For many transfer students attending Cal Poly, the transition to a four-year university is already an intimidating challenge, but this year may pose even greater challenges.

English junior and former Cuesta College student Zoe Herold said she agrees.

“The steepest learning curve was keeping up with all the online stimulus,” Herold said. “Doing Week Of Welcome and having to switch between platforms and Zoom calls — I really had to keep on top of my game.”

Herold said that luckily she was able to do so, but said she felt bad for anyone who could not keep up with the work due to personal reasons.

“I felt empathetic towards my fellow students and staff,” Herold said. “This will be my first time completely online for a whole quarter, and even though I can manage it, I wish there was some way I could have in-person interaction as well.”

Mechanical engineering junior and transfer from Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) Caleb Savard said he had similar sentiments to Herold.

“The idea of transitioning to a new community was a little bit daunting,” Savard said. “I was fortunate enough to practice doing that at the community college level — learn all the things that you should and shouldn’t do — but to be like, ‘Oh man, I have to start over from scratch.’”

Starting that new community through an online format makes that transition all the more difficult, according to Savard.

“Being online has made it so that I don’t need to develop that network, which is kind of nice in one sense, but at the same time it means that I don’t have any pressure to,” Savard said.

His words were similar to what Maddy Trujillo, English junior and transfer from Cuesta College, had to say.

“I love the aspect of when you’re in class, and you get to discuss and see people and see your professors, and you build that community in person,” Trujillo said.

According to Transfer Center Coordinator Heather Domonoske, the previous quarter afforded the Transfer Center an opportunity to reach out for student feedback and to stay as adaptive as possible in order to learn new ways to connect with students. Domonoske said internal communication is a specific strong suit of the department.

“I hope that transfer students can learn and connect in and outside of class,” Domonoske said.

The Transfer Center offers events that include connections to resources, transfer dialogues and social media student engagement, Domonoske said.

“All of these efforts help us support students academically and socially during this virtual experience,” Domonoske said.

Despite all these preparations, Herold said that the sudden switch was difficult to maneuver. Herold said that students were not getting enough information, and she said they were given most information at the last minute.

“Not to put the spotlight on anyone in particular, but I didn’t know when I was signing up for classes, I didn’t know when I had to get all my money in,” Herold said. “Things kind of took a while to formulate, and then I had to knee-jerk react when they came about.”

To stay on top of things, Trujillo said that she makes a schedule and sets an allotted time to do work.

“Even though it’s still right here in my room, even just sitting at a desk and going ‘Okay, I’m not going to have any distractions’ and knowing when you need to take a break for yourself, [or] knowing when it’s too much for yourself, that’s really important,” Trujillo said.

Some transfer students said they learned these skills through their time at a previous institution. For many, they said online learning is not foreign to them.

“I had already taken some online courses at the community college level, either over the summer or just because it worked better with my schedule,” Savard said. “And [at SBCC] Canvas is an optional tool that a lot of professors can use.”

Although there are many obstacles, transfer students said that there are some upsides to virtual classes.

“I’m enjoying not having to commute,” Herold said. “I live in Santa Maria with my mother, and that’s a 45 minute car ride each way. Not having to get up at six or seven o’clock to get to an 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. class is really refreshing. Just rolling out of bed is very nice.”

As evidenced by her cat, Ziggy, who lounges in the background of Herold’s Zoom screen, the comforts of home can be helpful to some as they cope with beginning a new chapter in their academic career.

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