*All views expressed in the opinion section are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Salemite.
Life at Salem as a transfer student has been a interesting experience, to say the least. Leaving Surry Community College was emotional and scary. However, I was ecstatic to come to my dream school and finish my bachelor’s degree. I had a lot of expectations about what it would be like, and like most expectations, many of them have proven to be wrong. My transfer experience has been a lot different than what I expected, in both positive and negative ways. I have noticed differing experiences among transfers, and the ways that Salem could improve their attentions to transfers to help everyone have a more enjoyable experience.
Different transfer students have many different experiences. Thankfully, I have not had any major issues with transferring credits (although only 60 credits out of 89 were accepted) or starting classes in my desired major. However, this is not the experience of all transfer students on campus. Some transfers have experienced severe difficulties with starting their majors, and some feel that they were mislead by admissions about the timeline of their Salem education. An out-of-state transfer who wished to remain anonymous said, “I feel like I was not given enough information about transfer credits, classes, and limitations on student experiences despite having Junior status.” This student also reported that since their out-of-state credits transferred differently, they will have to stay an extra year at Salem and cannot start taking courses in their major until next year. However, this student enjoys Salem in other respects. “I like the atmosphere, the people, and my roommate. I have had a good time at Salem so far.” If measures were taken to make transfer students — particularly out-of-state transfers — better informed about credit transfers and classes, Salem could make sure that its transfer students have a smoother academic and social experience.
There also appear to be issues with transfer inclusion in key portions of the Salem catalog. In the 2017-2018 catalog, it is not always clear how transfers should navigate declaring a major, studying abroad, or pursuing independent studies or internships. This makes it difficult for advisers to assist transfer students with class scheduling and two or three year plans without having to defer to other offices of the college. Though the deans I worked with were more than helpful, it would be much simpler and more efficient to include these policies for transfers to begin with. In some instances, transfers follow a rule they see laid out for most students, only to discover it would not have applied to them. This has been my experience with Jan Term registration. Seeing that those applying for Jan Term internships had to meet a certain GPA requirement and knowing that I would not have a GPA until the end of the semester, I opted to take a Jan Term course. I was later told by my adviser that I could have opted for an internship had I scheduled one on my own. Situations such as these, while not catastrophic, make it frustrating for transfers to know what we are and are not permitted to do our first year.
There also appears to be a lack of representation of transfer students on Salem’s campus and within SGA. Though the Off-Campus Student Association would represent many transfer students living off-campus, there do not seem to be many resources for transfer students like myself, who have opted to live on campus. While we make up a very small percentage of the student population, we have unique experiences coming from various other institutions, and I believe we can offer important insight into how to make Salem better and more inclusive for all types of students.
Socially, being a transfer has been a tough road. Since many transfers choose to live off-campus, it is difficult to connect in any meaningful way with others who share my experience. It is equally difficult to connect with students who have been at Salem since day one. That is certainly not so say that people have been unfriendly or the siblinghood has eluded me — quite the opposite. It is just a difficult spot to be in when you can’t identify with your graduating class or the fellow first years. On-campus traditions like Fall Fest and Big/Little have made the transition into the Class of 2019 easier and helped me to make a few friends in my class. I have a feeling that as time goes on, I will feel more at home on campus. However, added support during the first few weeks may have made my transition easier.
Although there are many things that could stand to be improved upon, I am glad I made the choice to come to Salem to continue my education. In my personal experience, the transfer process has been mostly painless. However, I would love to see the aforementioned improvements made, so that every future transfer student who comes to Salem can have the same experience that I have had. I am also thankful for the unending support I have had from my professors and siblings, to the instructors and administration at Surry Community College for helping me get to where I am today.