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Change Is The Only Constant In Life: Sarah Snyder’s Senior Column

Photo: Shannon Soboslay

As an idealist growing up, I pictured my college experience to basically be a mix between Zoey 101 and the TV show Greek. I grew up watching TV shows and movies about college, dreaming about the day I would one day get to attend a university. I had it all planned out. I imagined going super far away, studying outside in beautiful weather year-round, joining Greek life, attending athletic events, and earning a degree to begin a career in business.

If you caught the “studying outside in beautiful weather year-round” part then you may have caught on that I was not picturing myself as a Penn State student. However, senior year of high school was coming to a close when I received a letter saying I was offered a lot of money to attend a branch campus of Penn State and could graduate a year early with my dual-enrollment college credits if I took that route.

All of the sudden, my college experience was nothing like I had pictured. I was staying in my hometown, attending a satellite campus with about 3 buildings and 500 students, no Greek life, and basically nothing to do on campus. Because of all of this, I hit the ground running and joined as many organizations as my school would offer, I learned to get out of my comfort zone and introduce myself to everyone I saw, and capitalized upon every opportunity that came my way.

At the end of my freshman year, I felt like I had finally gotten the whole college thing down but thanks to the 2+2 program and being a year ahead of my class, I was picking up and transferring to a whole new school. All of the sudden, I became a freshman for a second time; I had to make all new friends, learn to navigate one of the largest campuses in the nation, join all new organizations, and get a footing in my new major. I quickly learned that you can’t do everything at a huge school like Penn State and need to figure out what you really care about to strategically prioritize your time and energy.

My second year of college came to a close and I was so annoyed because I hadn’t solidified an internship for the summer or heard back from the 20+ organizations I applied to. Lo and behold, it was only a week into my summer when I got a call from my father that a business partner of his was in need of a business intern for the summer down in Fort Myers, Florida. Next thing I knew, I was on a plane a week later moving to a brand new place with no friends or any idea what I was getting into. I spent the summer exploring all that the gulf coast had to offer, photographing everyone and everything I saw and working full time in the career I thought I wanted to pursue.

I returned to school the fall of my senior year doubting that I would want to spend the rest of my life sitting behind a desk analyzing numbers. I had spent the last few months loving every second I didn’t have to be at work and could be outside exploring and taking photos. A little ways into the fall semester, I made the decision to pursue photography instead of business after I graduate. There was no way I was changing my major again so late in the game so I instead chose to enroll in photography and entrepreneurship based courses and join organizations that would let me shoot with the time I had left.

After photographing my first Penn State football game with Penn State Homecoming, I fell in love with the rush and continuous challenge to encompass an event’s atmosphere, fans, and the quick pace of the game for the school I love — and I wanted more.

Being that I was a transfer student, I had next to no idea what Onward State or the Daily Collegian were. After a bit of research and some conversations with other students (shout-out to Dana), I shot an email to Onward State and crossed my fingers that they would take a graduating senior studying business with no photojournalism background to join their team.

A few months later and I have met so many incredible, hardworking people and had experienced so many things I’ve only ever dreamed of. In one semester, I have been given the opportunity through OS to photograph Penn State basketball, the Blue-White game, shoot Penn State baseball on the field at PNC Park (the home of my favorite sports team) and so much more.

Now here I am, about to graduate in a few days, reflecting on my time in college and realizing that absolutely nothing over these past three years has gone according to my plans.

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, once said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Now of course, the man was discussing how all of us should always plan for and be prepared for change in every aspect of our lives but I don’t see it the same way. If change is the only constant in life, then all we can really do is roll with the punches.

I’m here to tell you that while these years may not turn out the way you may have thought they would, we are given the choice to look at change as either something to be afraid of, or an opportunity for growth. While nothing about college or my career looks like I thought they would my freshman year, this university and the people I have met along the way have enabled me to now pursue a dream I never knew I had with the most incredible experiences under my belt, and I would not change a single thing if I could.

To everyone reading this, embrace the inevitable twists and turns throughout your years at Penn State and push yourself to see the good in every circumstance. When you find your passion and identify what it is you care about the most, you can take advantage of everything this school has to offer and position yourself for a future you can surely be excited about.

If you find yourself on the track to a career you no longer want to pursue, try out some completely different electives and test the waters. If you haven’t found an org that you absolutely love yet, keep going to random meetings even though it’s uncomfortable for awhile; it’s not too late. If you didn’t land that internship of your dreams, stop and look around at the new opportunities you’ve been afforded. There are always so many blessings in the unknown that you’ll miss if you’re focused on what didn’t go according to plan.

If my time at Penn State has taught me anything, it’s that I have no idea where my life is going to take me in this next season. All I can do is be confident in who Penn State and the people along the way have molded me to be and trust that there are some crazy twists and turns in store for the future. I can’t wait.

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