By Faisal Shah, senior, Public Health

I would describe the environment at ETSU as diverse. When I walk around campus, I see students of many different ethnic and racial groups. Whether students are here on a study abroad program or have transferred to ETSU from other cities and states, the social norm here at school makes it easy for them to find their own unique group of friends who share the same interests.

Every time I walk to the dining hall, I see students in the lobby taking turns to play video games on the TVs. If it’s a game of “Mortal Kombat,” “Mario Kart,” or “Super Smash Bros.,” it doesn’t matter who they are because they always seem to be enjoying whatever game is on at the time.

I have seen Muslim students come together near the Tree House too and put together a booth to present brochures and pictures with information about their faith, to help answer questions and talk to students so that they can help reduce prejudices. I have seen people unite together with Black Lives Matter banners, rallying together with hopes of attracting more attention to the sensitive topic. Having so many different students is so unique to the true beauty of it all and is why it’s so easy to find a commonality with each other.

When I immigrated to the United States at 8 years old, I grew up in a small town called Banner Elk, North Carolina. Growing up in Banner Elk, I dealt with a little prejudice, but not the extent that someone might think about a Middle Eastern kid growing up in the South. It was easy to make friends in school because most of the kids who talked to me took interest in me. They were very curious about where I was from, what Pakistan was like, what kind of wild animals were indigenous to my homeland. The questions they asked, the conversations we had and their immense curiosity, like any other 2nd grade kid would have, altogether made adjusting to a new culture easier.

As time went on and my friendships became stronger, my friends’ parents knew of me so well that they started treating me like a part of their family, and thanks to that, I can confidently say that my experience with growing up in the South has been very positive.

I transferred to ETSU as a sophomore in 2015, and I knew nobody here. The first few weeks were hard, because I felt very isolated, and I came close to transferring to another college where I knew more people. As time went on, I started to socialize more at the different events that took place on campus.

I made my first friends on campus, waiting in line at a food vendor truck. A few students recognized me from class, which led to a conversation, and then we set up time to study in the library together or go watch a sports game. I started to meet more students through them and without realizing it, I had a spider web of friends whom I talk to on an everyday basis.

I think that initial interaction for any new student who doesn’t know anyone is hard, but once it happens, getting to know people at ETSU becomes much easier.