This is my first year at the University of Victoria. I’m from the small town of Nelson, B.C., a town buried deep in the snowy mountains of the Kootenays and known for its arts, culture and hippie scene. Before UVic, I attended Selkirk College, getting up at 6 a.m. to commute through the icy valley roads to the campus located on the outskirts of the even more remote Castlegar, B.C. These days, I just roll out of bed half an hour before class and walk across Ring Road to campus. Ah, the benefits of student housing.
While at first I felt aimless at college, I became deeply inspired by the classes. The small class sizes gave students plenty of opportunity for individual guidance. The intimate community vibe of college made it fairly easy to meet people in classes. But I found it frustrating that I recognized or knew at least half of the student population from around town or from high school. Craving new faces and fresh experiences, and itching to expand beyond the small-town scene, I decided to transfer to UVic.
The transition to university was a bit of a shock. My creative writing class at college consisted of 10 people, with ages ranging from 19 to 60. I was surprised on the first day of university when I walked into my writing class at UVic to find a massive lecture hall with over 100 people. Most of them looked like they were fresh out of high school. My heart stopped for a few moments. Was I making a mistake by transferring — did I belong here?
While at first the large class sizes and a new campus and city to navigate felt overwhelming, I am now in love with UVic, my program and the city. Selkirk is a community college; people commute to and from campus. What was lacking was campus spirit (of which UVic has plenty) and diversity (I had known the majority of the student population for most of my life).
I’ve met many friends at UVic. In cluster housing, I had the opportunity to live with an exchange student from Denmark during my first semester. We are now friends, and I feel grateful to have expanded my worldview through her.
There are pros and cons to being a transfer student. Most transfer students will have to retake an unrecognized course or two when beginning at their new school. And there is always the query, “What year are you in?” For us transfer students, that can be tricky. It took me three years to complete a two-year program. We don’t always fit inside the neat and tidy post-secondary box of a four-year degree. However, starting at college allows you to gain academic skills that can be utilized at university, and it gives you the freedom to try different classes without the pressure and increased tuition of a university program.
Life is messy and expensive, and sometimes you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. It’s okay to change your mind and take your time, to transfer cities, schools and academic direction. I am 24 and in my first year of university. Sometimes I feel old in class, feel the pressure from society to already have a career. I sometimes wonder if being a transfer student was really the way to go or if I am taking too much time. But that doubt quickly passes. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience both the college and university life.