Transfer students reflect on introductions to NU


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

In September, Northwestern will welcome a new class of students, including those transferring from another institution.

Clare Zhang, Reporter

Every fall, Northwestern welcomes a new class of students: mostly freshmen, but also many second- and third-years who have transferred from different academic institutions.

NU’s transfers tend to adopt the rallying cry of ‘And transfers!’ soon after arriving in Evanston. 

“It’s always a thing in orientation week when they’re speaking, they’re like, ‘Welcome to the class of 2026 … and transfers.’ So it’s kind of something that we’ve just owned now,” Communication sophomore Jhil Patel said.

The Wildcat Welcome orientation programming runs Sept. 12 to 19 and is largely the same for transfer and first-year students, with additional transfer-specific events such as the Transfer Bonfire.

For transfer students, the Peer Advisers and PA group members they navigate Wildcat Welcome with are all fellow transfers, which allows new students to seek guidance and community from those with shared experiences.

Weinberg sophomore Yida Hao said the two good friends she met in her PA group during Wildcat Welcome later introduced her to many of her current friends.

“Those two definitely are a really significant part of me finding my community here,” she said. 

Communication junior Chenjunyi Feng said he had a different experience of Wildcat Welcome than most, since all the programming was online that year due to COVID-19 concerns. He had to take Zoom calls from China with no time zone adjustments.

Feng said two groups helped provide him with a sense of community during that initial period: the Chinese International Student Association  and the Transfer Mentorship Program offered by the Transfer Student Organization.

He reached out to CISA, which was helping inform many Chinese international transfer students about how to prepare for living and learning on NU’s campus. He also filled out a form to be matched with a transfer student mentor, who reached out to him every month to provide guidance.

Feng said he signed up to be a mentee again for junior year, and plans to serve as a mentor this year.

“People are welcoming,” he said. “It was actually fun to be in a relationship with your mentor.”

Weinberg junior Sasha Goldberg advised incoming students, transfer or otherwise, to get outside of their comfort zones. Even during a remote quarter, reaching out to her classmates and in GroupMes allowed her to find community at NU. Later, she said, joining an a cappella group gave her a “tight-knit” group of friends.

Though she didn’t encounter many transfer students outside of orientation, Goldberg said she wished she had more of a connection with the transfer community.

“I would say to seek out other transfer students in any way you can,” she said. “When you’re talking about why you transferred, I feel like that can even allow for a deeper connection to form between two people.”

Medill junior Helen Bradshaw said having the first-year experience at a different institution made her feel more at ease in her introduction to NU.

“I think I realized that not every second has to be spent looking for a friend I’m going to have, or feeling bad about myself by comparing myself to other people, or trying to fit into this vision of what a lot of people have going into college,” she said. “I just tried to roll with the punches a little bit more and not freak myself out.”

Even with one fewer year at NU, there have been plenty of opportunities to try different areas of study and pursue multiple majors, Patel said. She took classes in Weinberg, Medill, and the School of Communication before settling on an economics and theatre double major.

Though the fast pace of the quarter system and the rigor of her classes were difficult to adjust to, she said the work became more manageable with each quarter.

“Letting go of my fear and pride of asking for help was really useful to me,” Patel said.

Bradshaw said when she came to NU, she was worried about being “behind” the other students in her grade, who already had a year to get involved in clubs on campus and get journalism experience.

By pursuing what she was genuinely interested in, though, she said she was able to get just as much experience as her peers.

“I don’t think there’s inherently a difference between a transfer student getting involved and any other student getting involved,” Bradshaw said. “In some ways, transfer students can bring a lot more to the table and other experiences that regular students at Northwestern don’t have.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @clarezhang_

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