Big Ten schools Ohio State, Indiana and Wisconsin are pretty similar to Penn State. All three are huge. All three boast big sports programs. And all three have their own student-made drinking holidays and streaking traditions. Given these facts, you’d think other Big Ten schools are just Penn States transplanted across the Midwest. Well, while you were tanning and sipping cocktails in the Caribbean, I tested this hypothesis in Madison, Wis.
That’s right — I spent spring break in flannel and winter coats as I stayed with my Badger bestie. I even attended some of her classes (we have the same double major, OK?). But most importantly, I learned a few things about another college town that helped me put State College in perspective.
Know this: State College is tiny. If you’re from bustling Philadelphia, then you’re well aware. But for many of us, especially Central Pennsylvanians, having cows for neighbors is normal.
It sounds lame, but this rural setting is what allows Penn State’s campus to sprawl. It’s how we have grass stretching from Pattee Library to College Avenue, lawns at Old Main, the HUB and the Business Building, and then an arboretum. Seriously, Penn State, I know we all complain about the construction on HUB lawn, but maybe we should start praising our overload of existing green space instead.
Compare it to this: Camp Randall, the UW football stadium, is in the middle of town, surrounded by houses, apartment buildings and busy streets. The school’s campus is also interlaced with pavement and heavy traffic. As I described to a fellow townie friend, “It’s like if PSU were crisscrossed by a bunch of Atherton Streets!”
Here in the Valley, the only traffic we worry about are darting bikers and those scary little orange trucks the maintenance workers drive (don’t you hate those?). But then again, Madison doesn’t need to lord its stadium and academic buildings over the rest of the city. It has its own gorgeous capitol building and massive icy lakes. In short, it’s got other stuff going on. And that’s not a bad thing.
The point is, we Penn Staters are lucky to go to college in a town that looks, feels and smells like academia. (OK, academia and football.) The closest Nordstrom may be three hours away, but hey, you can move to the city after you graduate. Until then, just remember that State College is classically collegiate. And appreciate it.
Photo: Noelle hanging out in Madison over break.