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Unknown Path To Success: Patrick Spurlock’s Senior Column

My ideal college experience didn’t start out the way I wanted. It was known in junior year in high school that I wanted to attend Penn State like my uncle and grandpa. As college acceptances started to roll in, Penn State University Park wasn’t one of them. I was completely bummed that I wouldn’t be able to attend Penn State and follow in the footsteps of my relatives.

After weeks of stressing on a decision on where I’d attend college, I decided to enroll at Penn State Altoona. I never thought of starting at a Commonwealth Campus as an option until Penn State offered.

I started my freshman year with a kickstart in my desired major, criminology. I wanted to go out there and be a profiler like Stephen Walker on Criminal Minds. After a semester of struggling to enjoy my major, I knew it was time to move on to something else.

I took hours looking through the Penn State majors directory and had endless phone calls with my mentor and mother on asking what should I major in. I landed on three options:

  1. Security risk analysis
  2. Rehabilitation human services
  3. Business

None of those three sparked any interest. None. So, I took the leap, and my second semester at Penn State Altoona, I enrolled in an intro course for security risk analysis. While learning about information, technology, and security, I knew for sure this was not my field of interest.

Back to the drawing board, I went. What did I want?! Was it time for me to transfer to another college to find my place?

As my sophomore year began, I decided to pursue a major within the Smeal College of Business. I was set and ready to go obtain a degree that could help me further my knowledge of how I could be successful in building a business and pursue my own someday.

Throughout this trouble of deciding on what I should major in, I was also lost as a person. I didn’t know what I wanted or where I could see myself in three years. From hours of sitting at my desk in Cedar Hall, I pondered on what I wanted. Photography sparked my interest a dozen of times, but I always pushed it away, because deep down, I thought nothing could come out of it. That was a lie.

Within three weeks of sophomore year, I was the social media and photography captain for Penn State Altoona’s THON org. I had some idea of what my role was, but I for sure knew this was some type of passion that could lead somewhere. I started working on capturing the world around and through THON. I took hours of editing, advertising, and fundraising for the kids. By mid-December that year, I was elected to dance in THON, which was a time I’ll never forget.

Fast forward to the end of sophomore year, I officially found my purpose at Altoona, but it was time for me to change campuses and my major once again. I didn’t meet the requirements for Smeal.

Back to the drawing board, I went. What did I want?! Was it time for me to transfer to another college?

And so I took a leap of faith and picked health policy and administration. The start of junior year I was enrolled at University Park as an undergraduate pursuing a B.S. in health policy and administration. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Yet again I was lost, on a big campus with new faces. 

I attended different organization meetings to find friends and find my place on campus. But nothing worked. But I knew I had a backup plan. I always wanted to be part of Onward State as a photographer, but was I fit for it?

After many conversations with my twin sister, her roommate convinced me to apply for Onward State. 

So by the fifth week of junior year, I was officially accepted as an Onward State photographer. That day, my life changed.

I met some of the most wonderful and talented people in the world that helped lead me to where I am today. With an awesome opportunity to photograph artists, campus organizations, and Penn State sports, I wouldn’t turn down any opportunities to photograph.

By the end of junior year, I knew I found my place with a major and organization I enjoyed. I furthered my skills in photography and my major making my time at Penn State the most valuable it could be.

Senior year came around in a blink of an eye, and I no longer experienced the stress of finding my place. I was set on a smooth path of enjoying photography and my major. It was soon time to decide on what my plans would be after graduation and I did not want to encounter yet another stress. I put it off to the side for a while and wanted to enjoy my last few months at Penn State.

From attending THON to capturing concerts and finding some of the closest friends ever, I had the best last few months ever. And in that time I found what I wanted for myself and my place at Penn State and in the world.

After the ups and downs through college, if it was one thing I learned it would be to enjoy yourself and do what you love and for me that was photography. Do not give up on your dreams. Go out there and pursue them 100 percent until you wake up every day and love what you are doing.

I know my time at Penn State was not how I wanted it to be, but looking back, I would not change it for a second. I found some of my closest friends, my purpose, and my passion for photography. I’ll always be that kid with a camera traveling the world and making memories that last a lifetime.

Thank you to my Penn State family for all the support you gave me.  You will always be in my heart. WE ARE!

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About the Author

Patrick Spurlock

Patrick Spurlock is a senior from Millington, NJ. He is majoring in Health Policy and Administration. You will often catch him taking photographs around the Penn State campus. If Patrick is not on campus he is either enjoying coffee at Rockroth Coffee, listening to some good ol Bruce Springsteen or traveling. You can follow along on Patrick's life adventures on his Instagram (@patrickspurlock).

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