Transfer Student Spotlight: Sam Sprague

Sam Sprague, 2017 PATH Summer Academy Attendee & 2018 Mentor

Name: Sam Sprague

UC San Diego College: Warren College

SDCCD College: San Diego City College

Major: Philosophy

What advice would you give to transfers who are currently at community college?

If you’re interested in studying the humanities, consider UC San Diego. We are best known for our science and engineering programs, but the humanities departments are a hidden gem. They have excellent faculty, are far less impacted than the STEM departments, and there are organizations like PATH which provide support to transfer students to create a more continuous experience. If you do decide to pursue a humanities major, I encourage you to develop your argumentative writing skills. Essays will count for the majority of your grade, and professors will be looking not only for strong comprehension of the text, but also the ability to recreate an author’s argument and respond to it in your own words. That being said, I encourage you to really speak your mind when writing. Don’t feel pressured to have a certain opinion, or to write in a certain style. Explain what you think of the text as honestly as you can, and your professors will appreciate it.

What was your biggest fear about transferring to UC San Diego?

I expected university to be more difficult than community college, but I wasn’t sure how great the difference would be. My main concern was the amount of reading I would be assigned as a philosophy major, and the level of reading comprehension that would be expected of me when studying difficult texts. In the end, I found the reading assignments to be very manageable when taking three courses, and harder to stay on top of when taking four. Professors generally have reasonable expectations for students who are new to complex material, but they also do an excellent job of making the text accessible so that you feel that you can write about it. I found philosophy difficult to read at first, but I quickly got used to it. Overall, I would say that my studies at UC San Diego have noticeably improved my reading and writing skills.

What has been your experience as a transfer student at UC San Diego?

The transition from community college to UC San Diego was difficult, and required some serious adjustment on my part. Assignments come up due much faster in the quarter system, and it’s pushed me to develop both my time management and stress tolerance skills. There were busy times when I would go for days in a row doing nothing but working and sleeping. But ultimately, my hard work always paid off, and I’ve managed to make the transition without fumbling my GPA. Spring quarter is the most difficult part, and the last few weeks in early June are a real slog, but I feel lucky because transfer students only have to do it twice.

Why did you join PATH?

The most appealing part of the PATH program was the opportunity to live and study on campus. I knew that it would give me massive head start: by the time classes started in the Fall, I would already have two courses under my belt, and a general knowledge of the campus geography. I thought that PATH would give me a chance to get all the confusion and difficulty of the first few weeks of university out of the way before the real pressure was on. But in the end, the experience I had was completely unlike that of most students starting at university. It was not confusing or bewildering, as I’d been taught to expect, but a fun and warm welcome to the UC system.

How has the PATH program helped you?

When I arrived on campus in the Fall, I felt like a UC San Diego veteran. I knew how to get to my classes, I knew where my favorite food was, and I saw several fellow PATH alumni during my first few days. It made the campus feel more like a home to me. There are also academic benefits that come from the program. Not only was I ahead of schedule on the graduation track, but I’d gained insight into what my professors would expect of me in an essay. As a result, I was able to adapt more quickly to my new courses.

What was your favorite part of the PATH program?

My favorite part of the PATH program was the friendships I made, especially with my dorm mates and study partners, who remain my closest friends at UC San Diego. PATH does a great job of bringing people together. Because you’re all taking the same courses, you’re constantly working and studying together throughout the program, as well as sharing meals and living space. When Fall comes around, you’re not going to school as a blank slate, with no social connections or support system, but with friendly faces already on campus and in your classes. I’ve seen, both as a mentor and as a student, how the experience of living and working together during PATH builds amazing bonds that last throughout the college experience.

What was the hardest part of the PATH program?

The courses I took during PATH were an early warning of what the expectations of my UC San Diego professors would be. For the first time in years, I received a C grade on an essay I had written, and was told to make major revisions. I learned that work which would earn a B or C at community college might not even be considered passable at the university level. But it’s not that professors arbitrarily make the courses harder; they just have different expectations, and a different approach to the essay writing process. The main thing they want to see is a strong, thesis-centered argument based in a deep comprehension of the text. The courses that I took during PATH were difficult, but they were also very reflective of what professors would be expecting of me during the academic year.

How has your experience been as a PATH mentor?

In some ways, I think the PATH experience is even more enriching as a mentor than as a student. You get the chance to talk in-depth to new students who are going through the same steps as you, and to expand your social circle at school. The administrators do a great job of pairing mentors with mentees, and I had many engaging and meaningful conversations during the program. It’s fascinating to be part of the inaugural group because now I see the new students come in, and just instantly embrace the program, trying to get as much out of it as possible. It feels good to be a part of something that gives concrete help to so many people.

What resources on campus have you used the most?

I do a lot of my studying and printing at the Student Veteran Resource Office. You don’t have to be a veteran to join, and they’re highly welcoming to non-vets coming in and using the space. A lifetime membership is $20 and you get a cool t-shirt too. The veterans are hilarious, and although it’s not always the quietest study space, it’s a fun place to hang out. I also go to RIMAC gym several times per week, and it enabled me to stop paying my gym membership as long as I’m a student here.

What tips would you tell future students about the UC San Diego campus?

Sam setting up to film during a 2018 PATH event, a hike and philosophy discussion with Professor Craig Callendar, along the Scripps Coastal Reserve.

I recommend biking on campus because it is a very huge space, and it can take a long time to get anywhere in a hurry on foot. If you have any quick transitions between far-apart classrooms (e.g. SOLIS and Galbraith Hall) it can be an attendance saver. The campus is very bike-friendly and fun to ride in, and the Muir woods have some fun off-road trails if you have a dirt bike. I also highly recommend the Hare Krishna vegetarian food that is served for lunch every Wednesday at the Food Co-op. It’s some of the healthiest food on campus, and only $5 for a full plate.

When you are not in the classroom, what are you usually doing?

My main focus outside of school is art, and I’m interested in all forms of creative expressions: film, visual art, music, fiction, etc. I spend a lot of time in my room editing videos or working on other projects. I also have a job as a video editor at a documentary production company, and I like to lift weights.

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