Case for Transfer?





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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Case for Transfer?
By Ticklemepink (Ticklemepink) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 06:08 pm: Edit

For some reason, I couldn't post this under "College Admissions" so I thought I'd try it here since people tend to read both threads...


I am only a starting freshman at a LAC.

Everything's just okay here, just a lot of busy work. Social life is good. I DON'T love it but the atmosphere is fine for me. I mean, I can maange. It's really hard to make this my OWN place sometimes because my family has connections and long history with the college. Is it even normal for your mom to be 2x more excited than you about your own college?!?! Every time she gets all so excited aboout something and gets involved (like talking to my RA in depth about our connections on my first day of moving in- I wanted her to shut up and let me do the talking) and that makes me feel that I shouldn't even be here, my mom should. Not me. I can't just get excited to that level.

While searching for courses to take next semester with study abroad in mind, there are simply way too many courses that I want to take for my major outside of my college (I am in a five-college cosortium so we're allowed to go off campus and take courses). I am interested in studying Russian-Jewish history. I looked into two different majors: Russian Studies and History. There are not enough Russian-Jewish history courses to fillfull my needs at my college without meeting the max number of outside credits allowed. Russian Studies is more complicated and again, I'm facing the limit number of credits that I can take outside my own school even though through the whole cosortium, I can make the Russian studies major the way I really want to but again it's the limits. I've considered a self-designed major but I've heard that they'll just tell me to take Russian Studies and minor in Jewish studies. Blahhh I don't want to do that because I'm only interested in the history part of it, not the rest of the Jewish culture.

I just feel that the departments here are too small and the history department not focusing enough on Eastern Europe and Russia stuff. I like history and came wanting to be a history major with emphasis on Eastern Europe, Jews, and Russia. But I can't seem to get enoguh of depth in those areas. There are too many courses on Asia, Latin America, and Africa. I am also interested in International Relations as a minor with thoughts of perhaps being in US Foreign Service for the future.

Please don't suggest for me to keep my mind open to other majors because I've been interested in this stuff for a very long time and college is my opportunity to pursue my love.

Is this a good case for transfer? Or is it just simply too hard from a top 15 LAC?

Right now, if that is the case, then I'm worried about my SAT scores. (Awful!)


-slightly sad and frustrated

By Mstee (Mstee) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 06:16 pm: Edit

Seems like a good reason to transfer to me. Keep your grades up, that'll help.

By Alwaysamom (Alwaysamom) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 06:22 pm: Edit

I think it's a little early to think about transferring. Have you discussed your concerns with your academic advisor? Perhaps that might be the place to start and then you should have definitive information on what you can and can't do at your present college. Give it a try! I'm a little curious, if, as you say, you've been interested in this 'stuff' for a long time, why you didn't explore what type of classes this college offered in that major prior to accepting your offer of admission. Good luck!

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 06:35 pm: Edit

>> I've considered a self-designed major but I've heard that they'll just tell me to take Russian Studies and minor in Jewish studies. Blahhh I don't want to do that because I'm only interested in the history part of it, not the rest of the Jewish culture.

So major in Russian Studies and DON'T minor in Jewish Studies. Or major in History and minor in Russian Studies. Or major in History and DON'T minor in Russian Studies. None of that is going to impact the courses you decide to take and, once you finish college, NOBODY, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, will care what you majored in.

As for an Interest in Diplomatic Service, it wouldn't kill you to take a course on Asia, or Latin America, or the Middle East. Most people in foreign service don't get assigned to one country for their entire career!

Or, heck, take some political science courses. I think you would find several that deal with the Russian revolution through the fall of the Communist government.

For that matter, some Mid-East politics courses would be invaluable, given the role of Bin Laden fundamental Muslim extremism in modern Russian/Chechnian affairs -- extremism that is directly related to the decision by the Allies (including Russia) to seize Arab territory for the establishment of the state of Israel.

It's all good. And, aside from that, why are are you sitting in your room on a Friday night worrying about your major when you don't even have to declare one until almost two years from now!

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 06:37 pm: Edit

I think this is a really excellent reason to consider transferring, in time. Which 5-college setup are you in - Claremont? Or Smith/UMass/Amherst/Hampshire? Ah, got it -- see you are at Smith, in the house next to my d. I would have suggested you go talk to Justin Cammy at Smith - but I see he's on leave this term. (You might check up to see whether he, and his wife who teaches at Hampshire, are around town anyway - you might find an ally and friend, whether you stay or leave.) There are lots of resources there, National Yiddish Book Center, etc., though maybe still not enough. If your interests are really that specific, the LAC may simply not be enough.

Where do those resources exist? Harvard? Brandeis? Columbia? Penn? NYU? (I have no idea.)
At the lower levels, the courses you'll need to take will be very similar, but if you know this is what you want to do, it sounds like you'll need more.

If I were you, I'd try to figure WHOM (not where, but WHOM) you'd really like to be studying with. Then wait three months, and if you still have the bug, write him/her, and tell him/her about your problem, and ask for advice. You may or may not figure out where to go, but if you're lucky, you'll find a mentor, which could be even more important, regardless of where you happen to be studying.

You'll need top grades to transfer, obviously, but your reasons will be so crystal clear, your odds will be better than normal. Are you studying Yiddish? You are certainly going to need it (Russian, too.) Not too many places you can do that, of course. Smith happens to be one of them, strangely enough - is it offered this term?(I have a young friend studying Yiddish at the University of Washington.) A schedule of Russian, Yiddish, Russian history, and Jewish studies would be none-too-shabby! I know that ALL of these are available (and fine quality, too!) in the northeast 5-college system.

And Alwaysamom is right - you really should maximize the opportunities you have right now, and I'd go see your academic advisor ASAP. A top 15 LAC (in this case, Smith, but it would be true at any of them) not only has lots of "stuff", but actively wants their students to succeed.

(P.S. - I'm in the middle of the Selected Works of I.L. Peretz in the new series out of Yale, and I am so jealous of anyone who could read him in the original! This whole area is something I'd love to schmooze about, so if you want to write me privately, consider yourself invited. And my d. is a great fan of Peretz and I.B. Singer, so if you want to talk about them, she's on the third floor in Baldwin.)

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 07:13 pm: Edit

(P.S. If you are seriously into international relations - independent of the other questions -- you'll clearly have to go to something much larger -- Smith has more offerings in that area than any LAC I know, and combined with the Consortium, is as large as virtually any of the Ivy schools with the possible exception of Harvard. You've got me way confused in saying "there are so many courses I want to take outside my major next semester" -- sounds to me that you are suffering as much from an abundance of riches as from a lack of them.)

By Mstee (Mstee) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 07:45 pm: Edit

Mini--I think the OP said too many courses "for my major outside of my college . . ."

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 08:30 pm: Edit

Got it. Well, I still think this is solvable, but probably the main person Ticklemepink should talk to -- and who shares similar interests -- is officially on leave, as is another history prof who has specific research interests in Eastern European Jewry. There aren't too many places that offer a Russian Jewish history major outside of graduate school (if any), and, as already noted, the resource base for such a major (Russian, Yiddish, Russian studies, Jewish cultural studies, the National Yiddish Book Center, and some topflight faculty) exist at Smith/Five Colleges. But if it isn't enough (after she's kicked all the tires), she should find out where there's more, and go for it!

By Ticklemepink (Ticklemepink) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 09:43 pm: Edit

Thank you so much you guys for replying. You have truly made my night (There isn't much going on right now!).

Yes it is correct that I am at Smith (shhhhh don't tell the admissions office, because they really squeezed me through!). Right now I have a definite minor in International Relations and if I stay at Smith, then I will pursue the 5 College Certificate.

I am currently taking Russian to get a head start on my possible Russian Civ major and I would like to be able to study abroad. I have my courses planned out already (I'm such a geek but I know some other first years who are so enthuastic that they planned out their time for the next few years, too!!!) and by the end of my sophomore year, I will have pretty much exhausted everything offer at Smith and the 5 College syetem's requirements both in International Relations and be almost done with the Russian Civ major (with more advanced Russian speaking classes in my senior year). Also my choices of classes tend to be... well, how do I put this in? Have a high rate of being really small or cancelled (like one such course that would fit for my minor was cancelled this semester). This can't look good. I definitely understand that there aren't too many people who are interested in this exotic part of the world *winks*

I will try talk to Justin (I might take his course in the spring) and see what he thinks. I will also talk to my academic advisor, probably in October when we talk about spring semester stuff. Fortunately, for me, she's in the history department so maybe she can come up with some creative solutions.

As for the question on why I picked Smith even though I knew that I might run into this problem. Well, I had a choice between this and American University. I knew that AU would be perfect for me in terms of my academic goals but the setting just felt too comfortable in a way that I'll outgrow (and probably get tired of) in two years. I thought I'd try an all-women's school, and come in with an open-mind and try everything (which all of my course choices are totally liberal arts related. The only thing that's related to my interest is my Russian class). I like my courses now but I still can't see myself majoring or minoring in any of them.

American college systems are really screwy. Personally, I think LAC's are perfect for the first two years and universities are good for the last two years.

As for "too many courses" part, Mini, I am referring to the limits. We can only take up to 60 credits in our major and the rest cannot fit into the major's requirements. That is around 12 courses.

I'll find that Eastern European Jewry prof but I think you're talking about Justin because he's offering that course next fall (and I'm darn excited!!!). Well currently, I konw that Stanford's got it for me. I can major in history and have around 9 courses relating to Russian and Jewish history in depth and they have it all I want while minoring in International Relations. I only got this name because I looked up Best Graduate schools stuff and got down to best Eastern European History departments and Stanford was on the list. So there. But I will explore other colleges if that is the case of a possible transfer.

This is going to be difficult breaking this news to my parents... but that will come after I've finished researching (then they come down less hard on me :)). My dad definitely wants me to be happy and is willing to help me through problems but it's telling my mom that will be hard.

Thank you so much. Keep the comments coming!

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 10:05 pm: Edit

I was speaking of Ernst Benz.

(Before you go, if you go, you're going to make it a point to meet Julius Lester, right?)

By Momoffour (Momoffour) on Friday, September 17, 2004 - 10:11 pm: Edit

I read your post and thought the biggest issue was the fact that you are attending your mom's alma mater and she is super excited about sharing with you something that meant a lot to her, and you are feeling resentful that you are not having your "own" wonderful experience.

That's a toughie for both of you. As a mom, if one of my kid's went to my old school it would be hard to not talk about it and want to compare notes. As a kid I can see why feel like you want her to butt out.

I imagine the school has changed some since she was there. You may need to be honest with her and let her know that you like her stories but if she responds to every one of your stories with a response of "In my day we used to......" than you will quit sharing your stories.

I think this will work itself out as you get acclimated to your new environment and she gets used to you being on your own. Seems to early to me to think about transferring when you just got there. Give it some time and do some activities that your mom didn't do and tell her all about them.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Saturday, September 18, 2004 - 02:01 am: Edit

First, I hope you gave your mother a talking to about calling your RA. That is WAY over the line. She simply MUST respect your boundaries. If you want her to be quiet, you must speak up. Be honest with her and you will end up with an honest relationship.

Try not to think about transferring until Christmas break. You're probably experiencing 'culture shock', a common ailment. The irritability that goes with culture shock, (ie "They don't do things the way I want them to do things!! Grrrrr!"), often has nothing to do with the place itself, but rather, your difficulty adjusting to displacement.

I didn't get culture shock when I went to university, but I had a bad case of it when I moved to Asia as a 25 year old. Honestly, I spent two years complaining about absolutely nothing. I did learn to recognize culture shock though and I have some remedies.

The two best ways to get over culture shock are:
1. Recognize irritability as a symptom of displacement and nothing more. Try to put it out of your mind.

and

2. Assume that you are in charge of your own entertainment. It's your job to make a wide circle of friends and organize fun for yourself; ie throw parties, call people you meet, say 'yes' to social offers.

Good luck!

By Ticklemepink (Ticklemepink) on Saturday, September 18, 2004 - 10:28 am: Edit

Actually I'm sorry that I did not make it clear enough about my mom's connection with my college. She is a wanna-be graduate of that college. Her sister did graduate there and she (my mom) has several friends who graduated from there also. So I did have a big rally in the spring... My dad kept joking that we should send her there instead of me or at least for her to go there also! Honestly, at that time, I thought he was pretty much darn right.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, September 18, 2004 - 10:42 am: Edit

Ticklemepink:

I also support the suggestion that you defer considering transfer until Christmas. You will by then get a better sense of your chances of transferring to a college which is as good as Smith and has the courses you want. Right now, you need to concentrate on doing well in the courses you are taking.

But you should also consider asking a prof to do independent study. This is a one-on-one course in which the syllabus is very much up to the student. The student meets regularly with the instructor to discuss the readings and is responsible for writing a paper based on both the readings and extra research. That is a very common strategy pursued by students interested in topics that are not normally offered in most colleges (e.g, the history of Cambodia). There might be flexibility in labeling the course so that you would not be maxing out of your major.


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