As a tour guide, I have learned what topics students are most interested in and what to leave out when giving tours. Everyone always wants to know what the residence hall rooms look like, where the gym is and what happens on the weekends. But there is one questions that all of the tour guides joke about because it is asked on nearly every single tour: “What is there to do up here?” After having answered that question probably 200 times, I think I have a pretty well defined answer. Since I have lived in this area my entire life, I believe I probably know the answer to that better than most. I have observed that prospective students care about a few specific things such as shopping, entertainment and the outdoors—so I will touch on each of those.
Obviously, living in the mountains and practically the middle of nowhere, you have to live without some of the convenience of being near big shopping malls. A lot of students crave the ability to shop when they first come to college. Quite frankly, though, everyone is broke. If that big high school graduation check isn’t paid toward tuition and books, it is practically gone by the beginning of your sophomore year. And to be honest, you don't really need a lot of money at Young Harris. All of your food is paid for, and you can get an on-campus job for some extra spending money. “But wait! I still need to shop!” Walmart is right down the road, Ingles is located in both surrounding towns, and there is a dollar store practically on campus. You can get all of your basic amenities at those places, but shopping online can pretty much get you everything else. Amazon Prime offers free two-day shipping, and they have a big discount on the service for students. Other than that, you can just get stuff from whatever company website you really need. There are also a few local boutiques around that carry “cute” stuff. I am a guy and we really don't usually care about that stuff—but you ladies can always find somewhere to spend your money!
As far as entertainment goes, there are movie theaters in both Blairsville and Hiawassee and they both have movie tickets for only $5 with a YHC ID! There is a bowling alley in Blairsville and a roller skating rink in Hiawassee. Other than those, there are lots of great local restaurants and ice cream shops that are reasonably priced. Brothers Restaurant is right down the road, that is my personal favorite local place and the food is excellent. Lots of places also have wing nights and trivia nights and there are a few sports bars and grills not too far way. As far as on-campus, student groups are constantly putting on dances, cookouts and other fun events. Greek life has plenty of events year round as well. There is also a college-sponsored student group called the Campus Activities Board that puts on bigger events like Spring Fest and Fall Fest as well as weekly events like Coffeehouse.
However, the biggest “thing to do” on and off campus is outdoor stuff. There is a little comment that I frequently say to students when I give tours—if you aren’t an outdoorsy person when you come to Young Harris, you will be when you leave. You are in the mountains! This place is absolutely God’s country. Hiking, backpacking, camping, biking, going to the beach right down the road… the list is endless. Everyone has friends who are outdoor leadership majors and they always know the best places to do stuff. Since arriving at YHC, I have gotten into camping, longboarding, bouldering, swimming and a bunch of other stuff. I will never forget the fun times and skills that I have gained through these experiences.
All in all, there is way more to do here than students may think. It’s also important to realize that you are coming to college to get an education and make memories that will last the rest of your life. My biggest advice to freshmen under any circumstances is to stay at YHC on the weekends. You will miss your friends and family, but you have to understand that when you come to college, you essentially begin a new chapter of your life. Staying at college will help you make friends, study more and ultimately have a great first year and college experience. Plus, who wouldn't want to have time to go on mountain adventures with their friends? Have a great week, friends!