From where I sit: a transfer student's story

By Rachel Zuckerman ’19

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Know thyself. Of course, that’s the goal. But how many seventeen-year-old students can truly say they do? I thought I did. I thought I knew what I was looking for in a college, thought I knew where I wanted to go and yep, you guessed it: I was wrong. 

Now, I could blame this on a lack of knowing myself, a faulty guidance counselor, parents who didn’t want me to go too far away or just about anyone else. The truth? I was lazy and indifferent to the entire process. Where did that land me? The opposite of where I soon came to realize I wanted to be. 

But here I am. Let’s get the obvious questions (that I’ve now been asked a hundred times) out of the way: I transferred because my previous school was not the right place for me. Not the right vibe, not the right people, not the right academic setting. No, I am not a first year. Yes, I was just as nervous to start this year as I was last. And yes, I love it here already. 

I could tell you that I knew this was the place for me when I drove up to campus and saw students cheering, dancing and making absolute fools of themselves (in the best possible way). 

I could tell you that I knew Hamilton was home when I said goodbye to my family and was scooped up by my three roomies to go play games on the football field. But that would be the perspective of a first-year. I ain’t no first-year. 

Experience differentiates a transfer from a first-year. We’ve done the newbie thing: we’ve joined all the clubs, made friends with the people in our hall, gained the freshman fifteen (and subsequently lost it), taken a few classes, pulled more than a few all nighters, learned not to wear a lanyard around the neck (hint hint, wink wink) and come to the realization that we can do better. Hamilton is our better—or so we hope. 

Transferring from one college to another is arguably more difficult than starting as a first-year because, among other reasons, there is no guarantee that it’ll be better. As I went through the process of applying to college a second time, a family friend reminded me that nowhere is perfect and while she believed the schools I was applying to this time would be a better fit for me, nothing is guaranteed. Ever. 

After all, going in as a sophomore means that the other 500 students in your class have already settled into their groups, communities, clubs, what have you. Transferring means starting over, again. It asks a little extra of you—socially, academically, emotionally. You have to be willing and ready to take it. Both the good and the bad. 

Well, I’m one of the lucky ones. In just the three short weeks that I’ve been on campus, I already feel way more at home than I ever did during my first year. It’s the people. The people who aren’t afraid to play a silly game and look like fools in front of 500 strangers. The people who decide to drive three and a half hours on a Saturday morning to climb Algonquin, because why the s**t not? The people who sincerely want to get to know you and aren’t quick to judge. It’s the classes. It’s being able to learn about things that genuinely interest you. The classes in which you can look around and know you’re in good company. 

Perhaps my view of Hamilton is romanticized. It is quite possible that I only feel the way I do because of where I came from. It could be the any-pizza-is-good-pizza-when-you-haven’t-had-pizza-for-threemonths phenomenon. Either way, happiness is happiness. 

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