Freshman pilots came to campus in August with orientation events, activities, and confetti blasts — nothing short of a celebration. But freshmen aren’t the only new students on campus; each year, transfer students are another cohort experiencing what it’s like to become a pilot.
This semester, of the 813 freshmen on campus, 106 are transfer students. Among undergraduates, transfer students make up 6.5% of the student population.
The stories transfer students tell about their experiences coming to UP reflect a variety of backgrounds and show the unique strengths and challenges of being a transfer.
For some transfers, their dormitory communities were the first to welcome them to campus. Linfield University sophomore transfer Jack Wood was welcomed to his dorm at Villa Maria where residents dressed up in Top Gun themed outfits.
“As soon as we pulled up to the lobby, they grabbed all of our stuff, put it in a box, and just ran it down the hall,” Wood said.
The energetic and enthusiastic welcome was a positive change for Wood, feeling a sense of community.
Many transfers are also undergoing this change in contrast to the school being online due to COVID-19. Scott Winkenweder, another Linfield transfer, has experienced what it’s like to go from remote learning to attending in-person classes.
“I feel like I’m going through what I knew a lot of my friends were going through last year around this time,” Winkenweder said.
Winkenweder, a sophomore in philosophy and majoring in Spanish, is looking forward to his first semester of campus life after meeting his peers at orientation.
“I feel like it was helpful and validating to be like, ‘I’m not the only person in this situation,'” Winkenweder said.
Wood and Winkenweder are both residential transfers, which is one of the two main transfer groups in UP, the other being suburban transfers.
Shuttle students often have a different set of experiences when sailing by becoming part of the Pilot community.
Ariana Nelson, a junior commuter transfer and nursing student, said she bonded with other students in her nursing cohort over the summer.
“We had nine weeks of summer together, which bonded us,” Nelson said. “I don’t really know how I would engage with the student population other than that.”
And while some transfers acclimate before school or during orientation, others do research to prepare for the start of the semester.
One of those students is Nick Lewis, a transfer from DeAnza College. Although Lewis mentioned a process for hosting shuttle students, he said he had already figured out a lot on his own.
Before moving to Portland, Lewis prepared by researching transportation and food information.
Transportation and access to food are needs that commuters commonly encounter, as their access to campus resources is more limited than students in residence.
“This population [commuter transfers] is growing, and this population has no home base and therefore needs access to resources,” said Director of Student Activities, Jeromy Koffler.
Resources for commuter students are essential for them to acclimatize to UP and find themselves within the school. Student Affairs realizes this and works to convert a former innovation lab in Franz Hall into a suburban living room with help from the business school.
There is also a commuter website which acts as a resource and is currently being designed by Student Affairs to better understand the needs of this demographic. Information ranging from financial aid, student jobs, finding places to eat, and places to study between classes will all be located here.
In addition to physical needs, Koffler and Student Affairs also want to focus on creating a welcoming environment for commuters.
“We try to be the office or department that connects so people find community,” Koffler said.
While the population of transfer students is small in the grand scheme of the student body, their transition to becoming a pilot is one that almost everyone has when coming to the bluff. It’s just a matter of being seen in the community that can make or break their experience.
Riley Martinez is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org