By Austin Hunter
Still to this day I consider attending SBCC one of my best decisions. The education, relationships, and opportunities I gained while in Santa Barbara were truly exceptional. I had an amazing experience at SBCC, but after three years and nearly 100 units I figured it was time to transfer. UCLA had always been my dream school and last April that dream became my reality when I got my acceptance letter. I entered as a pre-psychobiology major and now having completed my second quarter I have full major standing and feel it’s time to share my experience as a UCLA transfer student with my SBCC family.
Being in a new place is as exciting as it is daunting. However, I’ve come to realize that the most significant growth occurs when out of one’s comfort zone. It was a humbling experience coming to UCLA. What I thought was my best effort at community college became an average performance at UCLA. This is NOT to say that SBCC doesn’t prepare you for the rigor of a top university, because it DOES. However, I found myself having to work harder to get the returns I wanted, which is one of the many ways I’ve grown since transferring. The need to perform at a higher level is a reflection of the competitive environment at UCLA, which I’ll assume is true of most top universities.
I won’t lie, at times it’s been discouraging and also exhausting feeling the need to constantly compete. There was a much greater sense of camaraderie at the community college level. This may not be true for other departments at UCLA, however my academic interests (pre-medicine) and being in the largest department on campus (psychology) perpetuates the competitiveness, especially when most course grades are curved. Although I will admit that I tend to hold myself to a high standard, one that is sometimes unrealistic and/or unhealthy. This tendency of mine often lends to my desire to “compete”, when really I’m competing with myself to be at my best.
Prior to beginning UCLA I assumed I would have smaller more personalized classes since I’m in all upper division courses. However, my smallest class has been around 100 people and my largest 300+. This is primarily a reflection of being in a school of nearly 30,000 undergrads and a department of about 3,000. With these large classes it’s no surprise that the classroom dynamic is far less intimate than that of a community college. I’m hoping, and also expecting, that this will shift as I get further into my coursework. Enrollment times are based on major and class standing so now that I have enough units to be considered a senior I should be able to get the classes I previously wasn’t able to. I’m pretty excited about this because there are oodles of cool classes offered! Some of my favorite classes thus far include the History of Medicine and Society in 20th-Century America, LGBTQ perspectives in Popular Music and Behavioral Neuroscience. A few classes I’m looking forward to taking in these upcoming quarters are Emerging Topics in Neuroscience, Neural Correlates of Psychotic Disorders, and the Neurobiology of Aesthetics. Thankfully, most of these future classes are seminars that are less than 40 people. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on how it goes getting into classes as progress!
Coming to UCLA has been an adjustment to say the least, but with each passing week I’ve become more comfortable in my new setting. It’s strange feeling like a freshman all over again after being in college for nearly four years. Trying to navigate a new college has been difficult; thankfully with some searching I was able to find the necessary support. There truly are a plethora of resources at UCLA, just don’t expect much handholding while figuring them out. One of the things that really helped my transition came from forming a solid group of friends. I decided to live in the transfer dorms and I made a lot of great friends through there. It helps being around others who are in a similar situation having transferred from another college. The dorms aren’t exactly my favorite living environment due to the limited space, but I wouldn’t trade it when considering the friendships I’ve made.
By no means do I have it all figured out, but I’ve been making steps in the right direction. I am writing this to let readers in on my experience as a transfer student at UCLA thus far, but remember that everyone’s experience differs. It is important that each person transfers to a school that is the right fit and meets their individual needs. It’s hard to know what this fit may be, but I’m hoping that through this blog I can serve as a resource for those with questions or concerns about transferring and life at UCLA. I plan to keep readers posted as I continue to master my new surroundings and am happy to answer questions through this blog. I wish everyone the best as acceptance letters continue to roll out over the next month!