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Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now: Mary Frances Pillion’s Senior Column

Sometimes, life doesn’t go exactly the way you think it’s going to. I’d been telling people since I could talk that someday I would go to Penn State just like my dad. We were a Penn State family, I came to at least one football and basketball game every year, and I knew from a very young age that Penn State would someday be the place for me.

That’s why I was so completely thrown off balance when I was so miserable after my freshman year that I thought I wanted to transfer.

When I first got to Penn State, things were going great. My roommate and I were the best of friends and I was getting fantastic grades in all of my classes. I didn’t really get too involved in clubs, but I enjoyed hanging out with my group of friends. I just didn’t think I had enough time to get involved here. Boy, that was a mistake.

Fast forward to the spring semester of that first year and all of a sudden my closest friend is treating me like dirt. The rest of my friends followed suit and left me totally and completely alone. To make matters worse, I got a B in a class, which to a super nerd like me may as well have been an F. I felt like everything was falling apart all around me and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was failing at college life.

I should also point out that I don’t drink much, which made finding friends here almost impossible. It’s a rough life when you go to a party school but you don’t like to party.

The only thing I could think to do was to leave Penn State and see if I could find a better college life somewhere else. I was even considering Pitt (believe me, I shudder thinking about that now) because I was that desperate. The very worst part about wanting to transfer was the feeling that I would disappoint my family in the worst possible way since we had always been a Penn State family.

I decided to give Penn State a second chance. I decided I would come back, get involved in some clubs, and see if I could make this work. That’s when I applied to Onward State and the Penn State Lion Scouts — two organizations that helped me fall back in love with Penn State.

When I applied to be a Lion Scout, I lied through my teeth about how much I loved Penn State and how I believed it was a fantastic place for everyone. I thank my lucky stars every day that I was a convincing enough liar to be chosen because, by the time I gave my first tour, I didn’t have to lie about loving Penn State anymore.

Lion Scouts gave me an amazing community and so many lovely friends that I feel lucky to know. I loved Lion Scouts so much that by my senior year I became the vice president, which is my proudest accomplishment as a Penn State student. Lion Scouts gave me a family and I will be forever grateful that they allowed me to fall back in love with Penn State and helped me realize that it truly was the right place for me.

I also decided to apply, with my mom’s encouragement (thanks Momma!), to Onward State, to see if they might hire me as a photographer. I had always loved taking pictures, especially of sports. I had a little bit of experience photographing my brother playing football and running track in high school, but most of my experience came from taking pictures of my dad’s basketball teams, as he had been a coach for years. When I heard that I had gotten an interview with Onward State, I was so excited I could barely choose which photos to take with me as a portfolio. Luckily, something I said in my interview worked, and I was chosen to be a staff member right when I got back to campus sophomore year.

Onward State has given me some absolutely amazing opportunities and I can honestly say I was proud to be a Penn Stater again when I was working for them. I absolutely loved sitting behind the glass in Pegula Ice Arena taking pictures of our hockey team, and on one amazing occasion, the Pittsburgh Penguins. But as crazy as it may seem, the best part for me was taking pictures of the Penn State men’s basketball team. Basketball is such a huge part of my family and being able to sit under the basket and take pictures of our team gave me a sense of home and happiness, whether we were beating Ohio State or losing to Rider (h).

I would love to leave you with two pieces of advice, especially if anyone may find themselves in a similar position. The first would be to get involved in something — anything. You do not want to end up like me. You don’t want one stupid fight with a friend who didn’t respect you to take away everything you thought you loved about your school.

As I write this column with one week left in my college career, I can’t imagine graduating from any other school. Penn State has been everything to me. I may have had a rough start, but I gave it a second chance. Therein lies my second piece of advice: Sometimes you have to give things a second chance to see just how amazing they can be. I’m finishing my Penn State career having studied abroad in Paris, my dream destination. I had four internships and signed on to my full-time job in September. I never got another B and I’m graduating Magna Cum Laude with two degrees from the best university in the world. In all, I could not be more grateful.

I want to say thank you to everyone who was there for me at my lowest, and thank you to everyone who encouraged me to stay in Happy Valley, for it truly has made me so happy. Thank you to my mom, who never ignored a single phone call and was proud of everything I did. Thank you to my dad, a proud alum who told me I was the best and that I could do anything.  Thank you to my brother, Thomas, who’s been my best friend for 22 years. And thank you to Nick: We made it almost five years, through four years of college apart, and I’m counting down the days until we can finally live in the same town again.

I’ve been saying it my whole life and now I’ll get to say it as a proud alum: We Are, Penn State.

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About the Author

Mary Frances Pillion

Mary Frances is a senior from Mechanicsburg, PA. She is double-majoring in Supply Chain and French and is a photographer and occasional writer for Onward State. She is an avid lover of weenie dogs, macaroni and cheese, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. She is also the Vice President of Lion Scouts and you'll often catch her running into things as she walks backwards around campus giving tours. To contact Mary Frances, email her at [email protected], or if you're feeling particularly generous, follow her on Twitter @maryfranny2.

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