An Open Letter to Uneasy Freshmen

Dearest freshmen,

It’s been exactly 31 days since the first day of school. Hopefully, those 31 days have been some of the best of your lives. I’m talking days full of firsts you’re never going to forget: your first college class, your first night sleeping in a dorm, your first shot of demon juice Vlad, your first moments of sheer terror as you got lost on our maze of a campus.

I hope that during this past month, you’ve fallen in love with Penn State. I’m talking about something deeper than that butterflies-in-your-stomach puppy love that you felt on your tour. No, I hope that you have discovered a true passion for the place that you’re going to call home for the next four years.

But I know that this month hasn’t been perfect for some of you. I know that for some of you, this month has felt longer than a year. Instead of being filled with exciting firsts and new experiences, it’s been a blur of homesickness and anxiety.

I get it. I was there two years ago. At the beginning of my freshman year, I was totally convinced that I had made the wrong decision in coming to Penn State. I’m an out-of-state student, so a grand total of two kids from my high school (including myself) went to Penn State. I’m also an introvert, so I’ve always struggled to make friends and get comfortable in new situations.

My story or situation might not be the same as yours, but I don’t think that it really matters. What matters is that I know how you feel. And what’s even more important is that I know that you’re going to be OK.

Penn State is a big place — there’s no denying it. But that just means that there are so many places for you to find your niche. We have literally hundreds of student organizations, so you’re bound to find at least one group that you identify with.

It’s also never too late to join a club. So what if the Involvement Fair was a few weeks ago? You don’t have to feel left out or inferior because you aren’t on someone’s ListServ yet. If organized activities aren’t really your thing, don’t sweat it. Just because you aren’t in Greek life or a club doesn’t mean you can’t find a kickass group of friends. Odds are, they’re probably stumbling around campus right now, feeling the same things that you are.

Realistically, there might be chance that you and Penn State were quite simply not meant to be. Maybe you knew that coming into freshman year, or maybe you’re slowly starting to realize that you don’t bleed blue and white. I completely respect that Penn State isn’t for everyone — but it doesn’t hurt to give it a shot.

“Giving it a shot” means not sitting in your room while your floor mates go out to dinner. It means venturing outside your comfort zone. It means starting a conversation with one of your classmates. It means hanging up that phone call with your best friend from high school to attend an organization’s general meeting.

All of those situations might sound terrible to you. Hell, if someone had told me to do those things two years ago, I probably would have thrown up. But I pushed my change-induced nausea aside and went to a party with some strangers from a club’s ListServ. We were all awkwardly silent the entire time, and I left feeling pretty damn uncomfortable. But fast forward to today, two years later. Those painfully silent strangers are some of my best friends, and that club is what I call home here. I could’ve missed out on some of the greatest people and experiences of my life, had I just sat in my room alone on that fateful Saturday night.

I hope that my story gives you hope, little freshmen. Just like you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t judge Penn State by your first month here. Give yourself a little time to breathe, then buck up and take the school by storm. Then, maybe in two years, you’ll be the one passing your mushy sage advice to the class of 2020.

Until then, I believe in you.

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About the Author

Anna Foley

Anna is a senior majoring in Communication Arts & Sciences and Spanish with a minor in Theatre. Yes, she went to Spain. Follow her half-funny thoughts @exfoleyator and send her chain emails at [email protected]

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