Current and former Peralta students reflect on a unique COVID-era transfer process

October 27, 2020

By Menel Raach, Staff Writer

The regular transfer process is already hard enough. Maintaining passing grades, applying to universities and moving to a new city are all uncertain things transfer students face. But with COVID, the process is only harder, and staying disciplined and motivated while battling unemployment and anxiety can stymie those pursuing their educational path.   

According to an April 2020 survey made by Student Loan Hero, the COVID-19 crisis has affected 72% of students’ post-graduation plans. Financial struggles are only one of the obstacles that recent Peralta graduates are battling during the pandemic. 

Former Peralta student Kasper Dilmaghani lost his job this past spring in the midst of the shelter-in-place order from California Governor Gavin Newsom. On top of that, he found that transferring to the University of California, Berkeley with a major in Media Studies this fall required strong discipline due to the online process. The first weeks at UC Berkeley were difficult for Dilmagani since he didn’t attend prior orientation meetings.

“The first week or two were a little bit more difficult for me to get a grasp of what classes I want to take and what’s required for me to complete my major but [if I had atteneded] those orientations, I think I’d still have a lot of difficulty because everything is virtual,” Dilmaghani said.

Despite these struggles, he considers himself fortunate as he is receiving unemployment and got a scholarship to help cover his tuition at UC Berkeley. 

Kasper Dilmaghani, a former Peralta student and current UC Berkeley student, studies at home in Oakland on October 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Kasper Dilmaghani)

Overcoming financial struggles isn’t the only problem that students face while transferring; attending a new university and swapping cities during a pandemic alters the normality of socializing. Discovering new people and networking with peers is part of any college experience, but the ability to socialize has new restrictions and parameters. Amid the pandemic, students are forced to accept a new reality and must adapt to living and socializing in a lockdown. In order to achieve her educational goals, Tanchona Nembag, a 23-year old Peralta student majoring in sociology, will move to Long Beach next semester to start her first semester at a four-year university. Nembag is worried about moving to a new city, because the social aspect feels daunting.

“It does put a damper because now it’s like, ‘okay, I am in a whole new city, but I can’t make any new friends,’” Nembag said. 

Aside from the social aspect, transferring remotely from a community college to a university doesn’t appear as challenging given students’ growing comfort with online learning. However, it’s still difficult to maintain discipline and motivation while classes are virtual. An important element of in-person instruction is the on-campus experience. Interaction with peers, presence of teachers and studying in libraries appear key to a student’s success. Dilmaghani said despite becoming familiar with virtual learning this past spring, he is still struggling with studying remotely. Being stuck at home most of the time is affecting his productivity. 

“I really wish I could put myself in a library every single day of the week,” Dilmaghani said. 

“I think part of my success last semester, at community college and the semester before that, in 2019, was getting in a library. Moving from your room where there are tons of distractions to a physical space meant for learning was something that I’m really still grappling with.”

Applying to universities in a virtual setting was a difficult process for Nembag. She emphasized she had to be more vigilant and disciplined during her transfer process. Simple procedures, such as talking to counselors and communication through email, took more time than before. Having access to in-person interactions simplified transfer procedures. 

“I think having the discipline on going to my online classes and being able to go to every meeting with each of my classes are actually really hard for me,” Nembag said. 

Zariah Grant at Lake Temescal in Oakland, CA, where she celebrated her graduation in June 2020. (Photo credit: Khadijah)

Determination and discipline was former Laney College Zariah Grant’s key to educational success. The theatre arts major failed to finish her associate’s degree on time due to the unavailability of required classes at Laney. She enrolled in Diablo Valley College in nearby Pleasant Hill to be able to take the classes she couldn’t find at Peralta. Commuting from the Bay Area to take courses at a different school was difficult for her. Grant said online classes were beneficial to her because she gained more free time and saved money since she wasn’t forced to commute to Pleasant Hill. 

Even though Grant is excited to transfer next spring to California State University Long Beach, she feels discouraged to study theatre online as it’s a field that requires in-person interaction. 

“It’s kind of like, ‘okay, we have to hold on for another couple of months and that’s just the way it is,’” Grant said. “I don’t want to get too discouraged. I have to find the blessings in that so that’s where I’m at right now for sure.”

For Dilmaghani and Nembag, transferring to a new university appears to not be as challenging, having adapted to COVID-reality. What is most difficult — as they mentioned — is to stay motivated and disciplined enough in order to maintain passing grades in this virtual era. Many students around the globe can relate to online learning disadvantages, and until this pandemic comes to an end, this is our normal. 

“I think it’s very easy for students to get disheartened,” Dilmaghani said.

“I’ve been disheartened, and I’ve been discouraged. But I’m trying to stay engaged as much as I can.”