How does the dining hall work? Will the elevators in the English building kill me? When do I show up for football games? What do I wear to said football games? How do I use the bus system? How does dorm life work? How do I get to class? Where the heck are the bathrooms? How do I make friends? Where can I find the best tacos and wings?
These questions and many more were whizzing through my head when I stepped onto campus at my new school, UNC Chapel Hill. The most important questions can’t be answered by a pamphlet or google. And trust me, I googled, watched YouTube videos, and even tracked down alumni to help me figure it out. But… I couldn’t really learn these things, until I experienced it for myself.
1. Going into the dining hall will be like walking into a zoo. Follow the herd, and you will be okay.
If you go to the dining hall during a big meal rush, it is absolute chaos. The first time I walked into the dining hall at noon, I felt like a fish in Finding Nemo trying to swim against the fisherman’s net. The flow of bodies is too strong. Don’t fight it.
2. You will have freshmen knowledge, but without the freshmen perks.
The best feeling, is when a freshmen comes up to you to ask for help. The worst feeling, is not having an answer for them. Because you’re older, you are expected to know more, than the young 18 year olds. They get a pass when they don’t know how to use the homework site, or get lost trying to find a class. As a transfer, you are an upperclassman. Most people assume you came to the school as a freshmen and will treat you as such.
This means, while the freshmen get told how things work, transfers mostly have to figure it out for themselves. I’m not saying you can’t ask for help. ASK FOR HELP. I’m saying transfers typically don’t ask for help because it hurts the ego to have to ask a sophomore where the bathroom is. (Yes, I did this. Yes, I was 10 feet away. Yes, I felt really dumb.)
Some schools do have a transfer program that can help with transitioning, but it can only do so much. It just takes time to get your bearings.
3. You’re going to feel dumb and lost for at least the first week, and that’s okay!
Coming to a knew school is a learning curve experience. You won’t be the perfect image of the perfect student who knows everything on the first day. If you were, you would’t need to be there in the first place.
I just have to keep reminding myself that everyday I know more than I did the day before. That’s all you can really do. Keep learning, and it will get easier.
4. Don’t take over 15 credit hours your first semester. You will die!
I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. My advisor said not to, but she/he doesn’t understand that I can totally do that and be in 10 clubs and have a full time job. You don’t know my life.” Listen, I do know your life. I was you. Don’t do it. You will be miserable, and your grades, health, mental stability, and relationships will suffer. I started this semester with 18 credit hours and signed up for at least 8 clubs. Do I have that now? Nope.
At my last school, I had two jobs, had 16 credit hours, was in a sorority and two other clubs. I also lived in an apartment off campus. Do you think I really had time for that? No. I had a mental breakdown and switched schools. Don’t do the thing. You are not Hermione Granger. You do not have a magic necklace to give you more time in the day. You will not make it.
5. Don’t be too cool for school events.
If you came from a community college, like I started out, you will think that going to school events is lame. IT’S NOT.
Go! This is how you make friends. You’ll also get free food and shirts out of the deal, so that’s pretty cool. School events are great for a multitude of reasons. They help you meet people, get you out of the dorm, give you a study break, and like I mentioned before… FREE FOOD!
Free is the magic word. You are probably drowning in students debts right now. Go get the free nachos. Your bank account and stomach will thank you.
6. Live on campus if you can.
Every other school I have been to, I lived off campus. I didn’t want to live in a dorm. I didn’t want a stranger as a roommate. I didn’t want to share a small space. But guess what. Living in my crazy attic of a dorm room has been the best thing I could have ever done.
I was worried about getting a roommate from a horror movie, but the housing matched me with a girl who has the same major, similar taste in music, books, and television, and we get along great. I know I got super lucky. I know not every experience ends up with a new friend, but it happened for me. If you get a crazy one, you can move out after the first two weeks. It’s worth a shot. My anxiety was through the roof about living in the dorm, but after two days of it, I was glad I did it.
Because I am on campus, it’s easier to get to class, and I feel more involved with the school. It makes me love my school even more than I already did. I eat dinner with friends every night. I know that is such a little thing, but when you’re on such a big campus, the little community you make can really make a difference on your experience. The friends you make are important. They are the closest thing you have to family at school. Being on campus, means you are only minutes away from friends, and a support system. Plus, how else are you going to find good wings and tacos?
Being off campus means you can dissociate, which can be good and bad. For me, it was bad. I was off campus so much, that it made me feel like I wasn’t really apart of the school. Being on campus makes me really feel like apart of the school. It makes me want to go to events, because they are only minutes away from my room.
7. Get involved!
Most people, think that just going to class is all you need to do to get a full college experience. Trust me on this, I’ve tried it that way, and it is emotionally and physically draining. Try to find a club that interests you. Go to sporting events, even if you don’t think sporting events are for you. Go to themed events that the student union hosts.
Getting involved helps you make friends, it helps you relax, and it gives you a good break from studying yourself into oblivion. Plus, it’s super fun. You’re not going to look back one day and think about the time you studied all weekend in your dorm room. You’re going to remember cheering on your school, petting puppies in the quad, and singing your school’s song surrounded by strangers that just for a moment aren’t strangers anymore.
8. Your mental health should be a priority!
Before coming to school, try to make a plan to help you stay in the best mindset as possible. Know where the campus health center is. Ask where the mental health office is located. Know your limits. If you have terrible anxiety, map out some coping strategies that will work for you. If you have depression, let your friends know so they can help you if you need it. Do you need meds? Take them.
I know this all sounds self explanatory, but when you load yourself down with class, studying, homework, friends, extracurriculars, and work, mental health can sometimes be thrown aside. And this is NOT OKAY.
Grades, friends, and work are important, but they are not more important than you being healthy and happy. Make yourself a priority.
The take away from this post is just know you aren’t alone. Transferring to a new school can be scary. I’ve done it quite a lot, and trust me, it never gets easier. Just remember, you are there for a reason. Make the best of your experience. You obviously picked your school for a reason, so have fun with it!