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The Dartmouth
April 24, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Begin Again: Adjusting to a New College for the Second Time

Two transfer students and a dual-degree student talk about their transition into the Dartmouth community.

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As a freshman, the closest I have gotten to experiencing spring in New Hampshire is through second-hand stories from my upperclassman friends. During the dreary and cold winter, I used to imagine the Dartmouth they told me about, picturing myself soaking up the sun on the Green or paddling down the Connecticut River in between classes. Like me, many transfer and dual-degree students who arrived this fall also wait in anticipation to witness Hanover's spring blossoming for the first time. As the days grow longer and the weather begins to warm, I spoke to transfer and dual-degree students about their hopes for spring term and reflections on their past year at Dartmouth. 

Caitlin Doak ’24, a transfer student from UCLA, said she hopes the term will bring warm weather reminiscent of her days in California. Doak matriculated at Dartmouth this fall, and although she said she loved Los Angeles, the beach and her friends, she explained that in high school, Dartmouth was her first choice during her application process. 

She submitted her transfer application in March 2022 at the last minute —  just three hours before the deadline — but once she got in, there was no turning back.

“Once I make a decision, I just stick with it,” Doak explained.

Similar to Doak, Ed Park ’24 also transferred from UCLA, though he had different motivations. After his freshman year, Park spent two years in the South Korean military, and when he returned to UCLA, he said he felt out-of-touch with the school. 

“By the time I came back, the dynamic had kind of shifted in terms of friend groups,” he said. “[My friends] were seniors, and some of them were even working. I thought a change of scenery would be nice, so I applied to transfer.”

The engineering dual-degree program, which is run through Thayer, allows students from other liberal arts colleges to spend two years at Dartmouth to attain a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Dartmouth on top of a bachelor’s degree from their home college in just five years. 

One such student is Remi Kauderer ’25, who spent her first two years of school at Vassar College and is now attending Dartmouth for her third year. Next year, she will return to Vassar for year four before returning to Dartmouth for her fifth and final year. 

“I was really nervous about coming here initially,” Kauderer said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know anyone — I don’t really know what year I even fit into.”

Kauderer added that despite her worries before arriving, she quickly connected with fellow dual-degree students at Dartmouth. She met her two closest friends — also in the dual-degree program —  on her first day. After forming a small network, Kauderer said the three of them expanded their social circle.

“Initially, I think first meeting people within my program helped, and then us three started branching out and meeting more people,” she explained. “I feel like everyone is really welcoming.” 

Doak also said that the social transition to Dartmouth also felt smooth. 

“At first, I had to be the one to initiate a lot of interactions,” Doak said. “But once you start to put yourself in those uncomfortable situations of not knowing a lot of people — because Dartmouth is a tight knit community — then [people] are really accepting.” 

Doak said she quickly established friendships on campus, in large part due to her membership in her Greek house. She explained that because she was part of a nationally recognized sorority at UCLA, she was able to join the Dartmouth chapter of the organization without needing to go through the recruitment process again.

Although Doak said she appreciated not having to rush a second time, she also noted that there are some downsides to missing out on rush, especially as a new transfer student looking to embrace Dartmouth culture.

“I don’t think that Dartmouth is very used to having transfers that also transfer [Greek] houses,” Doak said. “You get there and it’s like, ‘Oh, who’s that random person,’ but once you make that first step it’s really nice.” 

For Kauderer, joining a Greek organization at Dartmouth also provided an opportunity for her to meet students outside the dual-degree program. 

“My rush process was really good — I wasn’t stressed about it because I didn’t know anything about it, so there weren’t any stakes involved,” Kauderer said. “I think with the sorority and social events, everyone is just really welcoming.”

When asked how she feels about this being her last term at Dartmouth for a year, Kauderer said “it’s bittersweet.” She said she hopes to spend her free time swimming at the river, hiking and enjoying the weather once it gets warmer.

“I’m excited to go back to Vassar and I have really great friends there, but I know that when I come back [to Dartmouth] it’s just going to be even better than I remember,” Kauderer said. 

By forming friendships with people in smaller social settings — whether it be an athletic team, club, or Greek space — these transfer students immersed themselves in Dartmouth’s culture by connecting to students with similar interests. 

Park said he also found community through Greek life, as well as in organizations for international students and Korean students.

“I like spending my time with people that are of a similar background as me,” Park said. “I’m a Korean, international student who also lived in Singapore, so for me, my communities are the Korean community, people who studied in Singapore and Greek Life.”

Transfer and dual-degree students face the challenge of starting a new college not once, but twice, and the challenge is heightened by the fact that the class they entered has already shared at least a year together. 

It can be hard to be an outsider, but Doak said the outcomes are well worth the effort. She advised transfer students to put themselves out there even if it seems scary. 

“Put yourself in the uncomfortable situations even if you’re just standing there, and you don’t know a group of people… it’s just something that you have to do to get involved and really understand the culture,” she advised. “No one thinks it’s weird.” 

Whether you're a first-year hoping to make friends, or a senior making a final effort to bond with others before graduation, we can all learn from transfer students. Place yourself in those uncomfortable positions — you’ll never know who you’ll meet.

Correction Appended (April 11, 11:30 p.m.): A previous version of this article included a quote that has been removed for clarity. 


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