Meet VALLEY’s Fall 2021 Campus Culture Section Opener: Keron Sidhu

Photo by Becca Baker and Cameron Soravilla

When analyzing the progression of life and the theory of time, Ferris Bueller says it best: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Meet Keron Sidhu: Toronto-born, New Jersey-raised, Penn State student majoring in industrial engineering. Most of her classmates range from 21 to 22 years old, but as for herself, she is senior at the golden age of 20.

Sidhu graduated high school when she was just 16. At school, she faced adversity when it came to connecting with those her age, as she grew up with two sisters, both over 10 years older than her. There was a time where the bullying got too extreme, so Sidhu decided to transfer schools, however, it was not a permanent fix.

“High school was too small of a bubble for me,” says Sidhu. “I needed to be in an environment where I could grow and expand further than my peers.”

To take matters into her own hands, Sidhu began writing to her teachers asking to approve her for graduation so that she could finally be out in the real world, flourishing. 

Once the letters of recommendations started flowing in, Sidhu grabbed her future by the wheel and began studying for the SATs — granted she had to teach herself the content in just two months. 

“I didn’t even know how college applications worked, ” says Sidhu. ”It was a lot.”

For Sidhu, there was light at the end of the tunnel, so it seemed — she was accepted into renowned universities such as Princeton and NYU for engineering. However, there was just one school out of the many she applied to that did not accept her due to a small transcript issue and it was none other than Penn State; the one school she “actually wanted.” 

Sidhu opened her rejection email and started to sob. Since both of her sisters went to Penn State for engineering, Sidhu explains that she was “raised on campus,” going on fun adventures with her sisters in State College — even sitting in on some of their classes at six years old.

Yet, with hard work and determination, Sidhu was able to resolve the issue, earning admission into the Division of Undergraduate Studies, then of course working her way into the Penn State College of Engineering. 

The transition into college led to a void of unknown for Sidhu. Once in Happy Valley, things began to crumble for her, both academically and mentally. 

“I went from being a 4.0 high school kid, doing honors, graduating early … to this girl who had a 0.8 GPA, ” Sidhu says. “I didn’t know how to navigate going to class or taking care of myself.”

“Everyone already had two or three years more experience figuring out who they are or they had different upbringings and I just couldn’t relate to it.”

Along with the age difference with her peers, it was not an easy feat for Sidhu to figure out her identity. Though cultured in the Indian community, Sidhu struggled with finding a home within it. 

Thankfully, as she spent more time at Penn State, some of that stress was relieved for her. 

Sidhu describes being accepted with “open arms” into the “Latinx” community, participating in organizations such as Latino Caucus. She also found comfort in the queer community, previously serving as the Vice President of the Queer and Trans People of Color at Penn State. 

“Even now I’m struggling to find my place but I’m more content with struggling than I was before, because I don’t feel alone in it.” 

Sidhu did not reach that mindset overnight. This past summer, she learned how to overcome her struggles after losing “80% percent of [her] life in 24 hours.”

On July 30, 2021 Sidhu found out that there was an issue with her tuition being paid on time. On her birthday, the university warned that if the tuition wasn’t paid in a certain amount of time, her summer credits would be taken away and she could be unenrolled from Penn State. 

Two days later, Sidhu gets a call from her mom, informing her that she is in the emergency room with a broken collar bone and ribs, after falling down the stairs. Another two days pass and Sidhu’s mom reaches out, asking for her to come home and be by her side.

This is when everything changed for Sidhu. 

While driving home at around 3 a.m., she fell asleep at the wheel due to extreme emotional exhaustion from the days prior.  

“I hit the left guard rail, my car spun out,” says Sidhu. “I hit the right guard rail, spun out again and I landed up halfway in the highway, halfway in the shoulder. I did not process what happened, I blacked out.” 

Drivers pulled over, directing traffic, while smoke filled the night air.

“It was like someone took a chainsaw and removed everything in front of my windshield,” says Sidhu.

Sidhu injured her neck and head, to the point where she had memory loss after the accident. 

After needing to recover in bed for almost three weeks, Sidhu’s outlook on her life was shifted. Wallowing alone in her thoughts gave her a new perspective. 

“I realized I have to start living,” Sidhu says. “If I would have died that day, I would have regretted everything that I have ever done.” 

Since the accident, Sidhu has been focusing on her own health and happiness, narrowing in on the importance of living life to the fullest. 

Sidhu describes learning how to “become [her] own best friend” helped her out during her recovery, explaining that, “At the end of the day, when you lose everything, you only have yourself.”

“With where I am at in my life, I have friends who are so amazing. I am surrounded by these positive people who are so uplifting and push me to strive for my goals. I let go of people who are toxic. I can’t imagine losing this lifestyle I have now.” 

Sidhu has since found passion in working out and making connections with new people. She further reached a personal goal of hers, to be content.

“Even when I’m sad, depressed or have moments of self doubt, I am content that I am able to have those moments. It means that I’m alive.”

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