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Student association seeks to simplify U. transition

Julia Cinnamon, a Northern California native, cannot enjoy the luxuries of going home over the weekend and having friends from high school in close proximity.

Her transition from home to New Jersey was difficult in her first year at the University as well, she said.

“It was really difficult not knowing anyone,” said Cinnamon, a co-creator of the Out of State Student Association. “When anything would happen in my hometown, I’d be 3,000 miles away.”

Cinnamon, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, is working with other out-of-state students to establish the organization at the University that would ease the difficulties students face when coming to college.

The organization kicked off because of University President Robert L. Barchi’s initiative to increase out-of-state enrollment, said Andrew Rodriguez, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. Barchi hired several students to work as recruiters in their home region.

“If you connect, you know stuff about California that a lot of people from New Jersey wouldn’t be able to connect with,” said Rodriguez, a California recruiter and co-creator of the organization.

About 13 percent of the University population comes from states other than New Jersey, said Josh Parker, a recruiter for Michigan and co-creator of the organization. Most of this population comes from nearby states such as New York and Pennsylvania.

Rodriguez said students from distant areas face unique difficulties, partially because they cannot go home every weekend.

“Usually we don’t have cars, so we can’t go and just drive to the mall,” he said. “We have to figure out storage for break. I don’t have any family in New Jersey or on the East Coast for that matter, so I’m by myself — which is a disadvantage.”

New Jersey and California have separate cultures, traditions and media, Cinnamon said, which made the already significant move to college harder.

“In California, we say ‘hella’ crazy instead of mad, which is a small thing, but it shows how different it is,” she said. “The weather was really tough at first from where I live [45 minutes from San Francisco]. We don’t have rough winters.”

Greek life helped Cinnamon, the vice president of programming at the Delta Gamma sorority, form bonds on campus. She said her sisters at the sorority became her family, while she was hours away from home.

She said she hopes to offer more for other out-of-state students looking to both meet others at the University as well as make it more convenient for them to get.

“I’d love to have out-of-state students come to family dinners if they don’t have anything else for the holidays,” she said. “We want to offer those services like trips to the mall, [and] offer facilities and activities to help them get a feel for Jersey.”

Students can decide how involved they want to be in the organization, Rodriguez said. Each region of the country will have a separate meeting night so members can meet others from their own state, and the association plans to connect them with alumni in their area.

“We want to build a community and make connections so these students have a support system,” he said.

The organization hopes to provide transportation support for carless students, Parker said. They are looking into getting shuttles for students headed to the airport after finals.

They also are trying to get more activities for out-of-state students over breaks, when the campus can be very quiet, he said. Other students need assistance finding a place to stay over break.

“My other sister came from California and she got kicked out of her dorm,” she said. “Her parents had to buy her a $500 plane ticket because there were no other options.”

Student leaders at the organization will meet with administration officials this week to see how they can get their feet off of the ground, Rodriguez said. Although they have recognition as an association, they have yet to form an official student social group.

Students will probably start seeing the club around campus next semester, he said.

In the meantime, the organization has created the Facebook page, “Rutgers Out of State Student Association Interest Group” and a Twitter, @RutgersOOSSA.

Rodriguez said he decided to come to the University after an unsatisfactory trip to New York University, which did not have the college feel he wanted.

“I Googled universities in the area and found Rutgers,” he said. “I decided to visit and two years later, I’m here.”

He said people from New Jersey did not appreciate the resources they have at this college.

“In [California], we love our public schools, but there’s sort of this negative connotation for Rutgers, which is … disappointing because it has such so much history and potential,” he said. “It has this rich tradition that schools like [University of California, Los Angeles] don’t have.”

He said the association reflected the changing University values.

“We want to make it seem like Rutgers is not just a New Jersey school — but a national school,” he said.

Coming from Staten Island, N.Y. was hard for Jessica Clark, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, because people considered her a novelty.

“I am usually met with, ‘Why did you come here if you’re not from New Jersey?’ I really don’t like that question because it assumes that RU has nothing to offer for out-of-state students,” said Clark, a co-creator of the organization.

The move was easier for her because she lives only 40 minutes away and has a few friends from her high school here. She said she feels connected with anyone who says they are from New York.

“It’s nice for someone to relate to the higher tuition rates and lack of general Jersey vocabulary,” she said.

She wants the new organization to reduce the stigma about out-of-state students.

“The out-of-state association can really stress that Rutgers is a great school for anyone who wants an education, not just New Jersey residents,” she said. “The school could benefit from a larger out-of-state population to increase diversity and national recognition.”

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