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Shed The Expectations: Elissa Hill’s Senior Column

As I walked through campus in my cap and gown taking photos with some other Onward Staters, Dana Lipshutz asked us all: “What’s something you wish you would have done?”

I first said hike Mt. Nittany, but I crossed that off my list this week. Then I said get involved in more — with a quick caveat that I think that may have been physically impossible. While I definitely haven’t taken advantage of every single opportunity at Penn State, I gave it the old college try.

Anyone who knows me would surely describe me as Type A (as long as you’re not judging me based on my bedroom…sorry, Kristen). So is it any surprise that I had what I thought was a perfect plan for college? Get a 4.0, graduate with honors, join Circle K and the Daily Collegian‘s business division. Oh, and maybe I’d join an a cappella group or Thespians somewhere in there, too.

Needless to say, none of that happened (sorry, Mom).

Like a lot of freshmen, I didn’t feel like I had found my place at Penn State after my first semester. Even though I was involved in Key Club in high school, its college affiliate Circle K just didn’t feel the same, and I decided it might not be the right place for me after all. The Collegian’s training sessions were mandatory and on a night when I had an evening class, so that was out of the picture, too. And Thespians was a time commitment I just wasn’t sure I could balance with my schoolwork.

I had all these expectations of myself and my college experience, and it took me a while to realize it was all just some made-up bullshit and that life’s about doing what you want (and, uh, college is about getting an education, of course).

I don’t have the ultimate cliché story about how I stumbled upon Onward State at the involvement fair, but bear with me while I tell you that this little blog has always been my favorite Penn State news source, long before I was leading it. From the time I decided to come to Penn State, my grandma would share Onward State posts on my Facebook wall. I was a loyal follower of the OS football beat when David Abruzzese and Doug Leeson were in the press box — back when those two were just bylines to me, not real people. I didn’t know at the time how much I’d eventually learn from them.

I’ve dipped my feet in a little of everything for the blog, from traveling to Harrisburg for a Board of Trustees meeting, to road tripping to Illinois to shoot a football game, to spending every Wednesday night in the HUB and caring way too much about student government. I didn’t expect any of these 1,000+ stories to be part of my college experience.

I didn’t expect an all-nighter writing in the Graduate to be one of my favorite college memories and lead me to some of my best friends. I can’t thank Lexi Shimkonis enough for roping me into the UPUA beat, Mike Reisman for singlehandedly helping me make it through THON, Alex Bauer for helping me make it through every other day of my life, and Kevin Horne for being my biggest critic (usually constructively). I can’t imagine my Onward State experience without my real soulmates — Steve Connelly, Gabi Stevenson, and Anthony Colucci — there every step of the way, from editing together at 3 a.m. to accidental (~unexpected~) trips to Pasadena. You’ve all made me a better writer, editor, and person.

The last four years didn’t go exactly as I planned the summer before I came to Penn State. I didn’t spend every night studying in the library. I only played frisbee on Old Main Lawn once. I didn’t do any of those other things I listed above.

Instead of all that, I got shit done on the weirdest possible sleep schedule, took my extracurriculars way more seriously than most of my classes, and wrote a bunch of posts that pissed people off on the internet. Most importantly, I got to lead a few dozen of my favorite people into the blogosphere as the editor of Onward State.

One thing I did stick to from the beginning was Penn State football, which has taken me on the rollercoaster ride of a lifetime.

People say college is the time to try new things and do what you love. But if you want to do that, you’ve got to forget about the expectations. Forget about what you think you love, and if you’re lucky, you’ll find what you actually love. And I guarantee you’ll fall in love with the people you meet along the way.

My next adventure is in Philly, a city I never thought I’d live in. This time, I’m leaving the expectations behind.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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