Transfer Students Reflect on a Tumultuous Fall

by Meghan Powers | 11/18/20 2:15am

by Sophie Bailey / The Dartmouth

“I almost made it the whole term without being interviewed by The Dartmouth for being a transfer,” said Sevie Browne ’24, a transfer student from Tufts University. Alas, no such luck. Dartmouth saw 45 new transfers this fall, about three times as many as usual. 

The large transfer population is a result of a smaller freshman class, likely due to more students than usual taking gap years. But adjustment for transfer students hasn’t always been easy this term. Aside from the fact that hardly any sophomores are on campus, Dartmouth’s current COVID-19 regulations make it difficult to socialize with anyone outside of your dorm. For Sofia Ratkevich ’23, that poses a unique problem.

“I’m almost positive I’m the only [transfer] in my dorm,” Ratkevich said. 

With all the students who have either been forced to leave campus or gone home of their own volition, Ratkevich said there’s only one other student left on her floor. Socializing with floormates has always been an easy and convenient way to meet people at Dartmouth. Now, it’s more difficult. 

“The fact that minor rules can get you removed from campus is infantilizing and anxiety-provoking,” Browne said.

Browne noted that her previous institution, Tufts, has similar regulations — but has instituted a cohort system for socializing and has not “criminalized” students by kicking them off campus.

Ratkevich also drew a contrast between Dartmouth’s handling of the pandemic and the policies of her old school, Syracuse University. Until a recent spike in cases, Syracuse’ had been able to offer a larger proportion of in-person classes, allowing for more interaction between students. 

Both Browne and Ratkevich say they’re glad to be on campus in spite of the rules. 

“This term being what it was, with so few ’23s here and so few social opportunities — the fact that I’m still comparably happier this term than I was at my previous college I think says a lot,” Browne said. “I really like the environment of Dartmouth and I really think it’s only going to go up from here. And I still had a really great time.”

Both agree, however, that the onus was mainly on transfer students to find people with whom to socialize.

“I think Dartmouth isn’t used to having transfers. I know in the past there have only been a couple each year,” Ratkevich said. “I think as an administration they have a bit of work to do if they want to continue bringing in more kids, because there hasn’t been as much of a support network.”

Browne, who was the only transfer student in her orientation group, said she felt similarly. She said that without any initiative from the College to bring transfers together or schedule meetings with the transfer class, it was hard for the transfers to achieve any kind of group cohesion. 

“I think this 40-something-person group had such incredible potential to really be a fantastic and warm community, and it didn’t happen,” Browne said.

Jacqui Byrne ’22 transferred to Dartmouth last year, and was one of only a handful of transfers in her class. She said that is grateful that her transition to Dartmouth came before COVID-19. 

“I’m very glad I don’t have to try and meet people under the circumstances of the pandemic. That would be super stressful. Especially coming to a new college, I can’t even imagine,” Byrne said. “I really feel for them, and all transfers I’ve talked to have said it’s hard, but they’re trying to make the best of it.” 

Byrne’s biggest piece of advice for transfers is to reach out to people as much as possible, even given the current limitations. A socially distant coffee, for example, can be as good a way to socialize as any. 

Still, Byrne said she recognizes that Dartmouth isn’t the same place that most students know and love. The spontaneous interactions that usually occur throughout the term are just not possible during the pandemic. 

Ratkevich feels similarly. She joked that she’s only been in two Dartmouth buildings this term. However, she and Browne are both optimistic about the future, and about living on campus when things go back to normal. 

“I’m anxiously looking forward to [the future]. I think it’s going to be nice to just be around other ’23s,” Browne said.

Ratkevich seemed to agree. “It’s all anyone talks about — how nice it is here normally.”