Transfer students reflect on starting Temple during COVID-19

Students are concerned about making friends and finding ways to get involved with clubs and organizations in a virtual semester.

Nicole Washington, a transfer junior public health major, stands in the O'Connor Plaza on Nov. 10. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Nicole Washington always wanted to go to Temple University. 

After attending the Community College of Philadelphia for five years, she transferred this fall and is struggling with some of her online classes being asynchronous, since she never took virtual classes before.

“It’s a love-hate relationship,” said Washington, a junior biology major. 

With almost all classes being held virtually for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters, transfer students face a unique challenge in the already difficult task of starting their first semester at a new school: doing it in an online world. The normal awkwardness of meeting students, joining clubs and settling into a new environment has been compounded by the barriers in connecting with peers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some transfer students asked for a refund for the Fall 2020 semester rather than enrolling because they did not want to take online classes, said Christina Figueroa, associate director for transfer admissions. 

“Some students that were supposed to come decided not to come because of COVID and that it’s online,” Figueroa added. “They didn’t take any classes.”

This semester, Temple admitted 1,793 undergraduate transfer students, wrote Rich Hetherington, director of data analysis and reporting at the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, in an email to The Temple News.

This is down from 2,210 transfer students admitted in Fall 2019, according to the university factbook. 

Zoe Gwalthney transferred from Chestnut Hill College this semester after deciding to go to Temple because she liked that it was a larger school and located in Philadelphia. But, she’s struggled with her online classes and not living near campus, she said. 

“Dealing with being a new student and taking online classes is difficult because my professors are all over the place,” Gwalthney, a junior human resources major. “But online learning is new for them too. This is all new for us.”

Gwalthney said she feels better knowing that students are dealing with the same situations. By talking to other transfer students in the Temple Transfer Facebook group, she feels less alone. 

“One of our goals is to meet each other in person,” Gwalthney said. “We got to know each other, and we all feel the same. We all feel disappointed.”

Like many students, Gawlthney had to abandon her plans of moving to Philadelphia and meeting new people on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She lives with a roommate in Abington, Pennsylvania, to stay closer to her family, she said. 

Selena Williams, a junior social work major transferred from Community College of Philadelphia this semester. She has had a “very rough semester so far,” because she was late registering for her classes and had to learn how to use Zoom, she said. 

“I needed to learn how to use Zoom, which was very hard in the beginning, but now I am used to it,” added Williams. “This is a challenging process.”

Williams thinks Temple’s decision to hold most classes online with some in person components in the spring can help students who prefer hands-on learning, but she plans to take all online classes again for her own health, she said.

Gwalthney has struggled to get involved with organizations and clubs at Temple, she said. While she is a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, a student organization for business students, she has struggled to find the balance between online learning and her desire to get involved this semester, she added.

She watches club meetings after they are held because her schedule conflicts with the group’s original Zoom meetings, Gwalthney said.

“It is extremely conflicting with my schedule to go to their meetings,” Gwalthney added. “I don’t feel involved. This is very frustrating.”

Washington has made some friends, but she’s looking forward to joining organizations to meet more people in the spring, she said. She hasn’t joined any organizations this semester because her work schedule conflicts with the times of the Zoom meetings for clubs she was interested in, she said.

“I would love to join clubs and meet new people,” Washington added. “But because everything is online, my work schedule is conflicting, it also doesn’t feel like I’m interacting with them.”

Gwalthney is hopeful that she can still meet new people on campus during the Spring 2021 semester. 

“I hope I can go down a few times down campus to check things out,” Gwalthney said. “I want to meet people from Temple’s Facebook Transfer club in person.”

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