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Liam Folkes: Nothing Compares To Happy Valley

When I first came to Penn State as a freshman, I didn’t know what to expect.

It was astonishing to see the support from students, faculty, alumni, and especially from my coaches and teammates, who have now become a family to me. From winning the first Big Ten Championship in Penn State history during my freshman season to appearing in two NCAA tournaments to winning the Big Ten regular season title my senior year, I couldn’t have written up my journey at Penn State any better.

Behind all of our accomplishments, there was the best student section in the country cheering us on each and every time we stepped onto the ice. Thank you to the Roar Zone for helping us when we needed you the most. The unwavering support from the Penn State family across the country was never unnoticed, and with their help, there are countless accomplishments and achievements that I will hold close to my heart for the rest of my life.

It was never going to be easy leaving this school, but it seems even harder now that every winter and spring athlete across the NCAA was unable to finish their seasons. As a senior, I find it extremely difficult to see our season end so abruptly and be cut short the way that it was.

The most difficult part about this situation is leaving Penn State with our final story remaining to be unwritten. It breaks my heart that we will never know how the story ends. There were so many memories that our team had made and were continuing to create with each and every single day that passed.

One of the hardest facts to come to terms with about leaving Penn State early is knowing that I will not be able to share the ice again with my brothers.

Putting on the Nittany Lion jersey was a privilege and an honor that I have never once taken for granted. Going back to my freshman season when I wasn’t playing as much as I would have liked, coach Gadz sat me down one day and told me I needed to be the hardest worker on the ice in order to play more. I took his message to heart, and it really showed during the Big Ten tournament.

That moment is when my journey shifted in the right direction and what jumpstarted my Penn State hockey career. Over the years, I grew as a player and as an individual, which had led me to becoming a leader and an alternate captain of the Nittany Lions. I am forever grateful and humbled in knowing that Penn State had transformed me into becoming a better person than when I arrived at 20 years old.

I will always be indebted to all of the extraordinary families and friends that have allowed me to attend Penn State — from the Pegula family to the endless donors and alumni that made my college career such a memorable one. This is just one of the many reasons on why Penn State is the greatest school in the world. Everyone wants the best for each other, and it is truly a family environment.

The Pennsylvania State University has given me so many lifelong friendships, opportunities, and a tremendous education I will cherish forever. Nothing compares to Happy Valley.

Once a Penn Stater, always a Penn Stater.

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