Last weekend, I went to the University of Pittsburgh and visited some of my friends from my freshman year. See, I transferred to John Carroll at the beginning of my sophomore year (I am currently a junior), and hadn’t really been back a whole lot to visit all of my friends that I left behind at Pitt.
I had a great time, too. When I was back hanging out with them, it was as if I had never left. It was fun to be in the big-school setting again, to walk by $100+ million dollar basketball stadium and the awesome 42-floor Cathedral of Learning—two points of pride on the Pitt campus. For a moment, I was taken with legitimate nostalgia. I remember asking myself, for a moment, “why did I leave this place?” But, as soon as I found myself begging the question, I heard my friends start to discuss the courses that they were taking, and I immediately remembered why I made the switch.
Some of my friends were finishing up their core requirements, taking intro-level humanities courses with over one hundred students enrolled. A couple had classes that consisted of little more than a midterm and a final. Some had only been to select classes a couple of times this semester because the classroom is so large that nobody would notice their absence. None of them really had a whole lot to say about the clubs or activities that they were a part of. And, though my friends at Pitt are very bright, and will no doubt find success later on, I really forgot just how hands-off the learning experience at a massive institution like that can be in comparison to a school the size of John Carroll.
Granted, big schools offer some pretty cool things that smaller colleges cannot. The party scene and nightlife is crazier, the research facilities are massive, and they have elite post-graduate programs that frankly, I myself will be applying to in a year. However, as a freshman undergrad in a university of that size, I felt rather silenced. I had very little interaction with actual Ph.D. professors, as TA’s (who didn’t seem to want to deal with us) took over most of the teaching. It felt as if throughout all of their boasting about what their graduate researchers and professors had achieved they forgot about the entire reason that people like me were there in the first place—to get a quality undergraduate education from professors, from freshman to senior year.
A little over a year ago, I decided to change it up and try John Carroll. And it is not an easy process, to transfer and start anew at a different college. But every single day I am very happy that I did. Throughout my time at JCU, I have been able to go to France, Germany and Washington, D.C. for coursework. I have been encouraged to volunteer and better the greater Cleveland area. All of my classes have been engaging, personalized and discussion based (even the core courses). All of branches of the faculty and staff are helpful, welcoming, and quick to respond to any issue that arises. I have gotten to know all of my professors for the most part, and not once did it seem as if they had higher priorities than making sure we understood the material.
Don’t get me wrong; I have a lot of respect for Pitt and places like it. It is a great school that works for a lot of people—just not for me as an undergraduate. I love that I can go back there on the weekends and feel as if I have maintained my friendships and connections. But the best part about the weekend was being able to come back to a school where I feel as if I have much more of a place and an impact.
So, while I had a great time there this weekend, I left knowing that I had made the right decision in choosing to go to John Carroll. I will take professors who know my name and a school with a sense of community over home football games at Heinz Stadium any day.