*This post is part of a series on the Social Justice Referendum (SJR) on the ballot for the 2016 USAC Elections at UCLA. The posts in this series are intended to showcase the different services the referendum will fund. Today’s post features transfer student experiences, and how services funded by SJR are crucial to their success. For more information on the referendum and how it will benefit students please visit www.socialjusticebruins.com. To vote in the 2016 USAC Elections, visit my.ucla.edu.*
How the Social Justice Referendum Supports Transfer Students
By: Pegah Mahmoud and Monica Mendoza
In Fall 2015, transfers made up 35% of all newly enrolled admits (http://www.aim.ucla.edu/admissions2.aspx). Transfers come from a variety of backgrounds and each chose the transfer route for different reasons. For many, community college was simply the more affordable option. For others, raising a family became a priority before pursuing college later in life. Some might have wanted a few years of job experience before entering academia. Whatever the reason, transfer students bring a diversity of experiences to the UCLA campus, and should have access to the resources necessary to help them thrive.
However, transitioning into UCLA comes with many challenges. Transfer students can experience the imposter syndrome from the moment they submit their statement of intent to register. Pegah Mahmoud, a 1st year transfer majoring in English, can attest to this.
It had been two weeks since I was notified of my acceptance to UCLA as a transfer student, and I was ready to make up my mind. The click of either button would inevitably change the course of the next two years of my undergraduate career. I exhaled. With my hand rested on my mouse, I slowly pressed down on my index finger and made my choice.
‘Congratulations! You have submitted your Statement of Intent to Register!’
An overwhelming wave of anxiety and excitement came over me almost immediately. I did it, I thought to myself, I am going to the University of California, Los Angeles. Where all students that attend are extremely smart, and confident, and bright, and—
Wait. Am I any of those? Am I extremely smart, and confident, and bright enough for UCLA?”
These feelings followed Pegah to her first quarter of UCLA.
I’m in my dorm, exhausted from studying for three finals. For the past few days stress has been my best friend, and tears my constant companion. Fall quarter made me feel like the complete opposite of a smart, confident, and bright. I kept thinking – do I even belong here?
Pegah soon realized that she wasn’t the only transfer who felt this way.
For weeks I kept asking myself this question until I realized that other transfer students shared similar sentiments.
With the fast paced quarter system and the lack of access to resources, many transfers end up feeling lost in the university. Monica Mendoza, a senior majoring in Gender Studies, felt similar to Pegah before entering UCLA. Upon reflecting on her first year at UCLA, Monica feels lucky to have found the resources at the Community Programs Office (CPO).
Being involved in the CPO is largely what led me to gain the confidence I have today. It led me to a community of people that cared about my well being not only as a student but also as a friend and as a young professional. If it were not for my first job as a CPO front desk intern, I would not have known of the resources that are vital for any student’s success.
As a CPO intern her first year, Monica helped maintain many resources crucial to non-traditional students.
Running the test bank, making sure the printer was filled up, and keeping the food closet clean were some of the tasks that came along with my job. My job exposed me to the realities of many UCLA students–the reality of homeless students who count on the food closet for their next meal. The reality of formerly dismissed students who had the courage to come back to school.
Through her job at the CPO, Monica was exposed to the peer counseling services offered in the Student Retention Center (SRC). Through the Retention of American Indians Now! (RAIN!), an SRC project, Monica was able to meet someone her age and was struck with how easily she opened up to her peer.
I could talk to my counselor about how I felt as a transfer student. As a person that often questions my sense of belonging, having this time to reflect on my experiences was so important.
Through peer-to-peer services, Monica soon realized that she wasn’t alone in her feelings of isolation and alienation.
Being at the CPO made me realize that many students at UCLA feel as underrepresented as I do.
In the following year, Monica chose to work for a the Writing Success Program (WSP), another SRC project.
The Writing Success Program made a big impression on me. As a CPO intern, I used their services and found myself speaking to the writing counselors about ideas and questions that I was often afraid to ask in the classroom. I found my ideas flourishing; I began to feel like I was finally thinking critically about the material I was learning.
Besides feeling a greater sense of engagement with her academic material, as a writing and creativity counselor for WSP, Monica returned to her love for writing.
During my first year at UCLA, I found it difficult to find the time and inspiration to write creatively because my transition was so harsh. WSP allowed me to write once again without fear or hesitation. It was like bringing a part of myself that I had not been able to share until I found the home to do so. WSP has challenged me to explore the things I love and further integrate them into my life.
As she became more involved, Monica realized that in order to acclimate to UCLA, she needed to feel invested in the what was happening on campus.
I believe that sometimes in order to feel at home in a new place, you need to give some of yourself to it. You need to give your time and energy to make the new place your own. Thankfully WSP and the CPO have given me ways to contribute to UCLA and gain a sense of belonging. I have found a home where I can proudly stand and say ‘This where I need to be and this is where I want to be.’
The Social Justice Referendum (SJR) funds many vital services that directly benefit transfer students, including peer counseling, mentorship, writing services, commuter van services, study hall, the test bank, and the food closet, amongst many others. SJR will also fund services that don’t already exist, including evening childcare services. Parenting students, who may or may not be transfers, need more support in ensuring their academic success and their ability to be invested in campus activities.
With your help, transfer students can continue to be supported. Please VOTE YES on SJR through my.ucla.edu before Friday, May 6th at 3:00 PM. To learn more about the Social Justice Referendum, please visit www.socialjusticebruins.com.