Maria Garcia ’21Maria Garcia ’21Transferring from one school to another can be one of the most difficult changes someone can experience, no matter whether it happens in elementary school, junior high, high school, or college. There’s the pressure of getting accustomed to your new environment, making new friends, and trying not to think about your past school too much. These pressures can create a plethora of problems in a student’s life that can make the transfer process even more difficult.

Even when you’re older, transferring between colleges can still be a daunting task. Maria Garcia ’21, a studio art major with a focus in painting and a minor in business, knows this firsthand. For Garcia, transferring to Southwestern University was not the first time she had experienced this type of change, but it was definitely the most rewarding.

Following a passion

The day after Garcia walked across the stage and graduated from Vernon High School, in Vernon, Texas, in May 2015, she moved straight to Austin. With a desire for a career in pastry art, Garcia began attending Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in the fall of 2015. Unexpectedly, however, Le Cordon Bleu announced in December 2015 that they would be closing down all 16 of its U.S. schools, including the Austin campus that Garcia attended. She had the opportunity to finish her associate degree there, but she would not be able to complete her bachelor’s degree, which is something she wanted to do so that she could understand the business side of pastry arts. So change was needed. 

Garcia made the decision to transfer to Austin Community College (ACC) shortly thereafter, where she majored in business administration. She still had a desire to study the arts, though. One day, she saw a poster on campus for an art association at ACC. Although she was hesitant at first, she made the decision to attend a meeting. It was during her time in this association that she met some of her best friends and developed a business idea. Garcia dabbled in the art of henna body art, a process that involves turning the dried leaves of henna, a small flowering shrub, into a fine powder and then using it to temporarily dye the skin. She had been practicing the ancient body art as a hobby for quite some time, but she was doing it for free. With some advice from the art association, she decided to start charging for her henna services in December 2016, and eventually dubbed her henna body art business, Mehndi Maria. She began working in the Austin area and learning new techniques each time she practiced while still attending classes at ACC. In August 2018, with her business up and running and her final class at ACC completed, Garcia was ready for another change.  

Maria her henna body art business, Mehndi Maria.Maria her henna body art business, Mehndi Maria.

The “art” of transferring to SU

Garcia always knew she wanted to transfer to a four-year university after her two years at ACC. Garcia researched Southwestern a few years before she graduated from ACC as a school that she could possibly transfer to. She loved SU but immediately put that idea on the backburner as she figured it was too expensive for her considering that she was going to pay her own way for her education. Once it was time for her to start applying to schools, she looked at schools such as the University of Texas, St. Edward’s University, and the University of Texas at San Antonio, among others. Even with the price tag, she decided to keep SU on her list and visit the campus. Garcia says that after visiting all the schools, she realized that she “never got the vibe like ‘OK, this is my school, this is where I need to be’ until I visited Southwestern.” 

After she met with the admissions and financial aid offices, Garcia also learned that with all her scholarship and financial-aid offers, “Southwestern, with it being so expensive and a private university, [was] giving me so much more money than other [Austin area] schools would have given me.” She remembers just how easy it was to contact SU’s Office of Admission and to schedule meetings to discuss her application and scholarship opportunities.

While on her visits, Garcia discovered just how many resources Southwestern offered her. “The [Studio] Art Department here really cares about their students,” she comments. Whether it was the big, open, and well-ventilated studios or all the supplies provided, such as paint and canvases, Southwestern’s art facilities were just different from any other art studios that Garcia saw.

Whether it was the big, open, and well-ventilated studios or all the supplies provided, such as paint and canvases, Southwestern’s art facilities were just different from any other art studios that Garcia saw.

Garcia also credits the small class sizes that Southwestern offers as something that allowed her to develop relationships with her professors. These relationships proved to be extremely beneficial for Garcia, especially her relationship with Victoria Star Varner, a professor of art at SU. Garcia says, “I’m glad I can be in her classes and learn certain techniques and actually get better. I like that I can use these techniques on my own to create my own style.” 

As she reflects on her transfer to SU, Garcia vividly remembers her advanced-entry seminar (AES), Roadside America taught by Associate Professor of Communication Studies Bob Bednar. SU’s AESs are specifically offered to students who transfer to SU and must be taken in their first semester here. Garcia remembers just how stressful and somewhat overwhelming this class was for her first week at SU. However, as her first semester went on, she remarks, “I actually liked my AES because it helped me learn what I can do on campus and where things are.” She credits her AES for teaching her more about library resources, the writing center, and where the transfer-student lounge is located. Garcia remembers one meeting in particular, in which she was shown around the library and learned how to research information using Southwestern’s databases. She says that this experience helped her with writing projects in her coursework.

Fast forward to today, and Garcia would not change anything about her decision to transfer to Southwestern University. Her Southwestern Experience has taught her self-sufficiency and how to complete work while sticking to a schedule. She is able to manage her schoolwork along with her henna business because of her time at SU. Whether it was a 10-week internship with Diversity in Arts Leadership in Des Moines, Iowa, or an art class taken at SU, Garcia feels that “Southwestern has prepared me for a real career in art.” 

To any students thinking about transferring to Southwestern University, Garcia suggests always paying attention to the due dates for applications and scholarships. She also advises that prospective transfer students reach out and connect with people and strive to strengthen those connections throughout their time at SU. “Talk to professors; talk to classmates; talk to any other people on campus,” she recommends. “I didn’t ever feel like a burden here because everyone is so welcoming.” 

For transfer students, change can be a remarkably difficult task to deal with. However, for students like Garcia, change can be a stepping stone that provides the tools necessary to overcome changes and challenges later on in life. As she gets closer and closer to the day when she will walk the stage in May 2021, she knows that her experiences at Southwestern have provided these tools—and then some: “I feel like [with] what they’re giving me here [at SU], I’m going to be able to be successful.”