A Day in the Life of a Transfer Student
I’m not sure how I feel about perpetuating the “transfer” student label, but for the purposes of this article, I am embracing it.
For me, the choice to transfer was surely a difficult one. It was a surprisingly harder task than I expected to leave the great small section friends I met at uOttawa (where I completed the first year of my J.D. degree) and move from a city I grew to love. I remember one summer day thinking I should stay, and the next day thinking I should go. This state of flux continued into my first month, and is accurately described by a fellow transfer student as “struggling with the fact that you know you made the right decision, but regretting it from time to time”.
My first week at Queen’s (as is likely the case with the rest of the transfer group) was chock-full of reminding people that I was actually a 2L and not a 1L law school newbie. It’s probably unfair of me to say it was tiring to answer the inevitable “Why did you transfer here?”, since they were all asked out of innocent curiosity. After enduring this innocuous question four or five times a day in my first few weeks, my inner angsty high-school teen would answer: “Because I felt like it!”
I was shocked people remembered my name, but then remembered that it was exponentially more difficult for one person to remember hundreds of new names than the other way around. My first task was to add people on Facebook and start putting faces to names, and names to faces. I spent the first few weeks at Queen’s Law by pursuing liquor-induced courage to say ‘hi’ to people I’d met at the smokers the nights before, though I sometimes failed. I intended to seek out the flexible friendly groups that would accept me as their own, until I realized that there was already so much overlap in friend groups. Among all the more or less solidified friendships of 2L, I thought I would be a fly on the wall as I watched those relationships get stronger while I helplessly navigated my way through the social maze; but I was happy to know that there were people making a concerted effort to get to know me, which I didn’t expect.
“Why did you transfer here?”
As another transfer student put it, “to be honest the first word that comes to my mind is ‘invisible’”. You’ve got to really put yourself out there and force people to give a fuck (which some of you guys are good at). But it’s like the default state is invisible and you have to do something about it”. Given my varying degrees of social anxiety, dependent on the environment, I had to embrace the feeling that straddled the line between invisibility and enhanced visibility. I did try to change that default state, by joining clubs and going to smokers in an attempt to integrate. Not much changed the fact that I was a ‘new kid’ amongst hundreds of people who had become more or less well-acquainted with each other during first year. For lack of a less crude analogy, I felt a little bit like a caged zoo animal. As a ‘new transfer kid’, people see you, might know your name and where you’re from, but may be apprehensive to step through those metaphorical cage bars. It was, however, nice to gain comfort from fellow students that even at this stage in the game, people were still trying to get to know each other. That helped diminish what I saw as a cavernous contrast between me and everyone else.
The social aspect of the transition phase may seem silly to focus on, but my view of law school is that it’s just as much about networking and developing your interpersonal skills as it is about grades. It was pleasant to know that I had opportunities outside of class to get to know so many wonderful people. And I must say, Queen’s Law, you really know how to party. Never have I met so many people who manage to surf through endless smoker hangovers, weekend trips and Homecoming debauchery, and still come to class, maintain good averages and bang through OCIs like the champs you are.
“…it’s like the default state is invisible and you have to do something about it”
As time went on and 2L became more stressful than I could have ever predicted, I started to close up and became a homebody. With the OCI process and my plan to bite off more than I could chew with extracurriculars to pad my resume, first semester put a small dent in my networking capacities. The hardest part of my first semester as a transfer was to make that decision to try and party less and study more, and simultaneously to put friend-making on hold. I’m sure I lost some potential friendships there, but it was a risk I took.
Aside from the social aspect, Queen’s Law gets many thumbs up. The administrative staff at the faculty gets my gold seal of approval. It was nice to know there were people here to ease the transition, people who were very sensitive to the unique experiences of a transfer student. I felt comfortable sitting in Helen Connop’s office to have what felt like a casual fireside chat, an experience that gives credence to the apt “law mom” nickname she has garnered. The transition difficulties were softened with the access to a great number of resources offered to help with things ranging from resume development to mock interviews. Despite that, even still I felt at a slight disadvantage to the rest of the students. For example, getting reference letters to apply for summer jobs is a daunting task when you don’t have easily accessible 1L Queen’s professors to harass. There were some inevitable obstacles in selecting courses, such as being unable to apply for the valuable Queen’s law clinics or not being able to get advice on highly recommended courses. However, I got lucky in that many of my required 1L courses at uOttawa satisfied a good few of the required components for Queen’s, so I had the freedom to choose among a variety of really interesting courses.
With all that being said, I am more than happy with my decision to transfer to Queens. With time, ‘the transfer student’ label will turn into ‘the 2L or 3L student’. And while you do send me too many goddamn emails through listserv, I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the daily dose of cheeky humour and enthusiasm for Queen’s law life.
Rachel Verboom (2L) is a Staff Writer for Juris Diction.