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New School, New Start: Navigating College as a Transfer Student

02/13/2015 11:25 pm ET | Updated Apr 15, 2015

After a year spent far from the fences of a liberal arts campus, I am finally back in school. This time around, I begin anew, as a transfer student at a small school called Pitzer College. I have to say, waking up every day to the Southern California sun has been a welcomed change from the blistery cold. As I write this, I am sitting outside in a t-shirt and jeans. I can't help but think of my hometown in New York, lying dormant under layers of snow. Several times since arriving here, people have asked me why I am beaming with contentment. I tell them to look around and see for themselves! We live in a beautiful place. Flying out to the West Coast felt like coming home.

Of course, life in college is not all sunshine and rainbows. (Okay, there's a great deal of sunshine here, but you know what I mean.) As a transfer student, I have some catching up to do. Classes are in full swing, but I am still settling in. When the other students returned to campus after winter break, everyone rejoiced in their long-awaited reunions. My fellow transfers and I watched from a short distance, knowing that we would soon create friendships worthy of "I-haven't-seen-you-in-a-whole-month" screams. Although these pre-established connections can be slightly intimidating for a transfer student, I choose to see them as positive signs. People care about people here, that much is clear. I just have to be patient and rest assured that I, too, would soon have such loving friends.

I've been on campus for a whopping three weeks now, but at times I catch myself mid-self loathing. Why haven't I met more people? Why can't I just be myself? Why aren't I queen of the campus already?! When you go to a highly individualized school like mine, it can take time to find your place. Anyone who has entered a new place -- whether it be a new school or workplace or town -- knows that making real connections takes work.

Colleges don't really prepare you for the social aspect of school. That part they leave up to you. So every day, I challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone. I've already joined a few clubs -- Garden Club, Outdoor Adventures and a meditation group -- and I've begun introducing myself to people. The transfers tend to stick together here, as I imagine is common at other schools. We were all ambitious enough to leave our previous institutions, so I think we share a similar, intrinsically motivated attitude. That being said, we are all very different. Some of us (there were ten in total) branched out from the group right away, while others (including myself) remain close. Of course, everything is bound to change over the next few months, and even more so over the next three years.

Time will only tell what strange and exciting adventures lie ahead.

The truth is, being a transfer is not easy. But the experience is only as difficult as I allow it to be. I know that I will find my footing soon, and in the meantime, I will focus on the people who matter most to me. There is no shame in calling a home friend (or your mom!) for comfort; they usually know you the best and love you unconditionally. Real friendships take time to grow; this is often hard to remember when you've been friends with someone for so long. Sure, beginnings can be tough, but eventually I will look back on these first weeks at school as a time long past.