Meet VALLEY’s Spring 2022 Entertainment Opener: Sofi Choinski

Photo by Annie Princivalle and Becca Baker

“My favorite thing is just going to ballet; it has a certain level of structure about it. I just think it’s really interesting to be able to progressively do things better yourself.”

Some people know exactly how to build upon themselves and are driven to make things work. But there’s a level of flexibility when it comes to making plans, and Sofi Choinski is no stranger to that.

Choinski, a junior at Penn State, grew up in Bucks County, PA as a dancer, something she always pictured being.

“I grew up just totally a dancer. That’s all that I did — I was never even really a part of high school activities,” she says.

Both of her parents had the mentality of ‘if you’re going to do something, go all the way,’ and that mindset stuck with her. Even though she was dancing before then, when she turned 13, she began taking it seriously. It evolved from more than just a hobby and became a passion, a foundation and a crutch.

“I had a pretty hard family life growing up, so I really relied on my dance teacher, another piece of why the arts are such a big part of my life. I was actually basically raised by her for a little bit. She literally put clothes on my back, she would feed me after school every day, drive me everywhere and I could stay at her place whenever I needed.”

Dance became connected to someone so special, and all throughout high school and into college, she had someone she could fully rely on. Andrea, her dance teacher, wouldn’t hesitate to take her to auditions at 5 a.m. just so Choinski could be first in line. 

“She is my favorite person. Some people are lucky to have people like that in their lives. I had to go through something hard to have that, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

To this day, that love and support fuel her.

“I love my dad so much, he just couldn’t be there for me in all the ways I needed, and she stepped up to do that … because of her influence and my love of dance growing up, I ended up going to school where my dance teacher went to school.”

Choinski originally went to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia to pursue dance. Fully planning on diving in all the way, she was dancing at a company there and taking classes. Shortly after, during her freshman year, the pandemic hit which caused the arts world to go into a spiral. Choisnki’s plans became uncertain — suddenly, dance couldn’t be her world. Although the path she was on had a roadblock, she didn’t let that stop her; rather, she took advantage of change.

Making a complete 180, she applied to Penn State, where her dad went, as a marketing major. In dance, she had to learn how to market herself to companies when auditioning. That same premise attracted her to this major, but instead of marketing herself, she could market brands and products that she enjoys. 

The transition wasn’t glamorous though. “The whole sophomore year, it was all just my gen-eds. I was just taking it day by day… It sucked going from dance to that.” Choinski spent her sophomore year online at a branch campus before coming up to University Park this past fall.

“Going up as a junior transfer means everyone already has their friends… everyone’s well on their way to doing their major classes and I was kind of starting from scratch.” But Choinski joined as many clubs as possible, including Women in Business, Penn State American Marketing Association and Volé Dance Company. Although she initially wanted to transfer, she met so many amazing people and ended up loving her time at Penn State’s campus. 

Furthermore, through those connections, she found a way to get a Consumer Brand Management Co-op at Johnsons & Johnsons.

“I never thought I’d land something like this, but here I am,” says Choinski. “Penn State has so many opportunities. If you involve yourself, you can land amazing things. If you want to, you can do anything — it’s out there for us.”  

Embracing change has not only helped her find other things possible, but has made her happier. “I think the way that you put your mind to something is what you’re going to get out of it. If you stay positive, wake up, take a deep breath and go about things thinking they’ll have good outcomes, then I think you’ll be happier and more successful overall. If you wake up and think ‘I wanted to be a Rockette, but now I’m in economics class at 8 a.m. online,’ you’re not going to get anything out of that.”

With this outlook, she hopes to go into marketing for dance brands that she loves or open a dance studio for adults. Although she wouldn’t be at the forefront like before, she’s ok with that. “It’s not like you have to go all the way or you can’t do it anymore.” 

The past couple of years have knocked down the structure she planned on building, but her foundation and love for dance will always be there as she rebuilds elsewhere.

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