Corina Beimers—Staff Writer
As I prepared to walk out the front door of my house on the first day of kindergarten, my dad knelt down, looked into my eyes, and said, “Love, include, encourage.”
As I grew up, he continued to repeat those words as my sisters and I left for school. I know I didn’t understand the weight of those three words when I was five years old. I don’t think I understood them as I graduated high school.
I’m a senior at Dordt. In a little over a month, I’m going to dress up in a cap and gown and walk across the stage of the B.J. Haan Auditorium, receive my degree, and shake the hand of President Hoekstra. I’m going to be congratulated by friends and family. I will be an alumnus rather than a student and this four-year chapter of my life will end.
And now, I think I finally know the importance of the three words my dad repeated each morning.
After COVID-19 decided to turn my life upside down—as it did to a lot of people—I transferred to Dordt University for my junior year in the fall of 2020. The decision brought nerves of the unknown, but it also brought the same excitement I experienced at the beginning of my freshman year.
However, as I moved in and started classes, I felt the full force of the struggles that transferring brings, and any excitement that once existed was quickly forgotten.
It’s no secret that transferring comes packaged with hardships regardless of where one is coming from or where they are going, but it’s a whole other experience when they are entering the Dordt community. I have discovered I am not alone.
Dakota Klein is a senior from Hillsboro, Kansas. After his freshman year at Tabor College, he transferred to Dordt. Similar to my own story, Klein remembered feeling the hopeful potential of a new school despite knowing he made good friendships at Tabor that, to this day, run deep.
“I have not experienced friendship in the way I thought I would, in the way I wanted,” Klein said. “I have great friends now, but it took me about three years to get them, and it was a really rough transition.”
The feeling of isolation remains a struggle for transfers. While most students have formed friendships since their freshman year, if not earlier, transfer students most often arrive alone.
Ellie Voss, a senior who transferred this fall from California Baptist University, describes her experience as unexpectedly frustrating.
“I was told that it was this great, tight knit community, and then I got here, and it was exactly that, but in the worst way possible,” Voss said. “It was tight knit, but it was impossible to break in. And it feels like every other transfer that I’ve met feels this way.”
While plenty of people consider Dordt to be a kind, welcoming place, others experience exclusivity within the student body. I have spent a whole day of classes talking to nobody. I have been lost in conversations about topics that were supposedly common Dordt knowledge.
For those who don’t have a connection to the community or the Christian Reformed Churches, it can feel as though they don’t belong.
“I felt this weird sense of culture shock and loneliness,” Klein said. “My mental health started to struggle, and I started not getting sleep at all.”
So, why is it so hard? Dordt prides itself on how it welcomes incoming freshmen, and so they should. Between the Week of Welcome, CORE-100, and other events put in place for freshmen, immersing oneself in Dordt as a freshman is easier.
Meanwhile, I didn’t know how Defender Dollars worked for the entirety of my first semester. I left a half hour early for each of my classes on my first day because I didn’t know where they were located. I ate in my room alone every day because I didn’t know how the Grille worked. Nobody had shown me.
There’s a lack of a system in place for the struggles that transfer students inevitably go through. We are a small minority on at Dordt, but support and investment that extends beyond an orientation or information packet is needed. We shouldn’t assume students are known.
Sometimes, transfers will be confused about where their classes are. Sometimes, they won’t attend events to make friends because they won’t have friends to begin with. And sometimes, nobody will check in on them.
As I leave Dordt, I have lots of things I am thankful for. Though it took time, I have friends who mean the world to me, and I know my experiences—both good and bad—led to growth. There are beautiful things about this place I have learned to appreciate.
However, I want you to hear the voices of transfer students. They may be going through a traumatic event or may be mourning a college or a friend they left. I don’t use these words lightly. I use them because I want you to recognize that change is needed on this campus.
Love, include, encourage.