When I first came to Penn State as a high school student, I truly fell in love with this campus, the people, and what this school had to offer. As we were leaving Happy Valley after my first campus tour, my father asked both my twin sister and me what we thought of the school.
Somewhat annoyed by the unexpected We Are chants from random people on campus, she replied there was “too much community” here. Neither of our parents nor other family members were Penn State alumni, so it was understandable that she would be annoyed by the sheer amount of community Penn Staters share.
For me though, it was exactly what I wanted, especially from a school with more than 45,000 undergraduates.
Looking back on it now, there was some truth to my sister’s criticism. There is a lot of homogeneity at this school. A lot of us do THON. Many of us are somewhat coaxed into joining student organizations related to our major by professors, friends, or upperclassmen.
But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned here at Penn State, it’s that it pays to be different and it pays to be unique. If you let others pick your major or your student organizations for you, there’s no way to truly give it 100 percent of your effort.
During my orientation as a Smeal College of Business student, I was constantly bombarded with facts and figures about job placement rates and starting salaries. I was never told to pursue what I was passionate about. I was told I should be a finance major because the Nittany Lion Fund provides incredible opportunities for students to go to Wall Street and I was told I should be a supply chain major because it’s one of the highest-ranked programs in the country.
I bought into that advice. I told myself I was going to be a supply chain major and was even fortunate enough to land a supply chain internship after my freshman year. But rather than falling in love with the hype of the major and the industry, my internship was a wake-up call for me. I realized I was in the wrong major and it was holding me back. I had let others make critical life decisions for me.
Fortunately, I still had enough time to switch my major. Guiding much of my decision making was a quote by Steve Jobs from a Stanford University commencement speech where he said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
With that advice, I decided I wanted to be a marketing major and jump into the technology industry because that was what I was truly passionate about.
Even after I changed my major, I had people tell me that I was making a mistake. I was told that I shouldn’t study marketing because I’m not going to make any money after I graduate and that the job prospects are poor.
But what I’ve grown to realize and learn over time is that all of that unsolicited advice was useless and irrelevant. If you’re truly passionate about what you’re studying, you’ll eventually make up the difference in starting salary. You’ll make it up in job satisfaction and happiness and I can personally attest to that fact.
So as my final piece of advice to anyone who reads this, whether you’re an incoming freshman or even a rising senior, I dare you to pursue the major that you love no matter how many attempts it takes to figure it out. I dare you to participate in student organizations that make you happy and give you fulfillment.
Don’t just join an organization because your friends are in it or because you bought into a good marketing pitch. Join THON because you’re passionate about the cause. Join a debate organization because you’re passionate about current events or international relations. Join a student news outlet because you’re passionate about journalism and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
If there isn’t a student organization that fits your interests, go ahead and start it yourself. Chase your passions down like Saquon Barkley’s 79-yard Rose Bowl touchdown. When we all take the time to truly consider what we love and unrelentingly pursue those interests, we make our lives infinitely better and Penn State a better place.
I dare you to be different.
Lastly, Some Thank Yous
Thank you Mom and Dad for sending me to Penn State. Thank you to all of my friends who have graduated and put up with my nonsense and to the friends who still have a couple more years ahead of them. I know you all are going to go on to do incredible things.
Thank you to everyone in the Penn State International Affairs and Debate Association who has provided me with a home over my four years and thank you to my marketing professors who have guided me on my academic journey. I won’t name names — you all know who you are.
Lastly, thank you to my family here at Onward State. My senior year wouldn’t have been half as interesting if it wasn’t for you all. I wouldn’t have been able to cover the countless political events, debates, and meet Chelsea Clinton, Tim Kaine, Eric Trump, Kelly Ayotte, and Martin O’Malley. I wouldn’t have able to write about white nationalists here at Penn State or students under threat of deportation and imprisonment abroad. I wouldn’t have been able to capture incredible video of the Ohio State rally and get served a search warrant for the footage or get millions of views of my video of people slipping and sliding from freezing rain on Beaver Ave.
Thanks for the memories, Penn State.