Senior year is finally here for many of us at ETSU, and it feels … unsettling with a tinge of fear and lots of excitement. What I mean is: We’ve come so far. Do you remember what it was like to be a freshman — moving to a new city, rooming with some random strangers and feeling that restlessness of starting classes, meeting new people and finally being on your own?

I remember all of those warm fuzzies settling in my stomach. I was so naive to just how much I would come to learn here among my mentors, friends and peers. College is such an open experience — it’s where I met my absolute best friend, found community among others like myself, and stumbled upon some kind of purpose to life — but what I also remember is the loneliness and the homesickness I never thought I would feel at college. It can be easy to get lost in the storm of classes, new faces and a mix of emotions. To help a neighbor out, I offer my advice:

– First and foremost, everyone’s college priority should be an education. College can be the best time of anyone’s life, but finding a romantic partner, going to the “best” parties and experiencing new … substances can sound exciting, but keep in mind that without a degree, and without any hint of experience on a resume, college can be a large waste of money if the experience isn’t respected. There’s a student drop out rate for a reason. Focus on what’s important, and the rest will soon fall into place.

– As everything does start to fall into place, sometimes our daily routine [classes, work, homework, repeat] can steal away time from ourselves. Remember physical and mental health is just as important as the grades. Sometimes people view mental health as a make-believe excuse for a hard situation, but mental health is extremely important to maintain just as it is to remember to eat well, sleep in, and ace those classes. ETSU offers free counseling for students who need help, professional guidance, or just someone to listen. The Bucs Press 2 service is available 24/7 by dialing (423) 439-4841 and pressing 2 for a counselor.

– For many people, mental health is finding balance between independence and a strong support system. Introverts and extroverts alike need love and support. Finding those friends, mentors, peers or coworkers can be tough, but know there’s always someone out there who’s willing to do that. Don’t force it, but don’t shy away from it. People tend to flock to those who are like-minded. Respect yourself, and others will follow suit.

– Lastly, get involved. Academics is the highest priority, but getting involved doubles as a win-win situation. Not only are organizations a great way to make friends, but after-school activities build a resume, and that’s what jobs are looking for — experience, teamwork and effort.

There’s plenty to experience here at ETSU. Check out the local food joints, relax in the cozy cafes and learn to experience and grow as much as you possibly can through new friends, new cultures and new lessons. From us to you, the East Tennessean welcomes you home.