Meet Sarah Hamilton
Sarah Hamilton’s college experience turned out very different from what she expected it to be – in the best way possible. When the Johnson City resident began her freshman year at East Tennessee State University, she wanted to focus entirely on her grades. At first, she had no desire to get involved in any extracurricular activities or organizations on campus.
Sarah’s attitude changed when she realized that connecting to the ETSU community improved her college experience and made her a better student. Remaining focused on her studies in her double major – biology and Spanish – Sarah began to embrace the campus life at ETSU.
After graduating this May in ETSU’s first-ever virtual commencement ceremony, Sarah’s ETSU résumé is more than just the good grades that she earned. It is also an impressive list of experiences that include serving as a volunteer with the Preview and Orientation Leader Organization (POLO), Buccaneer Involvement Guide, Admissions Ambassador, and Spanish interpreter and translator for the university’s Language and Culture Resource Center – just to name a few.
Through her volunteer work and involvement on campus, Sarah met hundreds of prospective and current ETSU students, particularly through the campus tours she led during ETSU’s Admissions events. She was also named an inaugural member of ETSU’s 1911 Society, which recognizes students who have distinguished themselves among all graduates for academic excellence, service, and leadership.
What is the best way for new ETSU students to find their place on campus?
Go out of your comfort zone! Whether you live on or off campus, you have to get involved to make the most of college.
First, attend the Preview orientation event for new students. I felt that having grown up in Johnson City, I had no need to attend an event as outgoing as Preview. I was super introverted and thought it would be too overwhelming. However, I quickly regretted my decision not to attend. Having the chance to connect to upperclassmen and create a social support group before classes begin eases the stressful transition. I learned from my mistake and became a part of the Preview and Orientation Leader Organization (POLO) instead. That way, I could encourage introverted students like I was as a freshman to attend an event that is out of their comfort zone. Even though I had a harder transition to college, I can at least ease that transition for incoming students. I still keep in touch with students who were in my Preview group two years ago!
Don’t be afraid to go to an organization’s meeting. If it’s not right for you, just keep searching for the group that does work. I guarantee there is one – and if not, you can always start a new organization.
What is one thing you know about ETSU that you wish you’d known as a freshman?
Failure is the key to success. If you try and fail, then at least you can learn something from it. Going out of your comfort zone can be terrifying, but it can also be a surprising discovery. And this can apply to anything – academic majors, student organizations, friend groups. If it doesn’t work out, take the time to reflect on it.
What is a highlight of your academic career?
Study abroad is incredible, and everyone should try it! I lived in Spain a few summers ago and having a new perspective of our culture was an opportunity every young adult should experience. There are really helpful scholarships for it, too.
What do you hope to do after graduation?
I am on the wait list at ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine and UT Memphis. So, fingers crossed everything works out, and I can go to medical school this fall. However, if it doesn’t work out in this cycle, then I’m planning to travel more, apply to graduate schools and obtain my license in interpreting.
What accomplishment are you most proud of as an ETSU student?
I am nowhere close to the same person I was at the beginning of my college career. I have realized that speaking in front of large crowds will not kill me, and I have become that person that many of my peers come to for advice. If someone had told me the kind of person I would be today four years ago, I would have said there was a mistake. ETSU helped me find my voice and my second family.