15 Pieces Of Advice From A 2015 Graduate: Alicia’s Senior Column
Author’s Note: This post will be even better if you read it while this YouTube clip plays in the background. Please enjoy.
Graduation is upon us. From tweets that read, “I can’t believe I just bought my cap and gown, don’t make me leave!” to snippets of conversations caught in passing that sound something like, “I wish I could just stay here for four more years,” it’s clear that many of the members of the Class of 2015 are not happy about this fact. But I have to admit: I’m not exactly one of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had an incredible four years at Penn State. Though I didn’t exactly want to come here as a freshman (my heart had been set on attending a West Coast school, far away from my Central Pennsylvanian hometown), I quickly realized I had been dealt a fantastic hand.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that things honestly do work out how they’re meant to. God, that sounds so cliché, but I swear it’s true! Not getting what you want and what you think is the right choice for you sucks, and sometimes it may feel like your world is ending – but painful experiences lead to growth and can open doors to opportunities you would never have expected, and the results can turn out to be better than you ever would have dreamed. I was crushed when I couldn’t attend the school I originally wanted to go to, but if I hadn’t come to Penn State, I would not have everything I do now. I wouldn’t have met the amazing friends I know will be a part of the rest of my life, my boyfriend of two and a half years (who I’ll move in with after graduation!), all of my hilarious and supportive roommates, or the brilliant professors who helped me learn more about journalism and Spanish than I thought possible. I would never have had the chance to live with my host mother in Spain and immerse myself in so many other cultures while I traveled around Europe with terrific new friends during my semester abroad. I would never have gotten my first internship with Her Campus, which led to the full-time editorial position I will have with them upon graduation.
Simply put: I would not be the person who I am today without the influence of this university, and I will be forever grateful for that. “Thou didst mold us, dear old State” has never felt truer.
However, I’m ready to move on.
Please, don’t think I’m saying that I won’t miss anything. I’ll miss so many parts of Penn State. I’ll miss beautifully sunny days on the Old Main lawn, the echoing sounds of a hundred thousand people singing the alma mater together at a packed football game in Beaver Stadium, and the uncontrollable mixture of happiness and heartbreak that comes with the final four hours of THON each year. I’ll miss pretty much living in the Carnegie Building with the exceptional staff of the College of Communications and working to push this university to progress in positive ways and listening to drunk people say hilarious things on Beaver Avenue. I’ll miss Irving’s bagels and Pokey Stix and West cookies and Wings Over (Honey BBQ 4ever). God, of course I’ll miss all of that. How could you not?
I think there’s a difference between appreciating these cherished experiences and clinging to them. I want to allow the precious moments I’ve had in college to become the happy memories that color my recollection of this university when I come back for tailgates (as one of those alumni that get super drunk and give food to poor college kids because they remember being one, of course). I will always treasure my Penn State past, but I figure it’s time for me to allow it to become my past instead of trying to force it to remain my present. This next chapter is coming fast, so why not embrace it? The future looks bright, and it’s all thanks to my time in Happy Valley.
As far as this past chapter, though, there are a few things I wish I’d known. If I could go back in time and give my freshman self some words of wisdom, I’d tell her (me?) the following. Maybe it would make the whole college thing a little easier… Or at least, a little less awkward.
Here are 15 pieces of advice from a soon-to-be graduate of the Class of 2015. (!!!!!).
- You should always bring a Canyon dollar with you when you go out, just in case.
- Never be the guy who messages the entire ANGEL ListServ asking for class notes the day before the exam. Everyone hates that guy.
- Trying is not inherently uncool. I don’t know when we all started pretending to magically fall into our successes (ex: “I totally blacked out last night and then somehow managed to ace my exam today anyway!” …because of course you can’t just say that you studied hard and are intelligent and that’s how you aced the exam), but it blows. Work hard and do your best and take credit for your successes because you earned them and you deserve them. Celebrate other people’s victories with them, and don’t be friends with someone who can’t be happy for you when you do well. Those people are douchenozzles.
- You’ll really miss your meal points one day. Cherish them while you still have them. Share them with your elders. What goes around comes around; one day you’ll be a hungry upperclassman living in your own apartment and maybe a kindly underclassman will take pity on you and swipe you into Pollock.
- Everyone should thank every Penn State employee they come in contact with, from advisors to dining hall workers to custodians to professors. They work hard to make our university as wonderful as it is and they are so wildly under-appreciated.
- Don’t pay for a gym membership. Just speed walk up and down Shortlidge a couple of times and call it a day.
- It’s okay to be super passionate and enthusiastic about the things you love. Just be yourself and the people who are meant to be in your life will be drawn to you for exactly who you are. Holding back your emotions or pretending to be someone you’re not will only lead you to people who like something that you really aren’t. Steer clear of that. That’s an easy way to lose yourself.
- Quarterzips are directly linked to importance and social standing. You should definitely judge everyone you meet at Penn State based on how many they own.
- It’s been said a million times, but having a lot of friends is not the same as having good friends. You don’t need to hang out with shitty people just so you have something to Instagram or someone to go to the bar with. Be picky about who you let into your little world, because who they are will affect who you are, whether you want it to or not.
- Studying abroad is the single most amazing experience you can have in college. Even if you choose not to actually take a semester abroad, you should still travel as often as you can and always try to embrace other cultures, even when it makes you uncomfortable. That’s how you learn, how you grow, and sometimes how you end up eating rotting shark flesh in a dimly lit bar in Reykjavik.
- Getting popcorn-ed at football games is dangerous and terrifying and exhilarating and everyone is probably going to see your underwear and they’re definitely going to touch your butt but you should do it anyway because there’s nothing like it.
- Don’t let people make you feel like you’re not worth everything you aspire to. This can happen in sneaky ways and can lead to unhealthy relationships and dependency/trust issues. You should be around people who make you feel like you can do or be anything you want to be, and you should treat people that same way.
- No two Jungle Juices taste the same or contain the same amount of alcohol. Tread carefully.
- You have to trust your instincts. If it gives you a bad feeling in your stomach, trust that and remove yourself from the situation. Somewhere deep down you know what’s right and what’s wrong, and what you’re okay with and what you’re not. Stick to that.
- Just be happy and be weird and laugh a lot. Take a bunch of naps and pet dogs when you see them and day drink in the sunshine and do stuff that makes you smile. When it comes down to it, doing what makes you happy is the most important thing.
Thank you to everyone who made my Penn State experience what it was – I will miss you all so much, and I’m so grateful to have met each one of you. And to all of my fellow graduates, I think this quote from my favorite TV show realistically sums up what we all need to hear right now: “Welcome to the real world! It sucks. You’re gonna love it.”