Regardless of where we’re from, everyone wants to get out every once in awhile. Whether you’re from Nashville, Knoxville, or somewhere where nobody’s ever heard of, people like a little change of scenery. Or rather, they should.

I’m from Loudon, Tennessee, a small town just south below Knoxville. Though I claim Knoxville as my home, the urban-rural setting of Loudon has made an impact on me, and by that I mean I never want to go back.

That’s why it’s so weird for me to get on social media and see so many of my high school peers still living in Loudon. I figured everyone would have left as soon as they got the chance, but many stayed behind.

Some remained for personal reasons — money, other career opportunities, family — but most commonly, many college-age students stayed home for the two year free schooling at the local community college. The Tennessee Promise has really come through on that count, but I can’t help but wonder if the decision to stay has caused more bad than good.

At 18-years-old, not everyone’s expected to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. For those of us who do know it’s certainly a blessing, and I’ll consider it one, too, but for those who don’t know, many students stay at home with family as they complete the first two years of their college education.

Though many of these classes are typically general education classes, what you can gain at a community college and what you can gain at a university are entirely separate benefits.

I won’t talk about the education curriculum at community colleges, but it’s often the case that university professors will have more experience. They simply can offer more to their departments and the education of their students over a community college’s educational staff.

Many professors here at ETSU have written books, published academic essays and/or have been teaching for several years, providing them with plenty of experience in college education and what college students need to graduate with what they need to know.

My professors in the English department have been some of the best allies I have on this campus. They’ve taught me more than I could understand and have helped me grow into the student I am today.

Knowing I have this academic community surrounding me is only a small portion of what a university can provide. I can’t even name how many wonderful experiences I’ve had here in Johnson City. I’ve made so many friends and had so many memories that I can’t name; I’ve really been able to make a home here.

I’ve learned so much as an individual, between paying bills, applying for housing, grocery shopping and really just doing things on my own.

These experiences are simply benefits that can’t be had living with family. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like moving up here as a junior, not knowing anyone, having to live in an apartment with people I don’t know and essentially just starting over again sounds terrifying.

I ask myself: What would have happened had I not moved up here when I did?  I just had to get away, but was it worth it? I’d say yes, absolutely. College is a crucial time of growth. It’s hard to grow in a stunted small town with nothing to offer.