During my college search, I did as much as I could to get to know the most intimate aspects of the schools I was looking at. On top of the basics – academics, school size, costs, etc. – I wanted to know exactly what I was getting myself into in terms of the social life, the extracurricular activities , the connections I would make, and so much more. I had some family and friends the are Penn State students, so when I decided that Penn State was the school for me, I figured I would already have most of the insider secrets. But what I’ve learned after my freshman year is that no matter how much you talk to people, there is always information that you’ll have to learn for yourself, through your own experiences. Here are a few of the things that my freshman year at Penn State taught me.
THON is a culture.
I had heard of THON, and I knew that it was a big thing at Penn State. But I guess I didn’t realize how big it was. It has a language all its own (my friends from home are never able to follow when I talk about orgs, committees, dancing, etc.), and it’s hard to find a club that isn’t related to THON in some way. And I had no idea how amazing the experience of THON would be…walking into the BJC for the first time that weekend took my breath away.
West cookies = best cookies.
This isn’t a myth. The freshly baked chocolate chip cookies from the West dining hall are the best cookies on campus. Period.
You find friends in the most random ways.
A lot of the first week of college feels pretty weird. Everyone is understandably a bit uncomfortable and awkward, and it’s hard to avoid feeling like you need to make friends immediately or you won’t find them at all. But for me, finding friends was pretty random. I met some of my best friends the first weekend during orientation. Other friends were made through connections, others through the clubs that I joined. You learn quickly that you click with some and not with others. The great part about Penn State is that you have a huge friend pool to choose from.
“But I’m walking so much” is not a good enough excuse.
My classes are spread out throughout campus, and I do walk a LOT. I used to think this walking was an excuse to eat a lot of food and not worry about doing too much extra exercise. I was sorely mistaken…I may not have gained the freshman 15, but it is a lot easier than you think to gain weight in college with the always-available dining hall comfort food. I learned quickly that the beautiful on campus gyms should be taken advantage of.
A good winter coat is a MUST.
The gorgeous, sunny Saturdays spent tailgating and attending football games don’t last forever. Before I knew it, the cold winter air set in and I was walking to class unable to feel my frozen fingers. If you don’t have a good winter coat (preferably a long one, made with down and a thick hood), you might not survive State College winters.
It’s okay to room with a high school friend.
A lot of people don’t think it’s good to room with someone you already know. They say that college is the place to expand your horizons and meet new people, and living with someone from high school will keep you from branching out. As someone rooming with one of my best friends from my hometown, I can say from my own experiences that I made a great decision. We were already comfortable with each other and it hasn’t kept us from meeting new people and doing our own thing. Plus, rooming with someone you get along so well with makes every night feel like a sleepover!
Stepping out of your comfort zone pays off.
College is the perfect time to figure out what your interests are and what you want to spend your time doing. I had no idea the extent of clubs and activities I could get involved in, and I knew immediately that I wanted to try something new. This led me to sign up for mock trial, and though I had no previous experience I had an amazing few months learning and meeting people through the organization. Though I no longer participate in mock trial, the people I became friends with and the memories I made were really integral parts of my freshman year.
Exams are super important.
A lot of classes base grades solely on three or four exams. In high school, I could usually get by cramming for tests the night before. But at Penn State I learned that preparation in advance really is key (and has saved me from some really late nights).
No night is off limits for partying.
In high school, weeknights were “school nights” and I rarely ever went out on a night other than a Friday or Saturday. At Penn State, it seems like something is always going on no matter what day of the week it is. You can bet there will always be some ragers at any given time in downtown State College.
Waking up still isn’t easy.
I thought it would be so much nicer not having to wake up at 6:30 a.m. like I did in high school. But as my nights have gotten later and my bedtime hovers around 1:30 a.m. on a typical weeknight, I’ve found that it’s still hard rising in the morning for classes-even if they don’t start until 11:15 a.m.
Life at Penn State is really something that you have to experience to fully understand. Luckily, the freshman of 2017 have three more years to continue learning about life in Happy Valley.