Freshman memories with SGA VP Melina Hettiaratchi

Photo Credit: Patrick Hobbs / Cluster Staff


When SGA Vice President Melina Hettiaratchi reminisced about her freshman year, she conceded that she is a different person, now.

In August 2011, Hettiaratchi  left her home in Alabama to join Mercer’s class of 2015. After arriving on Mercer’s campus, Hettiaratchi realized her biggest fear was everyone.

Eventually, the newly minted freshman learned to embrace the experience and take in every moment – even the not so good ones.

After Hettiaratchi won a spot in senate of SGA, she realized she could mobilize change on campus.

Now, as  junior and SGA’s new vice president, Hettiaratchi has ambitious goals for making Mercer more green friendly and creating new campus traditions.

What is your favorite memory from Freshman year?

Hettiaratchi: My favorite academic memory is from Wilderness Weekend, because I really bonded with my class and it was a really cool time for us to get to know each other outside of the classroom in a completely new environment.

Another favorite memory is when my roommate and I decided the night before that we wanted to go to six flags on a Saturday and we just got up and left. We prepared everything and we let our parents know where we were going but we didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission. It was a cool thing we did on our own.

As a Freshman, what was your biggest fear?

Hettiaratchi: Probably everyone else. This is really embarrassing, but the night of Freshman Frenzy I left and went back to my room and cried. I didn’t want to be there and I wanted to see my friends at home and my mom. I cried myself to sleep. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make friends, but I already had my best friend. I was just really afraid of not having friends and being always in my room and alone.

My O-group was phenomenal with helping me get through my freshman year. I hung out with them a lot and went to the cafeteria and events with them.

How did Mercer impact your Freshman experience?

Hettiaratchi: It’s a small enough school to where I can walk around between classes and see people I know. I don’t have to be afraid about waving to them. It’s so friendly here. I just feel at home at Mercer. Even though I’ve missed home so much, Mercer very quickly became my new home. I now rarely go home because Mercer is my home.

What was a life lesson you learned from Freshman year?

Hettiaratchi: The time I learned to never to pull an all-nighter! It’s important to learn time management because all nighters are not for everyone. I was writing my final 12-page paper for FYS (Freshman Year Experience) and I was finishing it up the night before and pulled an all nighter. I literally did not sleep all day or night.

After I turned in my paper, I called my mom and told her I turned it in and started crying in the middle of the Quad. I felt awful! My body was shutting down on me. She told me that I should probably skip my classes for that day, so I did. It was pretty bad.

Any advice for the incoming Freshmen class?

Hettiaratchi: Everyone will tell you these are the best years of your life, but I think I got to a point during my second semester when I asked, “What am I doing with my life? I’m already in college and I haven’t accomplished anything.”

I felt like I hadn’t contributed anything, but when I visited some old high school teachers they said, “You’ve made it through your first year of being an adult in a college setting and that’s an accomplishment in itself.”