Townie Talk: That kid from your high school

I don’t know about you, but I’m not the only one from my high school who goes to Penn State. In fact, about three-fourths of my graduating class is here. That’s almost 500 people. Yay, right?

More like yikes. Only about 15 of these people are my close friends, which means the rest are just acquaintances. And the more random acquaintances you know, the more awkward “hellos” on the way to class.

Am I being dramatic? Probably. But admit it — there’s some people you recognize and just don’t know if you should say hi to them. And this problem is increased 500-fold when your college and hometown are the same place.

Obviously, someone I hung out with in high school will get an automatic hello. But what about someone I sat next to in history class? That guy whose locker was next to mine? That girl who got stuck in the bathroom on our high school Europe trip? That guy who asked me to prom over text? (Don’t judge — high school was awkward for you, too.)

Whether you’re from Altoona or Alaska, at a university this big, there’s a chance you feel my pain. So, I spoke with non-townie Penn Staters about how they deal with hometown run-ins to feel better about myself see how we all compare.

Catherine Johnson, a freshman secondary education major, says about 10 to 15 students from her high school come to Penn State every year. To some of them she says hi, but to others, “It’d just be weird if I said hello,” she says.

“There’s this one guy who was in my calc class in high school, and he made it his job to make fun of me,” she says. “I ran into him the other day, and it was completely and utterly awkward.”

Happily for freshman Katie Rhodes, “There’s, like, two people from my high school who I’m legitimately happy to see sometimes.” As for the others, seeing them makes her feel awkward and annoyed.

Not that I can blame her. High school acquaintances remind us all of our pre-Happy Valley lives (OK, not in my case). But at the least, they remind us of old social ties and popularity patterns we may be happy to have left behind. Just remember — you’re in college now.

And if you’re feeling awkward, I’m with you.

Photo by Sam Florio

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