With a 1,200-space garage inching closer to completion on the north edge of campus, the availability of parking was a popular topic for students returning to East Tennessee State University on Thursday for the start of the spring semester.
“Really, parking is my biggest issue,” sophomore Maria Cigarroa said, voicing a phrase often repeated by students attending classes at the Johnson City campus. “I have classes all over, and sometimes I barely have time to get from one to the other in time.”
Cigarroa said she and four of her family members who also attend the university — a daughter, a brother, a nephew and his wife — often have difficulty finding a free space near their classrooms.
Luckily for Cigarroa, her mother lives across University Parkway from the congested campus, so she and the family can park their vehicles without the risk of being ticketed.
Zachary Hudson, a junior studying economics, said it’s always hard to find parking in the first few weeks of classes, but after that, the traffic starts to die down a little.
“The new parking garage should be open soon, so hopefully it will cut down on any parking problems,” he said.
The garage was supposed to be open before classes began in August, but a slew of delays pushed the opening back to the new target of mid-February.
Even with the garage still in the last phases of construction, ETSU Vice President of Finance and Administration David Collins said there are plenty of available spaces at the university, if students are willing to walk or ride the shuttle from the outer lots.
Other than parking, Hudson applauded the initiatives undertaken by university President Brian Noland to beautify and enhance life at the school.
“I like a lot of the changes that they’ve done,” he said, naming improvements in the plaza outside Brooks Gym and the reinstatement of a football team. “I think football will attract a lot more students and more student support for athletics on campus.”
Second-year anthropology major Irshaan Stoss said his work-study job gives him a parking advantage over other students.
“I got here very early because I work at the post office,” he said. “But last semester was packed on the first day, and it was awful trying to find a parking spot.”
Stoss said he’s not much of a football fan, but he’s excited by the prospect of a new fine arts center, and he approves of the parking garage and the green space enhancements.
“It’s a very beautiful campus,” he said.
Yuan Xu, a foreign exchange student from Beijing, said her experiences at schools out of the country give her a unique view of ETSU.
And she likes it.
“Coming to ETSU is pretty different than when I studied in China,” she said. “Here, we can schedule our time and our classes. It’s more flexible, but in China our teacher decides which class we need to take, and I don’t like that, I really hate it actually. I love the freedom.”
Yuan said she likes life on the Tennessee campus so much, in fact, that she’s already made plans to attend graduate school here after earning her undergraduate degree.
She did name another festive difference between ETSU and her former school.
“There are so many parties here, too,” she said with a nod and a smile.