Story By: Allie Kawata
When senior psychology major Morgan Stewart first came to Chapman as a freshman, no one warned her about the unique dissonance between her high school and college experiences that came from being an Orange County local.
“When I came here, I felt like I was in this ghost town of past high school life,” said Stewart.
In some ways it seemed like the college transition was made more difficult with the clash of past and present. After a semester, Stewart’s discomfort was enough for her to transfer away from Chapman, to Seattle Pacific University—and then again to a community college in Orange County. However, she returned to Chapman during her sophomore year.
“When I came back, it was a really hard, weird transition,” said Stewart. “I felt like people wouldn’t remember me, stuff like that. I didn’t feel [completely] included until junior year.”
Most students probably don’t have this kind of lengthy transfer experience, but some seniors expressed similar sentiments when it came to fitting in at Chapman, saying it took until sophomore or junior year for them to feel totally comfortable.
After the excitement of picking a college during senior year of high school, you might think that when you finally end up at your college of choice, you'll settle in right away—but that’s not necessarily the case.
For senior Crisca Papatheodorou, feeling comfortable at Chapman took a change of major in her sophomore year from biology to business administration.
“I felt like I fit in once I found the business major since it was something that was actually interesting to me,” said Papatheodorou. But oddly enough, hearing her friends’ experiences at other schools, especially large public universities, is what really helped solidify her choice of school.
“My friend at Berkeley, she was talking about how there are 800 kids in her lecture hall. I thought, ‘Oh my god, I would die,’” said Papatheodorou. “Normal lectures are 300 [people], that’s something they always do… So this really makes me appreciate Chapman.”
Senior health sciences major Ivana Kalika said she didn’t start to feel comfortable at Chapman until junior year.
“I started a semester late and then commuted for a year, so I feel like I didn’t get the chance to really start assimilating until my junior year…since I moved close to campus,” said Kalika. Whether you’re commuting from home or living on campus, it can be difficult to feel included on campus without getting involved in extracurricular activities.
“I think if you’re not involved in a lot of clubs and stuff, if you’re not proactive about it, it could be a little harder for you [to fit in],” said Papatheodorou, who has lived on campus for all four of her years at Chapman. When she reflected on her own experiences, she thought she “probably should’ve been more active and involved.”
Kalika expressed a similar feeling. “I wish that I had participated in more of the events and groups that Chapman has to offer,” she said.
Getting involved on campus has a huge influence on students’ feelings of comfort in college, according to Dean of Students Jerry Price.
“The biggest factor that influences when you feel [like a part of your university] is if you feel like you have a cluster of people that are really close to you and matter to you,” said Dean Price. “No one feels like part of a university individually. They feel like it because of some kind of sub-community that becomes their definition of what Chapman, and ‘home,’ means to [them].”
But some students are glad they weren’t overly involved in campus activities. Senior creative writing major Emily Beaver said that during college, she made an effort not to stress herself out with too many extracurricular activities, instead choosing to focus on just a couple activities she was passionate about.
“Part of me wondered somewhere into junior year if I should have regretted that – not being more involved, that is – but I can't bring myself to think so,” said Beaver. For some people, she thought, the best college experience might come from being “as connected to their campus as possible,” but this wasn’t the case for her.
“I think I got out of Chapman exactly what I needed to grow…and that’s more than enough for me,” she said.
This approach worked out for the best for Stewart. After transferring so many times, focusing on those few activities helped her feel more satisfied at Chapman.
“Everyone’s journey goes at a different pace, and has a different timeline,” she said. “I have no regrets.”
Changing colleges is a huge decision that most students don’t ever have to make. For some students, though, it quickly becomes clear that their current school is the wrong place for them.
Here are Chapman students on the moment they realized they wanted to leave their former schools.
“I literally had a teacher read a Wikipedia article to us one day in class,” said Morgan Stewart, a senior psychology major. She had transferred away after spending a semester at Chapman, so when this happened, she knew that “this is not how college [was] supposed to be.”
Junior psychology major Anika Javaid said that her main problem was how large her former university was. “There were at least 500 kids in each of my classes…Getting an appointment with an advisor was virtually impossible. They had walk-in hours, but then there’d be like 30 other students who were ahead of you somehow.”
Senior health sciences major Ivana Kalika expressed similar sentiments. At community college said, “there’s so many people that there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the classes you need.” Even though it’s supposed to be a two-year associate’s degree, she said, “your education might be extended for years.”
Melissa Palma, a junior psychology major, had an issue that hit a little closer to home. “I wanted to attend a school with a strong sense of community where I felt at home,” she said, “and my old school just did not have that.”