It’s the person, not the place

A student reflects on how transferring to Temple helped her adopt a new mindset.


New environments can serve as powerful instigators of change, but only as far as the person allows it to. 

I went into my freshman year of college at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2022 under the misconception that leaving my childhood bedroom would mean I’d finally be out in the world. Instead, I merely traded the room I grew up in for a dorm, continuing to live in my own head. 

I wanted to transfer just a few days into the school year. My classes were underwhelming, and talking to older art students reinforced my feeling that VCU was not supportive of my success as an art student. My classes were held on the top deck of an old parking garage where no art supplies were provided, despite having to pay an extra fee as an art student for the facilities. 

The stress of applying to new universities and trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend further fed into my existing anxiety. I was quickly drained of my motivation, and improving my life meant putting in effort that I had no desire to exert. 

I was unhappy in my relationship, but I refused to let it go because of my attachment. I determined myself unable to work on the video and photo projects I wanted to instead of collaborating with other artists in order to make them possible

It felt needless to extend my arms out beyond the connections I established prior to being on campus because I was set on transferring out of VCU.

I lived without passion as a lazy observer of my own life, equipped with an infinite amount of excuses to get through the day. Instead of facing my guilt and mistakes, I operated ignorantly. I took no initiative, and my actions and thoughts were so passive they became self destructive. I was perpetually out-of-body, out-of-mind and reluctant to take action despite my steady decline because doing so meant accepting I was the root of all my current issues.

I was exhausted by the time winter break came, but I was still full of excuses. It was easier for me to pretend that reading every day, eating healthy or spending time with family was enough to heal me instead of renouncing my passive and bitter mindset.

I’ve always prided myself in my artistic ability, but when I returned from winter break I noticed how my work paled in comparison to my peers who put intention and effort into their projects. My time away from Richmond allowed me to return and face all of my shortcomings.

I took for granted the few friendships I had and made no contributions to them. Relationships require effort, and I failed to give that. Most of my classmates had established friend groups, many were involved in the art and social scene of Richmond outside of classes at VCU.

I felt isolated from my peers who chose to take initiative within their social and academic lives. I began to face the truth that carrying myself with honesty, fearlessness and proactivity would be uncomfortable at first but would surely yield the change I desired.

I started to nourish the friendships I neglected as I began to let go of my long-expired relationship, reciprocating the unconditional support they gave me throughout my turbulent first semester. 

Making efforts to collaborate with others on creative projects was no longer something I procrastinated because involving others in my routine was crucial to my growth. There were times I was tempted to veer back into isolation, but it soon became second nature to be a social person again. 

Although I couldn’t undo my first semester, I could ensure my next one would be better. I quit feeling sorry all the time and started to work toward a better future. 

Most importantly, I started to be kind to myself. I started to see that my self hatred was spoiling everything I had to be thankful for. I reminded myself that no one who truly loved me would treat me the way I treated myself. Even those in my life who came to know my mistakes chose to see beyond those flaws.

I left VCU content with my mental and social progress, but still unsatisfied with what the school had to offer me.

I chose Temple because of all the opportunities it has within the Klein College of Media and Communication, and it fulfilled my desire to go to an out-of-state university. Living alone has taught me a lot about what I like and dislike, and how to be independent. Joining clubs has also allowed me to break out of my shell.

I feel more centered now than I have in years, consistently working toward the life I aspire to have and doing my best not to get discouraged along the way. At times I have felt so far behind it appeared impossible to move forward. I soon noticed growth in my ability to add structure and stability to my life by shifting my mindset.

I can confidently say I am choosing change this year at Temple, and paired with a new environment and determination, the opportunities are both limitless and possible. 

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