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UCLA transfer students get their bear-ings during orientation

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Aryan and Faraz Behnamjou
Twins Aryan and Faraz Behnamjou are among  an estimated 3,000 new transfer students who will be attending UCLA this fall.
Even as they were growing up in Tehran, Aryan and Faraz Behnamjou had blue and gold running in their veins.

The 20 year-old twins, who were born in the United States but moved to Iran when they were 6 years old, said attending UCLA has been a collective goal — and their parents’ dream — for as long as they can remember.
 
Four years ago, they returned to the United States to complete their high school studies and learn how to excel in the American educational system. After earning great grades in high school and finishing two years of business studies at Irvine Valley College, the brothers recently learned the eight-clap, dipped their hands in the cool flow of the Inverted Fountain and traversed the hilly landscape of Westwood. They even had an opportunity to ring the Victory Bell, the prize of the long-standing football rivalry between UCLA and USC.
 
They are now officially Bruins, and they couldn’t be happier.
 
The Behnamjou brothers, who are now UCLA business economics students, were on campus this month for transfer student orientation. They are among an estimated 3,000 transfer students who will start their studies at UCLA this fall. 

“Ever since we were kids, the plan was always for us to come to college here,” said Faraz. “Our parents always had high hopes for us, and they would say ‘Someday you’ll be at UCLA.’ And that came true for us. We got in, and there is no other place we’d rather be.”
 
Transfer students are those who have taken some college-level coursework after high school. “Most will complete two years’ worth of courses — roughly 90 quarter units — in the community college system before transferring to a four-year college to complete their undergraduate studies,” said Lisa DelVillar, assistant director of first-year programs in UCLA’s New Student and Transition Programs in the Division of Undergraduate Programs.
 
Transfer-studentsbright.
This year, orientation participants were invited to ring the Victory Bell, the prize of the long-standing football rivalry between UCLA and USC.
Their reasons for doing so are varied. Professional goals, military service, family responsibilities, difficulty getting into their school of choice directly after high school and the rising cost of tuition are among the myriad reasons that people may choose to attend community college prior to attending a four-year school, she said.
 
This variety of experiences and life skills lends itself to supporting UCLA’s tradition of diversity, both in and outside of the classroom.
 
“Transfer students add greatly to the diversity of UCLA, and we value their contributions in our community and in our classrooms,” said Gary Clark, UCLA’s director of undergraduate admissions. “The perspectives they bring based on their academic abilities — where they went to school, their backgrounds, their work history and their life journeys, in general — all offer depth to the classroom setting and to campus life in Westwood.”

At UCLA, transfer students accounted for 36 percent of all new undergraduates and 26 percent of all undergraduates in Fall 2012. When it comes to their success, 92 percent of transfer students graduate, with an average GPA of 3.14 in UC courses.

Over the summer, 51 new student advisers led tours, shared UCLA folklore and urban legends, answered questions and worked to make transfer students feel comfortable in their new academic environment. In all, the university welcomed more than 400 orientation groups, over eight days last and this month.

Like freshmen orientation, orientation for transfer students is presented by the Division of Undergraduate Education in the College of Letters and Science; however, unlike the three-day orientation for freshmen, orientation for transfers is handled in just one day.
 
“A lot of the students just want to get down to business and get it done,” said DelVillar, adding that the average age of a UCLA transfer student is 22. “Many of them have been in school for awhile, or many have worked, so their orientation is handled without some of the extras that are included in the freshman sessions.”
 
Starting at 7:30 a.m. with check-in, students face a busy agenda — picking up their BruinCards, meeting student and departmental advisers, and learning about degree requirements, how to be safe and well, and to register and enroll in classes. They also have an opportunity to participate in workshops on course planning, financial aid and undergraduate research opportunities, among others. The average day wraps around 9 p.m.
 
Bruintism oath
Transfer students follow a Bruin tradition. They recite an oath and dip their left hands into the Inverted Fountain.
But there is some fun stuff, too, including dinner and socializing the night before orientation for those who would like to come to campus early and spend the night, said DelVillar, who was once a UCLA transfer student herself. Transfer students come from a range of backgrounds and experiences; some want to meet other UCLA students while others have families or are returning to school and want to focus on academics. 

“We try to offer all the choices that we can for them," said Roxanne Neal, director of UCLA New Student and Transition Programs. And this year, for the first time, transfer students are encouraged to bring a T-shirt from their previous institution to exchange for a UCLA T-shirt during True Bruin Welcome Week.
 
The T-shirt exchange has a dual goal, said Neal.

“It's a gesture to celebrate and welcome them into the Bruin family while donating the T-shirts to a shelter. Our hope is that students see it as a True Bruin moment of tradition and service.”
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