Welcome to a new chapter of your life.

As a person who lived in the same town for the first 18 years of my life, I'm not ashamed to say move-in day was one of the most emotional days I've experienced. With excitement and a healthy dose of fear, I began a journey that has brought me to the end of my freshman year more confident in myself than ever.

Robert Naylor, junior in global studies, arrived at UT three years ago with many of the same feelings flanking expectations for his collegiate experience.

"I thought I was going to do theater since it was my safe space in high school," Naylor said. "I feel in a lot of ways that my involvement has given me space [to be myself] that just wasn't there [before]."

Naylor has gone on to become president of the Progressive Student Alliance and a leader in the Living Wage Coalition, a partnership composed of several student organizations for the purpose of promoting higher wages for campus workers.

Freshman year comes with many opportunities to get involved on this campus of 27,000 students. While it may be easy to stay in the dorm and binge on Netflix, this can hinder overcoming homesickness and establishing new relationships with people.

To break into all that UT has to offer, here are four ways to make the first year at UT worthwhile.

1. (Actually) Attend Welcome Week Events

During the first week, there will be several functions to attend. While some of these may be required as a part of the First Year Studies 100 course, others will present the opportunity to meet fellow students eager to engage new faces. Whether it's through UT traditions such as Torch Night, mingling with others at the Freshman Barbecue, or getting free stuff from Pedestrian Walkway, this is a perfect opportunity to start establishing roots.

2. Dare to Explore Knoxville

There's a whole new world outside of the bounds of campus. The Strip, which is just on the edge of campus, is a great place to grab a bite to eat when the dining hall starts to get old. Go to a concert at the historic Bijou and Tennessee theaters to get a taste of Knoxville's nightlife. Discover new shops and places in Market Square and Old City.

3. Find Activities that Interest You

With hundreds of campus organizations, there is something for everyone at UT. For those from a religious background, campus ministries abound. If you've been playing ultimate frisbee since Kindergarten, there are opportunities in intramural sports. Students have ample chances to both expand on hobbies that could morph into passions and meet others who share those interests as well.

4. ...And Others That May Not At First.

One of the wonderful things about college is the opportunity to discover who you are as a person. Part of this is having an open mind and exploring new interests. In Naylor's case, an infatuation with a visiting speaker's message led him to his involvement in the Living Wage Campaign and the Progressive Student Alliance in the present. Give activities and opportunities a chance to impress before deciding against involvement.

Naylor, reminiscing about his journey thus far, had this to say to the Class of 2018:

"Don't be afraid to explore things that you think you're interested in, but that you haven't traditionally done," Naylor said. "If you're slightly interested in something...you should go, because it could end up changing everything."

Chris West is a freshman in business administration. He can be reached at cwest36@utk.edu.

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