The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

33-year-old UI transfer student lives in dorms, finds community

Billy Stoynoff said he feels right at home at the University of Iowa despite being older than the typical student.
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Grace Smith
UI student Billy Stoynoff poses for a portrait in his dorm room in Reinow at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. Stoynoff is a 33-year-old transfer student entering his third year in college. To document his experience adapting to Iowa City as a nontraditional student, he began making TikTok videos and has amassed over 6,000 followers in just about two weeks. Stoynoff said that he hasn’t thought about the future of his TikTok, but he has a plan for if he starts making money on his videos. “I’m TikTok illiterate basically, but if I ever did make money, my plan is to donate it to the Children’s Hospital,” Stoynoff said in an interview to DITV.

William “Billy” Stoynoff is like many other students in their first year at the University of Iowa. He lives in the residence halls, cheers for the Hawkeyes on game days, and takes the Cambus to classes.

However, there is one major factor that sets him apart from other first years — he is a 33-year-old transfer student with an associate’s degree and a growing following on TikTok. His top TikTok video of a dorm tour reached 277,000 views, as of Aug. 28.

Stoynoff’s journey to the UI started when he began to feel dissatisfied at his job as a social media marketing employee at an apparel company.

UI student Billy Stoynoff waits for the Cambus at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. Stoynoff is a 33-year-old transfer student entering his third year in college. To document his experience adapting to Iowa City as a nontraditional student, he began making TikTok videos and has amassed over 6,000 followers in just about two weeks. (Grace Smith)

“It paid pretty well, but I woke up one morning and I was like, ‘Okay, this isn’t what I want to do long-term even though I’ve been here for six years,’” Stoynoff said.

After receiving his associate degree at the College of DuPage in Illinois, Stoynoff’s next plan was to go to Northern Illinois University. However, he felt he would be doing himself a disservice if he didn’t at least try to get into the UI, as he and his family have been Hawkeye fans their whole lives.

To his surprise, Stoynoff said, the UI accepted his application. He would soon be a third-year transfer student majoring in sports and recreation management.

UI student Billy Stoynoff talks with students and fans at Brothers Bar & Grill at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. Stoynoff is a 33-year-old transfer student entering his third year in college. To document his experience adapting to Iowa City as a nontraditional student, he began making TikTok videos and has amassed over 6,000 followers in just about two weeks. Despite students recognizing Stoynoff in public for his TikTok videos, he continues to be himself and share positivity with his videos. “People have asked me like, ‘Oh, do you like people coming up to you taking photos?’” Stoynoff said. “The photos take two seconds. It doesn’t hurt me and if it makes somebody else’s day, then I’m all for it.” (Grace Smith)

The only thing standing in Stoynoff’s way before officially becoming a Hawkeye was housing. The transfer student said it made the most sense to live in the dorms with his financial situation.

“I don’t know anybody out here, so getting a house with another person or a few other people wasn’t on the table,” Stoynoff said. “So I would have to get a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, and the rent for those in Iowa City is pretty expensive, and then I would have to pay for utilities and WiFi and cable, whereas if I live in the dorms, the university supplies cable and internet to all the rooms.”

On move-in day to Rienow Residence Hall, Stoynoff said he had a few awkward interactions with parents who assumed he was moving a kid into the dorms, but other than those few instances, he has felt welcomed on campus every day.

UI student Billy Stoynoff walks out of Union Station in the Iowa Memorial Union at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. Stoynoff is a 33-year-old transfer student entering his third year in college. To document his experience adapting to Iowa City as a nontraditional student, he began making TikTok videos and has amassed over 6,000 followers in just about two weeks. During his TikTok journey so far, Stoynoff continues to spread positivity, making people happy with his videos. (Grace Smith)

“That was the one thing I was worried about, like ‘How are they going to react to a 33-year-old living in the dorms?’ But no one has had a problem,” Stoynoff said.

To make light of his nontraditional experience, Stoynoff started posting vlogs to his TikTok account where he would talk about his day at the university. Initially starting as an inside joke, the videos soon began to blow up.

More on Billy’s Claim to fame:

This virality has made Stoynoff somewhat of a campus celebrity, with people stopping him on the street and on campus to take selfies with him, he said.

Although he has always been a shy person, Stoynoff said he never turns down a request for a picture. His newfound fame has also had a positive effect on him emotionally, he said.

“It’s definitely really helped me come out of my shell,” he said.

UI student Billy Stoynoff studies at a lounge in Reinow at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. Stoynoff is a 33-year-old transfer student entering his third year in college. To document his experience adapting to Iowa City as a nontraditional student, he began making TikTok videos and has amassed over 6,000 followers in just about two weeks. Stoynoff is studying sports and recreation management, hoping to one day serve as Director of Football Operations for a college. “I’ve always had a passion for sports,” Stoynoff said. “I have some experience, now I just need a degree.” (Grace Smith)

Stella Petersdorff, a first-year student who also lives in Rienow, said she has interacted with Stoynoff. At first, she said she assumed he was a parent moving a student in, but eventually came to realize he lived in the residence hall.

“It was a little odd at first, but now I think it’s great,” Petersdorff said. “Everyone loves him here. He gets along with everyone.”

While Stoynoff may be a nontraditional first-year student, he is not alone at the UI. According to the UI’s Fall 2022 Profile of Students Enrolled report, 2,493 new transfer students came to the university last year.

UI student Billy Stoynoff rides the Cambus at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. Stoynoff is a 33-year-old transfer student entering his third year in college. To document his experience adapting to Iowa City as a nontraditional student, he began making TikTok videos and has amassed over 6,000 followers in just about two weeks. Stoynoff started his college career at Kirkwood Community College, transferred to the College of DuPage, and then stopped studying for a while and worked for a few years. “I woke up one morning and decided to go back to school,” Stoynoff said. “So the last two years I was at community college in Illinois and applied at Iowa and here I am.” (Grace Smith)

In terms of students older than the typical college age range, UI Public Relations Manager Steve Schmadeke wrote in an email to the DI that in Fall 2022, there were a total of 535 undergraduate transfer students over the age of 26 enrolled at the UI.

Schmadeke wrote the UI has support systems in place to help transfer students feel more welcome at the university.

“The university has a dedicated support team that reaches out to transfer students at key points during the semester, offers help, and follows up with them on specific questions they have,” Schmadeke wrote. “The support team helps transfer students both in and out of the classroom and assists as needed to help them get connected on campus and in the community.”

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About the Contributors
Isabelle Foland, News Reporter
(she/her)
Isabelle Foland is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is a second-year news reporter at The Daily Iowan, reporting mainly on Iowa City City Council. She is from Missouri Valley, Iowa and has reported for her hometown paper prior to her time at The DI.
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
she/her/hers
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.