I am a member of the group Penn State’s student body affectionately titles “townies.” Born and raised in State College, I grew up sporting blue and white jerseys every game day, shouting “we are!” at the top of my lungs, and most importantly, going overboard on death by chocolate ice cream at the Creamery. As a kid, I thought all squirrels were friendly and that it was just against the law to drive into town in late August. I may have walked into my first day of freshman year with utter confidence that I knew everything about this campus, then someone told me to go to the Thomas Building and to find 5.8726 million in Pattee stacks, and the truth came crashing down on me:
Townies don’t know everything. Some even get lost going from the HUB back to West Halls.
My views of this campus, and the town as a whole have drastically changed after my first two months here as a student. My childhood memories will never go away, but quite a few things have made me expand on my pre-conceived notions that State College was this tiny little prison where there was nothing to do besides drink. Sure, if you go downtown on a Friday night looking for something to do, a majority of the people are going to be stumbling around, quite possibly looking for the bottom halves of their dresses. But to totally disregard the more “hidden” activities is a rookie mistake. Late night at the HUB isn’t just something lowly freshman who have no friends participate in. I mean, hello, who wouldn’t want to see three free nights of The Avengers? It’s insanity to skip out on such a great opportunity. The best part is, you can have coherent conversations with your fellow movie-goers and not be surrounded by vomit smells, seizure-inducing lights, and blasting pop music that talks about that guy who Rihanna totally screwed last night.
Even the town itself seems to open up when you spend time really trying to explore it. Throughout high school, I limited myself to one yoga studio, one restaurant, and perhaps on a crazy day I would voyage the ten other Starbucks joints in the area. Yet after attending Penn State’s yoga club, I learned that there are at least three other yoga studios in State College, all of which have their own styles and variations of basic yoga postures. When I overheard some upperclassman groan about dining hall food and talk about Cozy Thai, Green Bowl, and Fiddlhead’s amazing food, I looked to venture out into the downtown area and was pleasantly surprised. I was a newbie, just like every other person my age trying out these places, and by not knowing what to expect, I felt surprisingly connected, rather than just sticking to the other townies.
It’s easy to stick to your comfort zone and overlook the numerous possibilities to try out when you’ve lived somewhere your whole life. I may not have moved locations, but I’ve definitely switched mindsets. Everyone around you is going from the comfortable to the new freshman year, and you can miss out on a lot by clinging to your high school memories. I may want to visit Baby’s Diner every now and then to catch up with old friends, but there’s something refreshing about grabbing some Kiwi with new friends as well. Townies, it turns out, know just as much as every other scared freshman in the history of college. We may act like we could walk from place to place in our sleep, but really, we were just following our friends the whole time. And everyone knows following is just soooo high school.