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Creating community for fellow transfer students

Ashley Sparks
Ashley Sparks, a junior studying psychology and criminology, stands at the entrance of the Transfer Experience house. Transfer Experience is a living-learning program designed to meet the needs of students who transfer to Virginia Tech from a community college or another four-year institution. Photo by Luke Williams for Virginia Tech.

Why did you choose Virginia Tech?

I love the school! Honestly, it reminded me of Hogwarts from Harry Potter when I was younger, and that’s what made me veer towards it (of course, when I got older I did a little more research). It’s also close to home, which is important to me.


What’s your major, and what got you into that field of study?

I’m a junior double majoring in psychology and criminology. You know the show Criminal Minds? Low-key it was that - I love studying cases and figuring things out. I originally was accepted for multimedia journalism, but then realized I wanted to do something to really help people instead of hiding behind a camera, so I changed my major.


Are you a first-generation college student?

I am, yes! I'm from a military family, and I'm the only one that's gone to college. It’s very hard, actually, because you have to learn the whole process from scratch. My family is used to boot camp, but what I’m doing here at Virginia Tech is very different.


Where did you transfer from into Virginia Tech, and how do you think being a transfer student has shaped your experience here?

I transferred from Germana Community College - which at first I didn’t want to do, I wanted to start out here as a freshman - but now I’m really glad I did it. Coming in as a junior to Virginia Tech (at 19 years old) was very nerve-racking for me, but I wouldn’t change it for the world now knowing that I would not be in this house with all these people if I didn’t transfer.


Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself?

I think you find yourself a lot in college, and discover what you really like. Parents and families have a huge impact on what you want to do with your future, and mine are very supportive in every way - but once you’re alone and with your friends, you really learn who you are and what you want to do. I had no idea I wanted to help people until I met my friends and the professors here - both have a huge impact on who you are.

"I had no idea I wanted to help people until I met my friends and the professors here - both have a huge impact on who you are."

Ashley Sparks reads
Ashley Sparks reads in Transfer Experience's large community room. Photo by Luke Williams for Virginia Tech.

Is this your first year living at the Transfer Experience house?

Yes - I love it, it’s perfect! We’re like a family here, we all know each other and do everything together, and that’s something I didn’t expect. I’m actually the social chair for all transfer students, so I notice that living in a smaller community helps a lot. We are all very close and always there for each other.


What does being the "social chair" look like?

We have a student council for transfer students, and as the social chair I coordinate events and help the president get the word out. We try to have at least one event a week (we skipped this week because there are a lot of tests, and we know students don’t really want to worry about events on those weeks). We host a lot of events, and we try to alternate having the Pritchard Transfer Experience students come here with going to Pritchard for events, to make sure everyone is involved.


What’s your favorite event that you’ve ever put on?

We had a Nacho watching party for a VT football game. We had free food and talked through the whole game, because we lost the game pretty badly, so we all got to socialize a lot more. We have bigger events planned as well, such as a Field Day event - with water balloons, t-shirts, and other stuff like that.


Do you belong to any student organizations?

Yes - I just applied to be a TA and a mentor for a transfer class, and I’m also a writer for Collegiate Times and a mentor for international students.


What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?

There are so many, but it would have to be from my public speaking class at my community college when I went to a speech competition. My biggest fear was presenting, and when I went to the competition I embarrassed myself - choked up, walked off the stage - and my professor said “you just have to keep trying, keep doing it, and getting better. If you’re ever bad at anything you just have to keep doing it, and you’ll get better.” And that’s what I did, and it worked. I have that in the back of my mind now, whenever I’m not good at anything, that I just have to keep trying.


What advice would you have for other transfer students to Virginia Tech?

Be open to meeting new people. You’re going to meet people of all types here, and you’re going to meet people that you get along with and some that you don’t - but everybody has a spot here at Virginia Tech. You don’t have to feel like you’ll be out of place. That’s something I was very nervous about as a transfer student - everybody already has a friend group at our age - but I’ve found that everybody’s open to new friends, it’s not like high school with cliques everywhere. Just be yourself, be open to meeting new people, and you’ll find your place.