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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Transfer students report struggle for community despite sixfold increase in transfers

Mathylda Dulian | Photographer
Junior transfer student Normand Bayigamba smiles in Kogan Plaza.

Jesse Mutamba stepped onto campus in August for the first time since being admitted, surrounded by first-year students wearing Class of 2027 T-shirts. He said New Student Orientation would have been great if only he wasn’t a transfer student.

Mutamba, a junior who transferred from Montgomery College last semester, is one of 274 students who transferred to GW for the fall 2023 semester, a sixfold increase from the 44 transfer students admitted in fall 2022, according to an enrollment update released in November. Despite the increase, more than a dozen transfer students said they had trouble finding community with each other — which they said would have made the adjustment to GW smoother — because events like New Student Orientation are catered toward incoming first-years.

Mutamba said he felt “isolated” at New Student Orientation, where he was the oldest person in his group. He said while students were given the run-down of GW, transfer students experienced orientation with first-year students instead of fellow transfers.

“I did feel out of place,” Mutamba said. “It seemed more like a freshman event than a new student event.”

Mutamba said he found it difficult to find mixers and events for transfer students. He said in the future, the University should make transfer student events more “obvious” so students like him have the opportunity to connect and find community through their shared experience.

“Making it a requirement to go to these events could allow transfer students to integrate more into the community and find people that are in the same boat as them,” Mutamba said. “If I wasn’t an extroverted person, I feel like I would have definitely kept to myself.”

Mutamba said he was only able to “integrate” into the GW community because of friends he already had at GW. He said he wasn’t aware of the GW Transfer Student Organization but that knowing about it would have made his transition to the University a lot easier.

“It’s a lot of independent work that you would have to do for yourself as a transfer student,” Mutamba said.

Niha Ramesh, a sophomore who participated in the 2022-23 GW Paris Scholars Program and transferred to GW last fall, said the independent nature of students at GW was part of feeling isolated from campus.

“People that I meet here are already so set in their routine that it’s hard to find people that are looking for new opportunities to socialize and make new friends,” Ramesh said. “I guess that would be the main barrier.”

Ramesh said in her second semester at GW, she doesn’t feel like she is a part of the student body yet because the campus feels more “individualized than community.”

Cecilia Palumbo, a sophomore who transferred last semester from the University of Pittsburgh, said GW lacks a uniting element to bring the community together compared to Pitt, where the students rally around the university’s football team.

“I don’t think there’s really one thing that brings kids together,” Palumbo said. “Now that the basketball team is doing amazing and everyone wants to go see them play, that has definitely made the community a little bit stronger than what people have said in the past.”

She said orientation is typically where new students form friend groups for the first time but since New Student Orientation combines first-years and transfers, there is not as much of an opportunity for transfers to meet people their own age.

“There wasn’t really much of a separation between being a transfer student and already having like a year under your belt and being slightly older,” Palumbo said. “You’re not 17, 18, you’re 19, 20, which makes a difference.”

She said going into the spring, she feels more included in the community but plans to focus more on making friends this semester.

Rithik Adiani, a sophomore who transferred from Hobart College last semester to be closer to home and his future career goals, said there was one transfer student event during New Student Orientation hidden in the programming schedule but that there was no email specifically sent to transfer students about it. He said there weren’t many attendees at the event, but he made some of his closest friends at GW by going.

He said there should be a separate orientation for transfer students to help establish a community amongst transfers and avoid repeating first-year orientation for a second time.

“At my last school they had one of those where the transfers came in at the same time as the freshmen, but they just did their own things so I feel like it would be better,” Adiani said. “Again, if you go to the events, it’s good but if you don’t, then that’s when it gets difficult.”

Aly McCormick, a junior who transferred from American University last semester, said she wishes the University grouped transfer students during orientation to better cater to their experience.

“I wish that they made the orientation, at least for transfer students, a little more focused on the transfer experience, because I ended up with a lot of people who were like two years younger than me, which isn’t a bad thing, but we were at different phases in life,” McCormick said.

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