Nina Walker Illustration
Illustration by Nina Walker

Carving Out Their Place

By Natalie Comfort

For most students, the transition into LBSU has a learning curve, not only academically, but also financially and socially. For some, such as transfer, international, and mature students, the learning curve is often steeper. These students are often juggling complicated credit transfer policies, adjusting to a foreign country, or balancing multiple jobs while trying to make friends in a new environment. Unfortunately, with the advent of online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, some of the social barriers that nontraditional students face have been compounded. Adequate social support, both from other students and faculty, makes a huge difference in how well these students handle unique challenges. The perspectives of nontraditional students offer unique feedback on how LBSU’s resources help, where they need work, and how the ‘college experience’ doesn’t look the same for everyone.

For Marina Ilic, an international student from Sweden, her first semester has come with a basketful of new responsibilities to handle. She was introduced to LBSU through her study abroad agency in Sweden and decided it was right for her because of its proximity to the beach, beautiful campus, and the area’s diversity. So far, those aspects have been what she has hoped: “What I've enjoyed the most is probably the close proximity to the beach… there is something to do or places/restaurants/shops/malls around every corner. If you want to get out and do something you always have options. I like that it isn’t too far to drive to Newport or Huntington so that you can discover new places.” Although at times she has felt “overwhelmed with moving so far away, living alone for the first time, and also having a lot of school work”, she finds the resources offered to students have helped her, citing study groups, office hours, and major specific support groups.

Managing academics, especially with the complications of transfer credits and major specific requirements, are often struggles for transfer students to navigate. For Stephanie Corado, a senior who transferred to LBSU last year from Pasadena City College, she remembers how nervous she was about arranging her schedule to graduate without too many speed-bumps. She felt relieved when advisors reached out to help her, making her class choices less of a challenge. But forming a social support network was not a similarly seamless experience: “One thing about school I enjoyed was meeting new people and having all classes on zoom made it difficult to get to know classmates or make study groups.” As most students transfer after their second year, the time constraint of only being at a college for two years makes it difficult to find a community before graduating. Still, Corado says, “I’m just thankful that I at least got to experience the campus in person before I graduated and got to know some of my classmates and professors.”

Another transfer student, Isabella Terrazes, who is now in her third semester at LBSU, described a disconnect in people’s expectations of her and her own experiences: “I feel like I’m new and still learning how to do things like a lot of freshmen.” Since she completed many GEs while in highschool through her local community college, she was able to transfer in as a sophomore. During her first year at LBSU, online classes were the only options so she didn’t make many friends. Now that campus has opened up, she enjoys going to the tabletop board-game club and spending time at the wellness center swimming, weight lifting, and rock-climbing. When reflecting on whether she has found community this semester, Terrazes answered, “I think I’m beginning to, it was definitely a really big adjustment but I have high hopes that the longer I’m here the more I’ll settle.”

The sentiment of not fitting in with the demographic of your classes is also expressed by students who are outside of the standard age range of the average college student. At 25, Cody Messerer, a business major graduating this year, often finds himself in classes with students who are several years younger than him. Although he was originally going to community college full time while working full time, he decided to switch to part-time when he began having health struggles due to stress. Being responsible for himself financially since 17, he didn’t have the option to stop working so he decided to take a step back.

However, taking his time with college has given him more clarity on what he wants to do for his career. Unlike plenty of college graduates who go into a field entirely different from what bachelor’s was in, Messerer feels confident he will use his degree and work experience in his future career. Through LBSU’s job fairs, mentorship programs, and corporate membership programs he has found it “easier to connect to those who have similar goals.” His advice for students in similar positions to him or those who are struggling to balance everything reflects the perspective that life experiences bring: “There’s no need to rush through college right away, if you feel burnt out do not hesitate to take a break, college will still be there.”

Although nearly 38,000 students take classes at LBSU every semester, each student’s experience will be individual. For nontraditional students, who often have to go out of their way to integrate into the LBSU community while managing other responsibilities, they often leave with distinct experiences.