While scores of freshmen left the starting blocks of higher education this week, Emporia State seniors were entering the final leg of their undergraduate experience.
With less than 10 months left before many of them will walk the stage at White Auditorium on graduation day, a few seniors reflected on their personal growth since freshman year.
Cody Kear, senior history major, transferred to ESU from Highland Community College. Kear said he has grown more ambitious since his freshman year, and he’s also more open to meeting new people.
Academically, Kear remained undecided for several years before declaring a major. Unlike many students, he said he isn’t worried about finding a job related to his major after he graduates.
“My dad has been a cop for 27 years, and I think that’s what I’m going do,” he said.
With future career plans figured out, the most daunting part of his last year in college, he said, is completing college algebra, “the bane of (his) existence.”
Kear has been in college for five years–one year longer than he had hoped, but he said he has enjoyed the Emporia community.
“I know my professors, and they know me,” he said.
For his last year at Emporia State, Kear is living on campus for the first time since attending community college. So far, he said it’s better than living off campus.
Ashley Thomas, senior sociology major, said she feels more confident this year than she used to and that she’s “not so nervous.”
Thomas said she came to ESU thinking her life would become too stressful and complicated, but it’s been better than she thought, thanks to the university’s atmosphere.
“People are really nice here,” Thomas said. “It’s a school that people can feel comfortable at.”
At first, she majored in elementary education but ultimately moved to sociology after taking an introductory course.
“Once I found something that I liked, I knew I was going to stick with it,” Thomas said, “but I kind of had to fiddle around at first.”
But Thomas said she is nervous about taking the CAAP test, which is required for graduation. Unlike Kear, she hasn’t started preparing for life after graduation.
“I just want to get done and then figure everything out,” she said.
While it’s common for some to change their major several times throughout college, Juhye Bak, senior graphic design and photography major, said she always knew what she wanted to study.
She described her time at ESU in terms of her personal and social growth. In the beginning, she was unfamiliar with Emporia and met mainly students from South Korea, but as the years passed, she branched out to the whole community.
Now, in her fifth and final year, Bak said college has taught her to appreciate everything in her life.
“Appreciate nature, appreciate people, questions, answers… that’s what I like a lot,” Bak said.
She said her goal for this year is to gain more independence and rely less on her parents for support by finding work. She said she is excited to continue her education in graduate school in the Instructional Design and Technology program at ESU.
Bak said her mindset for the year is to not lose focus or assume she has learned everything there is to learn. Instead, she said she wants to “start every day as a freshman.”