As I am the first class to take advantage of the state-funded program Tennessee Promise, our class has become one of the largest transfer student classes.

Tennessee Promise is a program that allows high schoolers who graduated in 2015 or later to attend two years of community and technical college for free, as long as students maintain an average GPA and recorded number of community service hours. 

Like many other students who took advantage of this program, this is my first semester entering a four-year university prior to graduation from high school.

After being accepted into universities across Tennessee, I chose ETSU. For starters, I chose this school because of the immense amount of scholarships given compared to other schools. There was also a great since of pride, community, friendliness, cooperation and helpfulness held by both students and faculty. Despite being in upper East Tennessee, the university has a large diverse population, which was something I was accustomed to growing up with and felt I needed, especially in my journey into higher education. 

I have been calling Johnson City my home for five months now, but it still feels like something is missing here.

Although ETSU has many attractive and charming features, I find myself struggling to assimilate into the school community. Like many of my friends here at ETSU who partook in the Tennessee Promise with me, it seems finding a niche, getting involved and meeting people is more difficult than previously thought. 

Entering freshman life in dorms together and taking general education courses together makes meeting people and finding a group of friends fairly easy, but what about transfer students like myself?

We have clubs, athletics, intramural sports, concerts, restaurants and a mall, but entering a new school with general education courses out of the way and dorm life behind us, what circle of friends would we have to partake in university activities with when friend groups have been established? 

As I am a part of the growing population of transfer students who are taking advantage of the Tennessee Promise and simultaneously a part of a huge entering class and retention year at ETSU, what ways can the university offer more to fix the problem for disconnected transfer students? Unless you are into school clubs, athletics or Greek life, it can be hard to find a niche.

I may get responses such as “This sounds like a you problem,” “You just aren’t trying” or even “Be more social” when that’s far from the case at all.

The university could try and offer more campus activities or sponsor events to keep students at school and involved to really hone in on community or relationship building. Perhaps this issue is larger than a campus and university issue; maybe there’s something missing from Johnson City that attracts people to go out. Perhaps it’s the lack of a night life unless you’re grocery shopping or going to a night club. 

There are many great qualities about ETSU and Johnson City, but for transfer students like myself, there are not a lot of opportunities and ways to integrate into the school culture, and perhaps the administration needs to look into new programs or restructure existing programs to accommodate a growing and changing school.