The years spent here at Penn State go by in the blink of an eye. One moment you’re moving into your freshman dorm, attempting to use a map to make it to your first class. But before you know it, you’re taking cap and gown pictures in front of the Nittany Lion shrine. Seniors are currently dealing with the bittersweet feeling of breaking free from the Happy Valley bubble. Entering the “real world” can be exciting but also quite scary for those who aren’t ready to leave behind their college days. Luckily, some recent PSU alumni have given VALLEY their thoughts and advice on how to soak up your lasting moments here in State College.
As a senior, it’s easy to constantly feel stressed about class or finding a job. Don’t let this stress get in the way of lasting memories.
Jenn Bont, who now lives in NYC, explains, “Thinking back on my senior year, I can’t remember the exams and the final papers that I stressed about. But, I do remember the late nights at Pickles, eating Bradley’s cheesesteaks with my friends at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday and singing karaoke at the top of my lungs at the Gaff.”
Once you’re in the real world with a job that occupies the majority of your day, you’ll miss the freedom that comes with being a college student. Make the most of breaks between classes to sit outside or see friends while you can.
Maggie Gillespie, a 25-year-old English teacher at a high school in New Orleans, emphasizes the importance of friendship in college.
“When college ended, it felt like all of my friends and I took to the wind. I am currently thousands of miles away from the people in my life who mean the most to me. They’ve seen me at my worst and at my best. Your friends will be the people who have seen you transform from your 18-year-old self to who you are now, and that is such a significant change. These people know you, and that sort of connection is incredibly difficult to replicate in the adult world.”
The bonds you make at Penn State are rare and special. Someday you are going to miss the convenience of walking across the street to see your best friends. Treasure these moments while you have them.
Gillespie also explains that many people in the real world don’t understand the culture at PSU. It’s one of a kind.
“So, take advantage of that! Go out with your friends on a weeknight! Go to every single bar off campus. Stay out all night and get waffles when the sun comes up. Lay out in the grass in the middle of the afternoon,” she says, “because that stuff isn’t socially acceptable in the real world anymore.”
Sianna Joy, a 25-year-old living and working in Manhattan, says you need to remember to live in the present. “Even if you’re worried about job hunting or moving across the country or your relationship status, there’s never going to be another time where you live five minutes from your best friends … and take classes like drawing or running or ballroom dance.”
“Be aware of the unique and amazing situation you’re in,” she adds. “Truly live in the moment and recognize how lucky you are to be in Happy Valley as you walk to class and pass thousands of other lucky students. Also take hundreds of pictures and videos to look back on. Your friends will thank you later.”
Kerry Woods, a grad student in West Virginia, thinks about landing that first job after graduation. “We all wonder — coming from a big school and going out into a bigger world — what is going to set me apart?” says Woods. “What is the employer or grad school going to see in me that makes them choose me? The answer is what you do that makes you, you.”
She urges students to do things you are truly interested in and passionate about. “Work hard but also do things that feed your soul — you will connect more with others the more you experience in life. Get out there and do what makes you, you.”
Bont also stresses to keep in touch with professors and mentors.
“When you’re 21, you may think you have your whole life planned out, but things change, and your dreams change, and [those professors and mentors] will be a huge help with career moves and advice for any point in your life.”
Whether you’re a senior or an underclassman, we all should take these words to heart.
Take advantage of what Penn State has to offer, whether it be a free play or concert or a fundraiser. Make the most of your time in the incredible and unique place that is Happy Valley. As Joy points out, “It’s corny but … don’t count your days, make the days count.”
Years later, you are going to look back at these four years and cherish the memories Penn State has given you. Keep these moments with you as you enter the real world.
Bont sums it up well: “The stress fades, but the good times last forever. Enjoy it.”