Opinion: What has UP taught me?

Photo from @jadeebramwell on Instagram
Photo from @jadeebramwell on Instagram

I’ve been at Penn State for the last year and a half. While I have not always had the classic four years here at University Park, my story is not the only one that’s started at a different campus or university altogether. College can be overwhelming, but due to my proximity to University Park, I thought that everything would be calm and that I would finally have that real college experience I was looking for. But I quickly found that my experience this last semester would put a lot of things into perspective for me.

Expectation vs Reality

Before committing to PSU, I had so many expectations of that WE ARE mentality that they portray to students. Now of course, college is what you make it, but when you’re not offered the same opportunities and choices at a campus 40 minutes away from the main university, it hits home more and more that we were at a disadvantage. This is why I decided to transfer to main campus a semester early. To be able to join organizations like VALLEY that are making a difference on this campus.

But after all of the hard work of months of extra classes and stress, I still did not feel fulfilled while being here this entire semester. I can honestly say my depression went to an all-time high. Not because I wasn’t achieving my dreams, but because I was doing it alone.

Photo from @miaacastilloo on Pinterest

I can confidently say I have made zero close friends while being here at main campus this entire semester. And before you ask… I am involved in six organizations on campus. I have met amazing people while being here and I can confidently say that people have been welcoming especially as a new student. But spring semester here is a different beast compared to fall.

People already have their established friend groups, they have been in their organizations for months on end. To speak truthfully, people aren’t looking for new friends. Mixing this with my anxiety and hesitancy to make new friends, I was tasked with taking on the journey alone.

Why this matters?

I am not writing this out of pity but to say that the balance has not been there for me this semester. A lot of students sadly feel this way and the underbelly of a campus with 50,000 students allows you to have the loneliness take over. I have been living that real college social life through online with students on campus like Marie Hilbert, Reny Myers and even Katie Feeney.

Depression, anxiety and feeling alone are not something you should be ashamed of. To some, I come off as very outgoing when need be. It’s been a great mask for me especially coming from a predominantly white environment. I was bullied multiple times in school and I wanted college to be different for me.

There is also the added aspect of race and how as Black students whether you decide to join a white sorority and assimilate to “white culture” or strictly have your own safe spaces and you are judged just for being in the PWI environment. Minorities on this campus genuinely can feel uncomfortable by the volume of nondiversity being thrown at them on campus.

Photo from @emiladeneke on Pinterest

But your expectations of college whether it’s your first or final moments here is your story. You matter regardless of your mental blocks or feelings of loneliness. I’ve been racking my brain and praying, asking why I didn’t feel like I belonged. I learned throughout my time here that in everything in this world, things take time and friends come and go.

I’ve now been focusing more on myself and how I can make the last two years of college work for me to get me out of my slump. If you’re wondering what my new mindset is, here’s some of my advice to feel better:

  1. Stop putting pressure on yourself to have the “best college experience”… it’s not the same for everyone.
  2. At a PWI you’re experiencing as a Black woman is always going to be nuanced, give yourself more grace.
  3. The places and feelings you were in a year ago today are valid then and valid now.
  4. Finally, you are growing every day and the feelings of rejection and blockages in this process are normal.
The journey ahead

As I leave this semester behind, I implore you to find communities and spaces within this community that will be there to support you no matter the hesitance or drama. There are so many organizations and communities on this campus making a difference in the lives of students who aren’t the “normal” PSU student. I thank the PRCC, Black and Latino Caucuses, Gender Equity Center and so many more for continuing to give our university spaces for people to thrive in.

What I’ve learned at Penn State is a story most of us have felt and I am just a one-off case of many who’ve experienced being by themselves. So to that girl who just committed to Penn State officially two years ago, keep your head up and focus on becoming your best self. Everything else will fall into place on your own timing.

Photo from @Jadeebramwell on Instagram

What has Penn State taught you? Let us know by tweeting us @VALLEYmag 



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