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Making ConnectionsHSAC’s First Alumni Fishbowl: Transitioning from LaGuardia to a 4-Year College/University

by Michael Piero

 

On January 9th, LaGuardia’s Honors Student Advisory Committee (HSAC) held its first ever Alumni Fishbowl at the Poolside Cafe.  Spearheaded by HSAC Executive Member, Alex Perez, the event’s purpose was to have current LaGuardia students hear the pros and cons of being a transfer student from alumni who have already matriculated into a number of four-year universities such as: Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, Syracuse University and Cornell University. 

 

The event drew close to thirty students who were eager to learn from their former classmates exactly what to expect when taking the next step in their academic careers. Rafael Tejada, Adrienn Miklos, Luis Lei, Aaron Hudson, Sasheen Pottinger and Kate Fay, the six alumni participants, shared advice, do’s and do not’s and other valuable information you won’t get in your typical college brochure.  Of the many subjects touched upon, two seemed to dominate the narrative and overall discussion, and provided insight valuable 

to the typical community college student: What you should expect from being significantly older than your peers, and the typical course load expected at 4-year universities.

 

During the fishbowl discussion, Alex, the organizer and host, asked: “What major challenges did you face?”  The alumni, who were seated in a circle, passed the microphone to one and another as they all made the same observation: Time management is everything.  Rafael, who graduated from LaGuardia in spring of 2012 and subsequently transferred to Sarah Lawrence College, said, “I took three seminars and it was like I took six classes at once.  During the final two weeks, I was so stressed trying to finish; I wish I would have started earlier.”  One by one, the alumni shared their stories, and each concurred that dealing with the heavier course load isn’t about one’s ability; it’s all about time management and not becoming complacent with due dates, no matter how far away they seem.

 

The discussion then transitioned into another significant aspect of the transfer experience: being the older student in classes surrounded by younger peers who took the more traditional approach to schooling.  Sasheen, who graduated from LaGuardia in spring of 2009 and subsequently transferred to Cornell University, noted that she is not naturally sociable, and so she had initial concerns about failing to find friends of her age.  However, she said she eventually made friends with whom she ended up sharing into a dorm room, but she admitted making such connections wasn’t exactly easy in a school of twenty thousand students.

 

At the end of the fishbowl discussion, the alumni were available to talk individually with students who were interested in their respective school, or just interested in getting general information about the transfer experience.  I chose to speak with Rafael, who, at twenty-nine years old, is close to my own age.  I was interested in finding out the experience of dorming with someone significantly younger than myself.  Rafael, who initially moved into the typical quad-style dorms, shared a room with someone nine years younger than himself.  When I asked him about some of the problems he faced, he said, “My dorm-mate was a good kid, but he was a little messy, so I just had to keep telling him to clean up.”  Rafael politely expressed only minor concern with his roommate, but I could tell he felt out of place in this situation.  He has made the decision to move off campus, and commute to Sarah Lawrence.  Along with insights on the academic load and demands, and navigating a 4-year college, being able to speak with alumni about such day-to-day and personal issues that arise when one transfers was invaluable.  Ultimately, the Alumni Fishbowl gave me a better grasp of the multi-layered issues that a community college student transferring into a four-year school will face.