Transfer students reflect on the virtual semester

Over 1,000 transfer students adjusted to an online semester

By Mahidhar Sai Lakkavaram, Collegian Staff

New transfer students at the University of Massachusetts this semester – totaling 1,092 students – faced difficulties in their transition due to the closing of campus and most of their classes being remote, several students said.

Macayla Glenn, a sophomore legal studies major who transferred this fall, explained her concerns with the fall semester and being a transfer student.

“I would say my biggest issue was not being able to connect really with other students,” she said. “We all know that friends, or even people who understand you, can make difficult times a little easier. Fortunately, I have some friends from home that I have reconnected with ,but I still miss those spontaneous in-person interactions with new people.”

However, meeting new people at the University has been difficult, considering most interaction with others was conducted over Zoom calls in class.

“It’s a tad difficult to build friendships over Zoom,” Glenn said. “Everything just feels awkward and unnatural. I find that we’re all just pushing through, hoping that it will all be over soon.”

Since she’s a third-year student, Glenn said her past experiences in school have helped her adjust during the semester. However, as someone who has transferred schools three times, Glenn said she has yet to find her comfort zone.

“Once I figured out which classes I was taking and what my professors expected, everything just fell into a normal routine for me,” she said. “I have transferred three times within the last three years, so as you can imagine, I haven’t had the opportunity to really settle down yet.”

She did, however, express her optimism about her future at UMass: “From my few experiences of UMass, I can say that I’m proud to attend this school, even if it’s virtually. I can only hope that one day, I’ll have the chance to experience being a proud student in person,” she said.

David Gamache, a sophomore biology major, transferred to UMass in the spring and said it would’ve been more difficult for him if he had transferred this semester instead.

“I definitely would have felt more low-key if I had transferred this semester,” he said. “Without any dorm life [or] not being able to meet any of the people I did, or not doing anything throughout the week [and] weekend would have been very tough, and classes may have been a little more overwhelming being online.”

As for advice for the recent fall transfers, he said to “connect with people online. I see a lot of people sharing their social media or joining virtual clubs which I think is a great way to stay in that ‘involved’ state of mind so that they don’t miss anything when we go back.”

New Student Orientation was tasked with helping transfer students once enrolled, as described on its website. Laura Bourque, the new student transition coordinator, explained what NSO did to help students with the transition.

“We continued to provide an orientation program that gave students a foundation for a successful transition, which included sharing information about student life, academics, and of course, their course registration,” she said.

Along with the program, Bourque said orientation leaders were available for students to ask questions or connect with others when needed.

Because the semester was remote, Bourque said they faced issues with communication.

“Some of the biggest issues were simply reaching students we weren’t hearing from. We did a number of outreach campaigns through messaging in Microsoft Teams and phone calls,” she said. “We wanted to connect with all incoming students to make sure their questions were answered and they had access to the information they needed, and that was more challenging than we had hoped.”

NSO also made changes to their normal structure to help transfer students.

“NSO continued student staff support through the beginning of the semester, which is not something we typically do,” Bourque said. “[We] collaborated with the My CRU (Campus Remote Unit) program to help provide an avenue for all new students, including transfer students, to get connected and receive some additional peer support.”

As a message to transfer students, Bourque said, “NSO wants to provide support to transfer students and are here to answer questions and direct to campus resources. Please consider connecting with your My CRU leader if you have questions, and don’t wait to seek help if you need it.”

Mahidhar Sai Lakkavaram can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Mahidhar_sl.