In high school, some parents, students, and educators look down on students who go to a community college rather than a four-year university straight out of high school. For community college students, one can feel judgement as though “you’re not good enough” to attend a four year university. However I never cared for the judgement. After high school, I knew that I wasn’t ready to be placed into college level courses, but I didn’t feel ashamed or bummed that I would continue my educational journey at the local community college.
While at the community college, I crossed paths with so many different non-traditional students who were motivated to also continue their educational journey. Some students were like me, where fresh out out of high school, some had gone to a four year, but found themselves struggling too much, and some had been out of school for so long that their degrees had been outdated. Regardless of the reason students chose to attend, many had similar struggles outside of education: having to care for kids or family members, working a full-time job or multiple part time jobs, and managing their engagement in extracurricular activities.
The community college provided me an important foundation to learn about the different ways I learn and how to be a prosperous student. I managed to finish all the classes that I needed to earn a Associates Degree for Transfer (AA-T) within three years with the love and support of many different friends, mentors, professors, and family.
Since my transfer to UC Riverside, which I am now coming to the end of my first year (three quarters), I have been reflecting on how challenging this transition was for me.
I have had to deal with health problems: mental, physical and spiritual. Depression settled in when I struggled to find a community. Anxiety was new to me, as I was learning how to live away from home and deal with the overarching problems of capitalism. My rent is approximately $400 a month (does not include utilities, gas, and internet payments), and I couldn’t afford food and basic hygiene products. I eventually had to take out loans to sustain my housing and living expenses because I couldn’t work to make more than $400 a month due to the constant health problems. I had severe migraines, digestive problems, colds that lasted for months and other things like the stomach flu that leached on as my immune system was at its weakest. Thanks to a school policy, UC students are given a university student health insurance program (USHIP), this saved me so much money and time while going to over 40 health related doctor visits these past three quarters but I still had to buy a lot of medications.
During this time, I couldn’t advocate for myself, so I sought therapy as it worked for me in the past at the community college. This was not working, as the therapist I had specifically seen for my depression and anxiety didn’t realize I had been depressed until I failed three out of four of my classes. Since then, I began to see a nutritionist to address my mental health problems via food.
Despite the struggle to transition, the academic environment is amazing. I love the wide variety of courses accessible at a UC. Also, I’ve had some great professors from so many different cultures and parts of the world. My first UCR Professor Dr. Louie Rodriguez, from my hometown and who was also a transfer student back in his days, guided me towards a community of other transfer students who understand what I have been struggling with.
So my advice is if you’re transferring from the community college soon, brace yourself for a transition, you know yourself more than anyone. Start looking for your community in your local transfer student center/club, make sure you know what resources are offered to you and where to access your resources (even if you think you won’t need them), and build your support system as soon as possible.
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