The air is electrified with excitement. Hundreds of people mill about talking about graduation. Some are dressed in regalia getting their photograph taken. Some are signing a giant Class of 2018 banner to be displayed at commencement.

Resumes are exchanging hands and smiles crack anxious faces in the ballroom of the D.P. Culp University Center at ETSU. This is a celebration for all those who have worked many years to get here, this crowning moment. A deeper look and one can also see tears.

Not every person is in high spirits. Some can be seen and overheard talking about losing relationships, friendships and mentors that they have come to rely upon. Established support networks will have to be restructured. A lot of graduates are moving hundreds of miles away from a place they have come to love.

This is the bittersweet part of graduating and the area that some fear. This is what leads one to maybe take a “victory semester” or year. Not every person is ready to give up the friendships and home they have found in ETSU.

In my opinion, this speaks to the success of the university and its faculty and staff. I have found that if one becomes a part the community here, the community becomes a part of them. I will carry the lessons learned at this institution, and not just those in the classroom, for the rest of my life.

I feel that I have become a better person due to my time spent at ETSU. I believe this is the importance of higher education for many, and that those many would agree ETSU has done an outstanding job. It is a heavy heart and a hopeful disposition of the future I carry with me into graduation.

I plan to stay in the area to try to give back to the place that has given me so much, maybe not forever, but for a time. This may not be the experience of every student at ETSU, but it has been mine. I cannot wait to take what I have learned in the Media and Communication Department to help shape the community I live in and love.