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2022 TSA: Paolo's Transfer Story

In the weeks leading up to the NISTS 2022 virtual annual conference, we're highlighting the transfer stories of this year's National Transfer Student Ambassadors. All four students will attend the conference in St. Louis and participate in a student panel conversation on Friday, February 4th. You can read more about Paolo's story and meet the other 2022 ambassadors on the NISTS Blog.

About Paolo

First off, I just want to say WELCOME to my blog! I hope you, as a reader, get motivated and inspired by my story and to continuously advocate for the betterment of transfer students and their experiences.

MABUHAY! (Long live!) My name is Jan Paolo Canteras (he, him, his), and I am currently a senior at UC Irvine as a double major in Sociology and Psychology. I have chosen these majors because I wanted to break the stigma of mental health among the AAPID community. My majors will also help me understand the different perspectives of studying an individual’s mind and relate it back to specific association within our society. Both of my parents and my brother work in the healthcare industry as nurses and I am also following in their footsteps, but would like to work as a forensic psychologist in the field of corrections.

Some fun facts about me are that I love solving crossword puzzles and the new trending Wordle game. I have two puppies that I named Bonnie and Clyde in homage of my love for classic films. A large passion of mine is to create live or virtual events and programs on the UCI campus. I also haven’t missed a season of MasterChef, The Voice US and RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Educational Journey

My educational journey started when I immigrated from the Philippines to the United States to be reunited with my mother who I hadn’t seen in eight years. My college education got sidetracked where I had to drop out in the last year of college and had to surrender getting my Finance degree from the Philippines. I eventually told myself that family is more important, and that education will always be available for me.

As I adjusted to my new permanent home in the United States for about year, I told my parents that I wanted to go back to school and get a bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Sociology, and my mom recommended me to go to Long Beach City College, a community college, where I can start off with my associate degree. It was hard at first because I did not have someone to refer to when applying to college, talk about the college experience, explain what financial aid was, and many other struggles. I was fortunate enough that I was very proactive in engaging in different involvements like the Associated Student Body where I served as president, President’s Ambassador, and the Order of Tong social service club. All these spaces gave me access to advisors, mentors, and friends that helped me navigate my time at the community college in a productive way. It wasn’t until I transferred to UC Irvine where I truly found out what I wanted to do after graduation, and it started off when I failed a Calculus class in my very first quarter at UC Irvine. I felt the transfer shock as I was caught off guard by how fast the quarter system is, and it led me to be removed from some of the school programs that I was a part of because of my low GPA.

The aftermath of this event has led me to get inspired to create a program that helps transfer students get the opportunity to meet other transfer peers and adjust to the new school environment. I proposed this during my time in a program called Visions Leadership, that helped me create the program into fruition. The program was called STEAM (Student Transfer Engagement, Access, and Mentorship) this includes a weekly class where a mentor is paired up with incoming transfer students and helps them learn about campus resources and weekly social events as well. This experience has helped me understand the valuable skills and process of creating a program. This is a great way to interpret those skills and apply it to my professional interest which is to become a psychologist in the prison system.

Deciding To Transfer

In my first year at the community college I attended, I did not fully understand what transferring to a four-year university was, since I was not familiar with the college educational system in the United States. Therefore, transferring was not on my radar, because I thought that the community college was the end goal to get a bachelor's degree. This was the reason why I had to stay a third year at the community college because I was missing a couple of classes to be able to transfer.

This experience gave me the opportunity to reach out to my academic counselor and advisors but more importantly I reached out to one of the alumni of the social club I was a part of and got advice on what I should do in my third year. I was advised by the alumni to not put everything in one basket because I was so sure that I was transferring to California State University Long Beach.

With my GPA, volunteering hours and leadership in the community college, I was encouraged to apply to UC schools, other Cal-State schools, and private schools as well. At first, my imposter syndrome kicked in and I was so sure that none of the prestigious universities would accept me but in a twist of fate, I got offered admissions to most of the UC schools that I applied to. I ended up choosing UC Irvine because of the larger Asian and first-generation population like myself, and it was still close to my parents’ house because my family is very important to me.

Adjusting to a New School

When I was about to transfer at UC Irvine, I was very excited because I really wanted to experience what a 4-year university had to offer and see the result of my hard work from the community college I attended. I was also excited that I get to live on campus and have that sense of independence. However, I was nervous about the academic rigor and quarter system being more difficult and fast-paced. I was not sure if I was properly prepared for that type of academic environment and the importance of maximizing the short-time that transfer students experience in a four-year university.

I prepared from this transition by attending the Transfer Student Parent Orientation Program during the summertime so that I would be able to meet fellow transfer students, get access to academic advising and experience the spirit of being a UCI Anteater. I also attended the Student Leadership Institute for Climate Resilience (SLICR) to be familiarized with UCI’s sustainable efforts as one of the environmentally outstanding institutions in California and get the opportunity to get to know current students and staff from the Sustainability Center. I signed up for these two residential events so I would be able to get to know the community and be familiarized with some of the resources on campus.

I felt that I needed to take initiative for myself to get integrated onto campus, especially as a transfer student we usually have a limited time in the institution we transferred to. I also asked when internships for Student Government would be available because advocacy work for me is very important to be part of a role that helps my fellow students even though I was a new student on campus myself.

Looking Back on the Experience

My transferring process was a long journey, and I would say that not everything went according to plan, but it’s something that we need to address. There are already set expectations for transfer students to understand and navigate the four-university which contributes to the amounting pressure in a new academic environment. I was fortunate enough to be given a platform to advocate and increase representation for transfer students based on my experiences. I feel it’s very powerful for transfer students to continue to amplify our voices so we can promote positive changes in our respective institutions and communities.

I have so many memories as a transfer student, some good and some bad. I would say that my worst experience as a transfer student aside from failing my Calculus class was the fact that the majority of my college experience at UC Irvine was on an online platform which I fully understand because of the rising cases during the pandemic, but I started missing in-person classes a lot and making those face-to-face connections. My best experience was the connections I made during the first year of the transfer support commission as their commissioner, and my experience with SAGE Scholars where they were helping me understand professionalism and helping me get my very first internship.

Something I wish I knew before transferring was knowing that there are scholarships and institutional aides that are available for transfer students to fund their tuition fee and other expenses, attending review strategies, and supplementary tutoring sessions for math courses. Lastly, I wish I did not get too caught up with the fear of missing out on a lot of campus events, socials.

If I were to give advice to a fellow transfer student, it would be to not be afraid to reach out when needed, seek knowledge, and explore opportunities that the institution is offering. Be your own cheerleader. Embrace changes, challenges, successes, and failures, because these will help with your path to self-growth.


The views and opinions expressed on the NISTS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NISTS. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.


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