In April of 2011, as a senior in high school visiting Penn State, I walked into the Creamery for the first time with my dad. We stared at the list of flavors, and I really wanted to have “Peachy Paterno” until I remembered I hated peaches. Then I saw “Sandusky Blitz.” I pointed it out to my dad since our last name is Blitz, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Later, I researched Sandusky on Wikipedia, and saw he was being investigated for sexual abuse of minors. I had no idea as to the impact or significance of that information until November of that year.
When I first heard the news of the grand jury report in November, I was shocked, as I think most Penn Staters were. My classmates from my hometown of Staten Island, and even some teachers, questioned and occasionally insulted my love and desire to attend Penn State. After checking my application status every day following my submission on September 1, I soon began to wonder if I was even meant to go to Penn State. That all changed when I received my acceptance for the 2012 summer session the day before Joe Paterno passed away. It was honestly one of the most bittersweet moments in my life.
Starting in June, I had to attend summer session with a few thousand other freshman. I chose to partake in the LEAP program, which I can honestly say was not that rewarding for me. I also spent way too much money on chai milkshakes at Irving’s. As summer session came to an end, I couldn’t wait for the fall semester to start. I was mostly looking forward to the start of football season, but also to have my first real semester at Penn State.
At first, college seemed really similar to high school. Bathrooms were threatened to be closed for cleaning, and I sat in class with two of my friends who doodled pictures in their notebooks. After a short time, though, I realized college was not like high school at all.
After attending the Ohio and Virginia games, I was initially pessimistic about the football season. Even though I didn’t quite know what to expect, I knew what I saw in those games was not what I was hoping for. But it didn’t take long for my views to change. I’ve been going to NFL games for as long as I can remember, and nothing compares to the Beaver Stadium student section atmosphere. The rest of the season reminded me why Penn State was so special, and why I loved it so much. That was only one of the many lessons I’ve learned.
I learned how ridiculous college students could be after spending many Thursday nights coming home at 2 a.m. listening to and writing down all the stupid things drunk people say for Alicia Thomas’s “Overheard” posts.
I learned that in the next few years, I will probably be able to see any musical artist I would like to see. If I want to pay for a show, the BJC will hopefully bring artists that I adore. If I go to a concert for free through SPA, they will probably be my favorite artist from middle school, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I learned that, being from New York, no matter how good someone tells you Brother’s Pizza is, it’s really not that good. I also will never, ever eat a slice of Canyon Pizza, even if I’m starving. I learned that Irving’s bagels are the best substitute I will get for a New York bagel, but it’s necessary to get it toasted. I learned that baking is really difficult in college, especially since you need to reserve an oven 48 hours in advance, and what are you going to do with five extra eggs?
I learned about the intense Philly/Pittsburgh sports rivalries, and I don’t plan on rooting for teams from either city. I also learned that Philly Cheesesteaks are really good, although I hope that doesn’t mean I’ve picked my favorite city. I learned that I will probably never get to witness a Jets football game unless they’re on primetime, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
I learned that Penn State actually does cancel classes, despite the fact that we probably didn’t actually need to this time…
I learned that hayrides are actually a thing, and not just a field trip we went on in second grade. I also learned that people cut down their own Christmas trees rather than buying them in a parking lot.
I learned that when you write in a candidate (for example, a player on the football team), Onward State will take a photo of the results and publish them on Facebook.
I learned that even though people claim that “Happy Valley is a bubble,” it doesn’t mean everything is happy and perfect. There’s still a lot of ignorance and naïvety at Penn State towards different cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles. I hope during the rest of my time at Penn State that something will change amongst the student body concerning those issues.
I learned that joining something you are passionate about, no matter what it is, will make your college experience great. Some people are passionate about the millions of organizations that they are in, but if you find one that you are equally passionate about, that’s just as important. I’ve made my best friends through Onward State so far.
I learned that in spite of everything that has happened in the past year, I am absolutely a Penn Stater for life. I was in State College when the Paterno statue was taken down, and I was in Beaver Stadium for Bill O’Brien’s first win. I know the next few years will be full of many challenges and also exciting times for Penn State, and I’m so glad to be a part of it.