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How To Survive As A Branch Campus Kid

Hey, fellow branch campus kids. I’m Bill. I’m like you: I attended one of the many branch campuses in the Penn State system for two years — Altoona, to be exact — and I’m now up at University Park. Or State, but people around here hate it when you call it that. We’ll get to that part in a minute.

I’ll admit, it’s rough getting used to University Park if you spent two years at a branch campus. Sure, you can come up all the time, but nothing prepares you for when you actually step foot on campus on your first day of classes.

Luckily, I’m here to help. I’ve got some things that you should should remember as you’re getting ready for the best few years of your life at University Park.

1) You’re Not An Idiot Because You Went To A Branch Campus

This is the important part. There are tons of people up here that like to condescendingly say, “you went to a branch campus?” Yes. You did. So what? Going to a branch campus doesn’t make you an idiot, being an idiot makes you an idiot. You’re going to meet people who have been up here that are smarter than you. You’re going to meet people up here that make you feel like Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s the nature of the beast.

2) “Branch Campus” Is Apparently Offensive

I never knew this. No, seriously. Some people get offended when you call it a “branch campus.” They prefer “Commonwealth campus.” These are the kinds of people who think a party is Pictionary and Hawaiian Punch. Just do what I do, along with all of my friends who went to branch campuses: ignore them and continue to use the phrase “branch campus.”

3) So Is “State”

ANECDOTE: I once made the mistake of calling University Park “State” around someone who has been up here a while. I received a Pat Chambers-esque death stare. It was horrifying. Avoid doing that at all costs.

4) Balance Work And Play

This sounds like common sense, but it can be a big deal. Every branch campus student knows someone who comes up with them, stresses out over classes, never leaves their room, and by the end of the semester they’re a mess. On the other hand, we all know the one kid who can’t believe they’re here, so they party every night, make a habit out of getting shit faced, and by the end of the semester they’re a mess. Don’t be that guy or girl. Be smart.

5) Don’t Ever Say You Went To Altoona

People up here think Altoona is a giant pimple on University Park’s ass. You should’ve see the look on our Managing Editor‘s face when I told him I went to Altoona, he reacted the same way that everyone in the newsroom reacted when Ron Burgundy said “go fuck yourself, San Diego.” Just…don’t do it.

6) Don’t Be Intimidated

Yes, part of this has to do with the fact that you’re going from a campus that had a few thousand people to a campus that has more people than the entire city of Wilkes-Barre. Yes, part of this has to do with the fact that it takes a while to walk across campus. But the biggest intimidation factor comes from how overwhelming the Penn State experience can be. There are so many things to do, which is different from the “drag your ass out of bed, occasionally go to class, eat something, drink, sleep” cycle that 94 percent of branch campus students are stuck in during their first two years of school.

Hey, on that topic…

7) Take Advantage Of Being Here

Seriously, just think about this for a second: you’re at one of the best universities in the world in terms of academics, athletics, and social life. In a week, you can get lectured by a world-renowned professor, go to the biggest party you’ve ever attended, listen to a lecture given by a hero of yours, and be one of 108,000 people cheering on one of the premier football programs in America. That’s not even a fraction of all the awesome stuff you can do here.

University Park has 955 student organizations. It has one of the premier libraries in America. The BJC had huge musical acts, from Bruce Springsteen to Kendrick Lamar, come in the last year. There are art galleries. There are 29 D-1 teams on campus, and most of them are really, really good. There’s THON. There are so many things you can do now that you’re at UP, especially because nothing ever happens at branch campuses (well, aside from that time Tim Tebow showed up), so do something.

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