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Why Penn State Is Weird: An Out-Of-Stater’s Perspective

Let me preface this article by saying that when I write “weird,” I mean it in a good way. Penn State has been my dream school since I was 12 years old, and I cried in front of my entire high school wrestling team when I found out that I had gotten in. My mom went here, I love it here, and my children will not be aware that there are any other options for college except for Penn State.

Now that this is settled, I’ll add that I’m also from Chicago, home of the best pizza in the world. The East Coast is so different from where I grew up, and this is only compounded at centrally-located Penn State. Ever since I moved into Porter Hall two years ago, I’ve been keeping a mental list of all the straight-up weird parts of going to Penn State and simply living in Pennsylvania in general.

Wawa vs. Sheetz

This is a common icebreaker at Penn State, and it can cause a lot of emotional reactions. “Wawa has the best hoagies,” you might be saying, or “Sheetz has superior mozzarella sticks.” Apparently Wawa has $1 coffee that slam dunks Sheetz into the ground. As someone who did not grow up eating at a gas station, I’m more confused than anything.

I avoided the Mix at Pollock my entire first semester at Penn State because I had no idea how it worked and I was too embarrassed to hold up the line, and I actively avoided the Sheetz downtown. I have since gotten my life together and learned how to order, while also going to both Wawa and Sheetz on multiple occasions as what I consider a neutral third party.

Sheetz is better. To all of you who live “just outside of Philly,” I look forward to reading your anger in the comments.

Alcohol Is Bad

Disclaimer: I am 20 years old, therefore underage, so I have never taken a sip of alcohol before because that would be illegal. Duh. However, hypothetically, if I were to be 21, I would need to practically jump through hoops to buy alcohol.

You can buy beer downtown, but for liquor, you need to venture to the outskirts of town, since there’s a difference between beer stores and liquor stores. What’s more, apparently, you can buy only a certain amount of alcohol at a time at beer stores.

Also, I’m pretty sure State College is the only college town in the entire United States that doesn’t accept fake IDs. Maybe not, but you all know the conversation you have with friends with other schools who wonder why you’re still going to frat parties and not sneaking into bars. This is not a complaint, but just an observation. As someone who comes from a state where you can buy a handle of vodka via a drive-thru and it’s completely legal, this was a very weird transition for me.

At other Big Ten schools like Iowa and Illinois, bars are notorious for letting in underage students, even ones who are still in high school. In comparison, only one Penn State bar that will even let you in on your twenty-first birthday is the Phyrst.

Again, not complaining, because I clearly don’t drink since that is illegal. This might apply to other people, though, which is why I included it here.

Pitt Is Shit…I Guess?

I understand rivalries. I love them. The 2016 Ohio State game still gives me chills, and I watched Allen Robinson’s insane catch against Michigan at my uncle’s wedding. I can get behind in-state rivalries too, having grown up with two rival high schools in my hometown.

The thing about playing Pitt is while I can get pumped for the game every year, I don’t have the aggressive feelings people who are actually from Pennsylvania have. I don’t know anyone who goes to Pitt, so I don’t have anyone to make fun of during Pitt Hate Week. For an out-of-stater, this rivalry with Pitt can make a person feel a little left out of the fun, because even if you try to be the most aggressive Pitt Hater in the entirety of State College, there’s always gonna be a part of you that knows it just doesn’t hit the same way as if you grew up here.


The concept of a daylong makes sense: you drink…all day long. Daylong.

However, depending on where you grew up, there are several different names for these events where you consume copious amounts of alcohol during the daylight hours. For example, where I grew up, they were called darties, as in day parties. I know at some schools in New Jersey they’re called a dage, or a day rage. The weirdest one I’ve ever heard is at Eastern Illinois University, where it’s called a beer breakfast, despite the fact that there’s more than beer to drink and it isn’t just for the morning.

So, with daylongs, I get it. It makes it a little hard to talk to friends from home about what’s going on on the weekends, but this is one of the more pleasant weird aspects of Penn State that I can get behind.

No Tax On Food And Clothes

This is my favorite weird thing about Pennsylvania and Penn State. I remember being 16 and ordering my first chicken basket at Beaver Stadium, and completely not being ready for my total to actually be the same price that was posted on the menu. Imagine my surprise when my mom, an Allentown native, informed me that this was a ~thing~. It’s something that I miss when I’m at home and having to mentally add on a couple extra dollars when I’m going into my wallet, and it’s something that I’m sure in-staters are taking for granted.

You Are All A Cult

Every time I go to another college, I compare it to Penn State in my head. Out of every school I’ve been to, no one else has ever loved their school the way we do. No one else has such an insane White Out every year, or such a classic football uniform, or is the No. 1 school to graduate future CEOs. No one else is responsible for the largest student-run philanthropy in the world or is so damn aggressive about their school spirit.

I love it. You are all so, so weird, as is Pennsylvania in general, but it’s the kind of weird I miss when I’m not here. I love Penn State’s quirks and I’ve spent three-quarters of my time here learning about them and adopting them into my life.

To my fellow out-of-staters, we are all in this together, and the people we grew up with are totally missing out. Together, we will figure out why people are passionate about gas stations or how to understand a Pittsburgh or a Philly accent. For now, though, we can laugh with them, and love them like we love those weird cousins we only see at Thanksgiving.

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About the Author

Katie Moats

Katie Moats is a senior majoring in English, and her goal this year is to get a big girl job. Seriously, though, if you're looking for someone who can write and edit like nobody's business, she's Katelyn Moats on LinkedIn and will literally interview with you tomorrow. You can follow her @k_moats24 on Twitter for stupid content, but if it's something serious, feel free to shoot her an email (preferably in the form of a poem) to [email protected].

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