Bienvenidos nuevos Bruins a la Familia! My name is Ivan Vera and I am a 4th year Political Science major, African American Studies minor, transfer student from the University of California, Santa Barbara. I am here today as a senior graduating from the #1 public university because of the community, support, and aid I have received during my time at UCLA and throughout my life.
I am a low income, LatinX, and first-generation student from a single parent household in Oxnard, CA. Growing up I have held onto my single mom, teachers, community leaders, and childrens programs for academic and life support. When I graduated high school I knew that I was leaving behind my support system. My mom was no longer going to attend parent teacher conferences to figure out solutions to my inept ability to calculate the redistribution properties of Calcium. Or drive me around the city to my numerous volunteer and community service shifts. Or, simply be at my side to take in all of my accomplishments. I was on my own. So I thought.
As a first-gen student going to school for the first time was scary because I did not know what I was getting myself into. The culture shock of being in a microcosm of students that don’t reflect your homogenous hometown was very real and evident. As a transfer student transferring to a different school than the one I was at for 2 years was just as scary. But, for a different reason. As a transfer student the fear lies in finding community in a sea of students who are not the same age, maturity, or at the same place in life. However, once I stepped foot in the Transfer Student Center (TSC) I felt all my worries melt away. This is due to many reasons. One being the atmosphere that the space provides. No other place on campus compares to the at-home, couch sitting, quite (but sometimes loud), community living space. When you walk into the building room you are greeted by an open One-Stop-Shop receptionist desk that is housed to some of the most caring and kind Transfer Student Volunteers and Staff. Everytime you walk by or into the center you are greeted with a nice and simple “Hello, how are you doing?”. A question that the staff actually want a sincere answer to. On those off days when you aren’t feeling your best walking into the center can actually uplift your spirits. The conversations sometimes transformed into helping me address questions
such as; Where is the bookstore? Can I borrow a stapler? Should I drop this course? My teacher is awful. What can I do? I also found encouragement when I became doubtful and felt like I didn’t belong here.
The space serves as both a meeting area and resource hub. The space is home to two couches, lounging chairs, a circular group table, a flatscreen TV, ambient music, coffee, tea, and most importantly resources. One of these resources was the TSC mentorship program for which I participated in by first being a mentee then a mentor. As a mentee I found solace in my mentor because they read over my essays, answered all my questions, and took time in their day to check up on me. I returned the favor this year to my own cohort of mentees by making sure they knew they had at least one person at UCLA looking out for their health, academics, and success. Another resource is the large scale/intimate events the TSC puts on. These are events where I got to meet new friends in a setting where everyone is eager to meet one another and form a community.
A struggle that occurs on every college campus is trying to make an appointment with an overloaded student resource system. As much as there are an abundant amount of resources I found myself overwhelmed needing to schedule myself out to not only finding them but having to get to them. Oftentimes, in spaces and environments that aren’t necessarily the most welcoming. That is where the Transfer Student Center comes in. They have an internal system of partnerships with the campus wide resources who host Drop-In hours at the center. If I needed academic advising, resource guidance, mental health check-ins, writing help, financial questions, graduate school questions, a place to study, or legal aid I could turn to the centers hosted weekly hours. When I needed help to go over my lease I knew I could go to the center during their legal services hour for aid. When all the writing appointments were taken up during midterms week I knew I had a place to go to have someone review my paper. All in all, the center helped me worry less about where I would need to go to figure all my student problems out.
The center social media is another useful asset to follow and engage with because the staff curate their posts and stories to showcase job opportunities, volunteer events, weekly reminders for academic deadlines, giveaways, and more. In fact, it is through their Instagram that I was able to find an abundant amount of scholarships, campus events, and fellow transfers stories. The TSC Facebook group has over 20,000 members and serves as a Question & Answer hub for any prospective, admitted, and currently enrolled students. That is where I usually asked what professor to take, whether or not I needed to take out a second loan, or which housing option to choose.
My saving grace is the transfer community and the Transfer Student Center. I owe some of my happiness to the physical space that is Kerckhoff 128. Not only because it provided an environment where I forged long lasting friendships, connections, and memories. But, because of the special experience I got to have by helping to keep the space alive as the Marketing Coordinator for this year.