Finding your place as a transfer student


Thomas J. Yang

Saket Rajprohat found his place at Pitt through FORGE, a student group involved with refugee awareness. Here, immigrants share their stories with a group of students in April at a FORGE event. (Photo by Thomas Yang | Staff Photographer)

By Saket Rajprohat | Columnist

It was a cold and snowy January day. With my backpack and suitcases heavier than they seemed leaving home, I stepped into my new dorm.

I was excited to finally be at Pitt. After my short and easy semester at Robert Morris University, a private school in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, I was ready to move out of the house, have a roommate that wasn’t my sister and maybe even make some friends at school.

In my head, my intentions were clear. I transferred to Pitt for better opportunities, and to find the challenges and prospects I felt RMU lacked. I would go the gym every day, hit my books hard and make the most of my time — it would be different.

But I hadn’t accounted for the unwavering question of purpose that threatened to consume me, nor the peace and meaning I found through the unlikely outlet of clubs at Pitt.

As I moved from each class throughout my first couple weeks, I realized the challenge I was hoping for definitely existed, but not in the way I had expected. School did get harder as I struggled to keep up with assignments and exams coming my way, but the real challenge came from somewhere else. A fear of becoming aimless slowly began to overtake me, forcing me to question whether I’d made the right decision in coming to Pitt.

While I was supposed to be studying and searching for my greater purpose, I began to realize the animosity I felt toward my classes, and that I wasn’t enjoying the pre-med track like I was during my first semester at RMU.

As I contemplated moving back to RMU or choosing a new field of study, I couldn’t stop questioning why I transferred to Pitt. My goals of pursuing greater opportunity and making myself into a success remained unfulfilled and my purpose seemed nonexistent.

Luckily, some good friends of mine suggested I join some clubs. I was stubborn — I thought that joining organizations would limit my ability to pick up my grades, but one of my friends recommended talking with a community engagement advisor at the Honors College.

I eventually agreed to making an advising appointment and met with Holly Hickling, the Honors College’s academic community engagement advisor. After talking for a bit about the difficulties I faced during my transfer process and the opportunities I was seeking, she also told me I should be actively seeking out a club to fit my interests.

After doing some of my own research, I found a lot of sources pointing me toward the positive effects clubs have on students. One study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics found that students participating in extracurricular activities have fewer absences, higher GPAs and significantly higher chances of completing college. Another study by the University of Albany said the majority of students that were involved with clubs throughout college felt greater “autonomy toward interdependence and establishing and clarifying purpose.”

With this information, still somewhat reluctantly, I agreed with Holly and decided to look into something that aligned with my interests. I knew I wanted to be involved in community service in some capacity, so taking Holly’s advice, I joined FORGE — Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Growth and Empowerment.

It was awkward at first, since I joined halfway through the semester and most of the members already knew each other, but over time the dynamic began to change. I listened to the presentations that were given at each meeting and enjoyed the lively discussions. I made friends that had more in common with me than simply living on the same floor. I also started getting involved with some of the volunteer work FORGE did over the weekends with refugee students, tutoring them for their high school classes and preparing them for higher education.

My involvement with FORGE brought a sense of clarity to my decision to move to Pitt. My ability to connect to a group of students that shared my common interests made me more willing to reach out and join other student organizations like The Pitt News and First Class Bhangra. I had to dedicate time to these other organizations, but it made me realize that my pre-med efforts and previous desires did not fall in line with the actual path I wanted to take.

So now, with a marketing major and new interests, I feel my move to Pitt was worthwhile. I enjoy the campus a lot more knowing I contribute to a plethora of the efforts that students care about, and that I have a sense of belonging at Pitt.

It took me awhile to get to the point where I felt happy with Pitt.  First going to Pitt with some heavy luggage and ambitious goals, I now go walk with a greater sense of clarity, and a lighter load on my back. I was definitely able to discover my initial ambitions of greater opportunity and finding a challenge for myself, but it was only my sense of purpose on campus that allowed me to chase those ambitions.


Saket primarily writes on politics for The Pitt News.

Write to Saket at [email protected]