Britt: Feeling displaced after transferring to a new college

Imposter syndrome is defined as being, “the persistent inability to believe one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.” - Multimedia Editor / Drew Peltzman

When I graduated high school in 2021, I thought I had it all figured out. I was ready to commit myself wholly and completely to the university I had chosen, no matter the cost. Fast forward two years and now I’m in my junior year at Rowan. It is the third college I have attended. At this point, being a transfer student has nearly become a part of my identity.

Every conversation with someone new builds towards a dramatic confession. That I am not one of them. I have not been here from the beginning. I am an invasive species on their campus and in their classrooms. What adds to this is confessing where I transferred from, a community college. While this is not uncommon or something to be ashamed of by any means, there is a stigma that surrounds the words. I say it in a whisper, almost as if I say it too loudly, I’ll scare them away. Statistics from Cross River Therapy show that approximately 41% of all undergraduate students in the United States are enrolled in a community college. 

Along with the changes that come from transferring to a new school like learning where your classes are, the parking situation, or getting used to a new routine, come emotional changes and challenges as well. For me, that has been dealing with feelings of imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome is defined as being, “the persistent inability to believe one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.” Additionally, a 2019 study done by Brigham Young University revealed that 20% of college students experience feelings of imposter syndrome. 

While I know that I am not alone in what I feel, it does not quiet the voices telling me I’m not enough, making me feel undeserving of where I am. 

There is something terrifying about entering a room and knowing it is exactly where you want to be. A voice inside of you urges you to run back to something safe, comfortable, and stagnant. No room for growth means there is no room for failure, and failure is essentially something straight out of my nightmares. It lives in my closet and haunts me at night. 

My time at community college was not necessarily one for academic or personal growth. I took the classes I needed to take, skated by where I could, got my Associate, and got out. I did not seize the opportunities the campus had to offer me, and I never took the time to look. I was perfectly comfortable going to class and going home, keeping my personal life and school life entirely separate. 

When it was time to move on from this little pond and out into the world, I was excited to see what Rowan would have to offer me. I was ready to push myself academically and put myself out there socially. I refused to feel like a little fish in a big pond. 

When I walked into the Art Gallery building on 301 High Street and immediately felt welcomed by students and professors, an alarm sounded in my body and a thought made itself at home in my head: You do not belong here. 

A lump forms in my throat at the thought of being encouraged and accepted in a space where I am truly passionate about what I am learning. I have loved writing for as long as I can remember, and it has always been the only thing I’ve wanted to do. It is something I hold so dearly that I’ve never let those closest to me read my personal writing. I am unable to hold my beating heart in front of them and ask them to take it into their own hands. 

So in a moment when I knew I was surrounded by like-minded people, those feelings of self-doubt became a full-blown beast in my mind– roaring that everyone else around me was more qualified to be there, that someone like myself had no place trying to fit in. Like a corny Scooby Doo villain, my mask would be ripped off and I would be locked away for my crimes.

There is something nearly painful in realizing that you have gotten to a place where you can only learn, grow, and become better. A place where any potential you have will bloom into something beautiful. That all of your work has brought you here. It is that yearning that is so forceful it turns itself into something ugly. 

Although these feelings linger, the more time I spend on campus, with my peers, and participating in class, I feel less like a transfer student and more like a student. Someone who belongs, and deserves to make space for themselves and their voice. As young people navigating the world, isn’t that all we really want? A space to be heard? Someone to hear us scream and cry and pour our hearts out about how we feel like we don’t belong anywhere? 

Thank you for listening to me pour my heart out. I hope you feel like you can, too. 

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