My Path to College

by Beth Royston

I’m in my senior year at PSU and looking back on my idea of the college experience as a senior in high school was very different than how it turned out. I learned a valuable lesson — as much as you can work towards your hopes and dreams, be flexible to the definition of those hopes and dreams changing. 

Initially, I wanted a traditional freshman college experience — going to university after I graduated high school, living in the dorms, the whole nine yards. But my reality began to shift for a few reasons, namely financial. It wouldn’t be possible for me to attend as an out-of-state student, even though PSU’s out-of-state tuition was less than residential schools in my area. I was crushed, but there did remain a thin beam of hope that I could still make things work. 

I knew that above it all, I wanted to live in Oregon — so I moved. I lived with extended family here for a while, and then found some roommates for a place of my own, working a variety of beloved jobs here and there. During this time period I realized that even though I didn’t want to be set back again, attending PCC would make my life a lot easier financially. I also would qualify for resident tuition at both schools due to my year working. 

I finally landed at PSU as a junior last fall, three years after graduating high school. My partner and I both had experience living in small apartments, and reverting to dorm life was a little hard for us to imagine. We like ample space to cook and enough room to fit two desktop computers — to say the least. So we decided to continue in off-campus route. We absolutely love our neighborhood in southwest Portland, it has many great restaurants and a gorgeous riverfront park across the street. There’s space to garden and it’s generally quiet. 

But I won’t pretend that I don’t think about what my life would be like if things were different. I didn’t live in the dorms, or have my four years at PSU. Did I miss out on something? The thing is, I can’t know that. I do know that I made great memories at PCC, live comfortably and happily, and am at PSU now. Hopefully for graduate school, too! I’m grateful for my choices in the past, because I was thinking of myself in the future. There are definitely pros and cons to any route to college, and I’ve faced unique struggles due to the path I took. At the end of the day, I’m just overjoyed to be here, even though the path to get here looked different than what I imagined. I learned instead of resisting change, to go with the flow, as long as I knew I would get there in the end. 

Transfer Students Need to Stick Together

by Beth Royston

Thinking about transferring from Portland Community College to Portland State University, I had always felt exuberant and confident. Unfortunately, in the spring term of last year, my nerves about transferring had begun to swamp my excitement. I felt inferior to the other juniors who had spent their first two years at PSU, learning where the best study spots were and which elevators wouldn’t take an eon to reach the fourth floor in Cramer Hall. 

I knew that I would learn it all in time, but the feeling that I was playing catch-up still bothered me — especially as someone who considers feeling ahead of the game to be part of their personality. 

PSU was a much bigger campus than I was used to, with more resources, buildings and people. I was thrilled to begin taking upper division classes and starting to study some really fascinating stuff in preparation for my dream career, but it simultaneously seemed to loom over me like a mountain I wouldn’t be able to climb. I was incredibly nervous, but I made myself go to one of the Viking Days events — the transfer student happy hour. It turned out to be wildly fun, I got to demonstrate my prowess at trivia, and I got the sense that a lot of other people there also were nervous about starting school. It was nice to feel that I wasn’t alone, something which I knew rationally but still needed to see demonstrated to feel better.

 I’m learning the ins and outs of PSU pretty fast. Transfer students blend in pretty well with the rest of the crowd, but there are still resources to distinguish us and our different experiences. I haven’t checked out the new Transfer Student Resource Center in Fariborz Maseeh Hall, but I am curious about stopping by. I think in the future more events specifically aimed at transfer students would be a great idea — because we’re all out there, but finding and holding on to one another is really helpful! 

Commencement Conundrum

After four and a half years, two universities, two stints abroad, and hours upon hours spent pleading tearfully with academic advisers about my transfer credits, I am finally (FINALLY!) going receive my bachelor’s degree. I’ve fulfilled all of my University Studies and major requirements, done the proper paperwork and paid my “graduation fees” (since I haven’t poured enough of my money into educational institutions already, thank you very much). My GPA is even high enough to graduate with honors. All of this — and I still don’t know if I will graduate in the traditional sense.

You see, Portland State, unlike some other institutions, doesn’t offer a commencement ceremony in the fall term. Last summer, when I learned that finishing college was within the realm of possibility and I began envisioning my stylish cap/gown/diploma ensemble, I discovered that my only options were to walk at the summer commencement or wait until the spring ceremony. (Note to future graduates: I also learned recently that last summer was actually the last summer  term commencement ceremony at PSU, so keep that in mind when making your own graduation plans!)

To me, these are hardly satisfactory options. An early commencement would mean taking part in a ceremony celebrating an accomplishment that I hadn’t fully accomplished — the fact that I’d be returning to classes a few weeks later made the whole prospect seem rather anti-climactic. And as for waiting until next spring to walk, well, I don’t even know if I’ll still be living close enough to Portland to attend.

PSU seems to pride itself on being accessible to so many non-traditional students – I know I’m not the only student whose academic career has not fit into the standard four-year college plan. I just wish that our university was equally accommodating in celebrating the achievements of its non-traditional graduates.