rigorous, with key members of different faculty who were experts in what they did. I also found larger classes with different people much better (as an introvert), than my first university, who had the same core group attending all of the same classes. Without the complex spiritual element attached to the everyday learning environment, I grew in my own faith. The Lutheran College also ran intensives and evening lectures which weren’t compulsory, but I really enjoyed and attended whenever I could.
On my final teaching placement, a mentor teacher asked me about how I found university. I said I enjoyed it, but felt isolated at times. “I was the same,” she said. “I just went to classes and went home again. I already had friends from school so it didn’t really bother me.” As I started my career as a teacher, I have found more people who validate this experience.
On reflection, I have no regrets about moving universities. I have maintained friendships with a number of people I started my course with, and I was able to focus on two majors which captivated me — English and Theology, which I would not have been able to do had I stayed. My mental health during that awful second year was quite bad, and being a small, private university, there weren’t really the services to help me out. During the year I transferred I saw a counsellor who helped arrange some assignment extensions and talked through some issues around grief. I also found that when I hadn’t completed an essay well, for the most part, my tutors would spend time with me working through it. One one occasion I didn’t pass, and my tutor spent a good two hours restructuring the assignment with me so that I could complete it to the required standard.
I also transferred at a time when technology was being developed. During second year, I turned up at my little university with a document saved as a docx (unheard of in late 2007), and the IT guy spent hours trying to convert it as we had to hand in a hard copy. The move to the new university gave me my first university email address, the ability to submit papers online and virtual contact with tutors through email and forums. For an introvert like me, this was ideal.
On the other hand, it wasn’t all bad. My little university has produced many happy graduates who found work and don’t have a lot to complain about. I am glad I started there because I made some great friends, and really enjoyed much of the first year. I am also glad I had the courage to spread my wings a little and try something new. I wouldn’t have done this without the help of the faculty head, who made time for me, without knowing whether I would even be accepted into the course, let alone pay any fees. After that meeting, I felt free, and have for a long time since.