I came to Transfer Student Orientation at 7 a.m. on a Friday, wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to start my journey as a Bruin.
Fast forward 10 hours and I was frantically running around the Hill, hair wild, eyes bloodshot, laptop in one hand, my phone in the other, scouring Google Maps to figure out where in the world Sproul Cove was so I could barely make it in time to my advisor meeting.
Orientation is supposed to be a comprehensive look at UCLA that connects students with the institution they will be studying at for the next years of their academic life.
Transfer orientation is anything but.
Students are Bruintized, shuffled along to a three-hour presentation on course scheduling and then taken to a rally by the Transfer Student Center to emphasize transfer pride. Students primarily use this day to figure out their class planners and how to fulfill the requirements laid out by the departmental and New Student Advisors.
But transfer orientation tries to pack into 12 hours what New Student Orientation does in three days. UCLA forces workshops, class planning, learning how to navigate MyUCLA and safety training into one day that ends up being extremely chaotic. On top of that, new transfer students are left to their own devices to navigate the Hill and find the right rooms for different presentations and counseling meetings.
Rushing the enrollment process this way can lead to students not properly thinking through their academic paths at UCLA and making the wrong decisions when it comes to their schedules. This can lead to transfer students not fulfilling major requirements and missing out on educational opportunities like departmental honors.
Organizing classes while trying to fit in workshops that explain extracurricular activities is impossible when there are endless presentations to sit through. Transfer students are gaining nothing out of an orientation that is not properly organized to meet their demands. UCLA needs to better accommodate transfer students by expanding orientation to run for multiple days and reworking the workshops it offers to allow transfer Bruins to better acclimate to UCLA.
There are only two, sometimes three years total, that transfer students get at UCLA, and their orientation mirrors that short time.
Those years are characterized by career counseling and internship searches from the get-go. Transfer students have a limited time to prepare for graduation, and being told about any resources can help get them on track. But the location and existence of such resources don’t get communicated to transfers during orientation, because there is just no time to do so.
Alin Abrahamian, a fourth-year political science student and a volunteer at the Transfer Student Center, said the course enrollment process was fast because of the orientation day’s length.
“It was pretty stressful,” Abrahamian said. “But I got through it at the end of the day.”
Like Abrahamian, many transfer students often come out of orientation feeling overwhelmed and rushed, which is the wrong foot to start off on in a university as fast-paced as UCLA.
Jessica Kim, the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s Transfer Student Representative, said orientation can feel unproductive because students are not given time to reflect on all the information thrown at them throughout the day.
“One of the biggest things that my office is working on with the Transfer Leadership Coalition … is orientation,” Kim said. “There has always been this argument between ‘Should we have a one-day orientation or a multiple-day orientation?’”
One day is not sufficient for transfers to obtain all the tools they need for the entirety of their UCLA careers. Hasty departmental advisor meetings are of no use to students still unaccustomed to their major requirements. And nonacademic services such as care at the UCLA Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center, mental health resources and library operations are just some of the mysteries transfers have to figure out on their own time.
Even the resources that are offered can be unhelpful. Aïcha Conde, a fourth-year gender studies transfer student, said her NSAs were not equipped to assist her and others in her orientation group regarding transfer-specific needs, such as the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum – a documentation of community college classes that count for general education credit at California public universities.
“It didn’t feel like there were enough (NSAs) to cater to each of us and really take the time to think about our majors, what we really want and the courses we really want,” Conde said.
UCLA needs to revisit the way the transfer orientation is organized and take into account what the students need to succeed at the university. This should include giving students more time for course planning and learning about the various campus services available to them, and investing more in the resources offered at orientation.
Transfers take on a tough task – learning to navigate UCLA and join organizations without the help of the two-year grace period they would have had as underclassmen.
While transfer students might already be familiar with the college system, unlike freshmen, that doesn’t necessarily mean they need less time at orientation. Of the fall 2018 enrolled transfers, 92 percent had transferred from California community colleges, which primarily work on the semester system.
And the processes and cultures of community colleges and UCLA are vastly different. A 12-hour orientation that students obviously have concerns with is clearly not the True Bruin Welcome UCLA should be giving its transfers.
Transfer students may spend half the time at UCLA that traditional students do, but that’s no excuse to give their orientation one-third the effort.