Transfers acclimate to Notre Dame customs
Meg Handelman | Thursday, August 29, 2013
Notre Dame’s 2013 transfer orientation, led by former transfer students Joseph Ragukonis and Heather Bartlow, welcomed 129 new Domers this past week during a four-day orientation.
Ragukonis said the purpose of transfer orientation is to make transfer students’ transition into the Notre Dame family as smooth as possible.
“Our goal during orientation is focused on helping them adjust to Notre Dame, the community and making new friends right from the start,” Ragukonis said. “We especially emphasize what is special and unique to Notre Dame and show them that even though they are transfer students, they are just as much a part of the University as everyone else.”
Bartlow said the Transfer-O committee is aware transfer students come to Notre Dame already having had some college experience, and therefore the program focuses more on orienting students with their new school.
There are many challenges that come with transferring to a brand new school, Ragukonis said, including a change in academic difficulty and adjusting to a new college experience while your peers have already settled into life at Notre Dame.
“Transfer students who come to Notre Dame have left everything they have worked hard to achieve at their old school in order to attend a new school where they must adjust to different academic expectations, a different social environment and a new campus,” Bartlow said.
Transfer students are also offered last pick of classes, which can make it difficult to build an optimal schedule, and they can have trouble meeting peers who have already formed their friend groups during freshman year, she said.
“To help alleviate any challenges, we keep open as many lines of communication as possible so that the new transfers can seek our help if they want,” Ragukonis said. “We also make clear that everyone at Notre Dame is happy to help them with a transition.”
Bartlow said the orientation involves many social events, such as a welcome mass, a campus tour, a scavenger hunt, a trip to the Indiana dunes, a field day and a grotto visit to help the students make friends and feel comfortable in their new environment.
“My favorite part of the orientation was the grotto visit,” Bartlow said. “A few of the committee members gave a brief history, led a prayer and shared a personal reflection with the new students. I think this event gave students the opportunity to bond in a unique way due to their shared experiences.”
She said the grotto visit allowed students to reflect on their journey to Notre Dame, and each student received a specially made Transfer-O candle, which the students could light at the grotto.
The Football 101 program, held Friday afternoon, was a favorite for Ragukonis.
“During Football 101 we were able to get one of the leprechauns and cheerleaders to help teach the new transfer class the cheers and other aspects that make up game days on campus,” he said. “That was definitely one of the best parts.”
Students also meet with advisors to aid in scheduling their classes and can choose to “Adopt-a-Dorm” if they are living off campus, to connect them with an on-campus hall, she said.
“The Transfer-O Committee understands what it is like to transfer to Notre Dame since each member has been in the exact same shoes as the incoming students,” Bartlow said.
Knowing what the transfer students were going through during the program was a huge motivator in her decision to lead the program, Ragukonis said.
“My previous two experiences of Transfer-O, both as a new transfer student and last year as a transfer orientation committee member, were two of the most amazing experiences of my life,” he said. “I wanted to be co-commissioner so that I could have a change to make the new transfer class have as great an experience as I had, at the University that I love.”
Bartow said she received excellent feedback at the events and was very thankful for the support of their fellow committee leaders.
“We had great attendance at all of our events throughout the four-day orientation, and every new student I talked to said they enjoyed it,” Ragukonis said. “I know it went well when multiple new transfers were asking me how they could go about getting on the orientation committee in the future.”