Voices

A Third Start: Reflections from pandemic transfer students

Published August 27, 2021


Design by Allison DeRose

Composed of fewer than 200 students (per our acceptance letters), the fall 2020 intake of transfer students is a small yet integral community that has already experienced Georgetown for a year but is just now finding their permanent place on the Hilltop, even as some of our journeys are coming to an end.

Unlike non-transfers, each of us actively chose Georgetown over a previous institution, and coming into the fall semester of 2020, we were excited to finally begin our journeys with the school we had selected for the final years of our college educations. Unfortunately, COVID-19 and the fall’s online start prevented our first experiences with our new school from being everything we hoped. Without impromptu conversations or planned social events, the opportunity to connect with current students was practically nonexistent, making it difficult for many transfer students to integrate into the university community. We’re not freshmen, but we are swimming in a sea of acronyms and have only just learnt the difference between upstairs and downstairs Leo’s. Our collective knowledge about the university is full of gaps, and we’re only just getting the opportunity to fill them in.

As a small group, it’s been difficult to make our voices heard by the administration. Transfers were left out entirely in the original fall semester plan to bring some students to campus, despite all being in our first year at Georgetown. Although we were invited to participate in the SHIP program, some transfers reported classes poorly accommodated their needs as upperclassmen and there was a lack of awareness among program speakers that transfers were taking part in SHIP.

As we come into the 2020-2021 academic year, it’s a strange time to be a part of the transfer class. We’re old but new students, and unlike the rising sophomores, we’ve been to college before. We’re finally here, and we’re ready to dive in and make the most of the one or two years we have left.

Kathryn Yang (SFS ’23):

I’m filled with excitement and anxiety. On one hand, I’m counting down the days until classes start and fantasizing about my ideal college life (I’ll go to the gym, I’ll meet so many new people, I’ll buy cute notebooks for myself!). Over “Zoom University,” I was proud of myself for putting in the effort to be social—I genuinely connected with my peers online. Seeing the friendships I’ve made over the past year blossom into something greater through in-person learning is something I’m irrationally optimistic about. But I’m also anxious and, simply put, tired.

This is not just a second, but a third start—the first was as a doe-eyed freshman at my previous institution, second as a cynical (and slightly grumpy) transfer starting a new school virtually during a pandemic, and now again, as a lost third-year who doesn’t feel like an upperclassman. I’m technically a junior with a year of Georgetown under my belt, but my study group buddies were appalled when I told them I didn’t know how to get to Tombs. Am I old or am I new? I’m ready to fortify connections with professors and friends, but am I ready for icebreakers, nervous sips from red Solo Cups, the “What’s your favourite color” questions? Being the extrovert that I am, I want to socialize. But part of me wants to fast forward to the part where I’m confident in my comfort with Georgetown, completely acclimated with a solid orientation of who I am and what I do on campus. As transfers, we only have one, maybe two more years left at Georgetown. The pressure of time and the expectation to operate on the same timeline as our peers makes me feel like a fish out of water. Does anyone have a time machine I can borrow?

I write this reflection as the summer casts a sleeping spell on me; I can’t visualize college Kathryn at all. I’m stepping into the semester with uncertainty (thank you Delta variant), a changed attitude since B.U.T. (Before Unprecedented Times), and a haphazard dorm packing list. At this point, I figure there’s no point predicting the future. Whatever happens, happens, and we’ll just have to bravely confront fate.

Kulsum Gulamhusein (COL ’23):

In the doldrums of the spring semester, when Georgetown felt another world away, I wondered what it meant to be a Georgetown student without any of the trappings of the quintessential Hilltop experience. It was difficult to gauge which clubs I wanted to join, or to connect with students who weren’t transfers. While freshmen were all entering a new environment together and looking for friends, members of my class already had the opportunity to make initial connections, in person. As an upperclassman this year, I feel pressured to build up my participation so that I have something to show for my time at Georgetown when I graduate next year. While some students, such as my NSO advisor, went out of their way to welcome me into the community, I feel nothing compares to what my life on campus could have been: picnics on Healy lawn, speakers in Gaston Hall, and experiencing an election cycle in D.C.

I’m entering the new school year somehow suspended in the middle of my freshman year, familiar with some parts of being a Georgetown student, but completely clueless about others. Last year was lonely at times, but I’m grateful to have had the transfer community, from which I’ve made some of my closest friends. I hope that as we enter the new academic year, I’m able to fully embrace the time I have left as a Georgetown student and experience everything the university has to offer.

Melanie Cruz-Morales (COL ’23): 

Before the pandemic started, I was taking in-person classes at my community college; as we return to in-person classes this fall, I’ll finally get to sit in my first classroom at Georgetown University, as a second-year transfer student.

During my first year at Georgetown—learning in a virtual setting, but living on campus—I endured some of my hardest days and some of my best moments yet. I found ways to create community as the GUSA Speaker of the Senate. This position allowed me to build long-lasting relationships and exposed me to invaluable lessons about the world, politics, and what it means to be a leader. I got to experience people for others by advocating for those whom this institution ignores the most, the students outside of the targeted norm of whom this institution seeks to please. It was one of the most difficult, moving, and honorable experiences, one unique to Georgetown’s political environment, which students here learn to love and loathe.

Having the opportunity to serve in GUSA before even knowing how the acronym was pronounced gave me an advantage over other transfer students in regards to learning all about the realities of Georgetown. While that helped me connect with other students and get a taste of the real Georgetown, it also put me in a position where the school’s biggest flaws, like its consistent  lack of communication, empathy, and reliance, were all revealed to me before I’d even had the chance to experience life on campus.

Now that I’m finally getting the chance to truly experience life as a Georgetown student, though it is years after my non-transfer peers, I’ll get to know the positive and incomparable elements of Georgetown that balance out those harsh realities and what makes Georgetown the dream that I fought to attain.

Though I’ve really enjoyed every minute of my time here, I’m realizing that as I enter my third semester at Georgetown, my time on the Hilltop is just getting started. The days that I have been waiting for are finally upon us, and I can’t wait to see how much growth I’ll continue to make.


Kulsum Gulamhusein
Kulsum is a junior in the College. Her daily routine includes drinking oat milk lattes and spending an embarrassing amount of time on the NYT crossword.


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