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Staff Picks: Looking Back On A Year At Penn State Like No Other

To say that this year has been unconventional is a bit of an understatement.

However, it has brought many highs and lows and created a ton of memories (both good and bad) for Penn State students. Virtual classes and all, it’s safe to say it’s been a weird one in Happy Valley.

Some of our staffers wanted to take the time to reflect back on the year and think about some of the silver linings and lessons they may have learned during these ~unprecedented~ times.

Mackenzie Cullen

It’s no surprise that this school year was not it, folks. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, I’d rather focus on what I learned about myself through this shitshow of a school year. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to roll with the punches. On top of dealing with the constant changes that have been caused by the pandemic, I’ve had a lot of other unexpected things thrown my way this last year that have taken a toll on me. I like to believe that I’ve become a more resilient person because of how this last year has gone, even though it was tough. Despite everything, this year has made me more excited and hopeful that there will be some semblance of normalcy in the fall and that I’ll hopefully get to have a real-ish senior year.

Dana Nunemacher

We’re literally living on a floating rock. If this year taught me anything, it’s that. Earth somehow came to be despite all odds and so did you. Enjoy every day. Your grades do not define you. Shut the damn textbook down or close the laptop screen once in a while. There’s a whole life out there that needs to be lived. There are people out there that love you. I promise you that your STAT 200 homework does not care about you. Take a walk to the Arboretum or eat that Creamery ice cream because yes, you do deserve it. I don’t care what you do. I just hope you take a chance to live a little. Also, you are here doing your best. That’s all you can ask for.

Mackenna Yount

I have to say, it’s kind of hard to sum up how this year has gone. There’s been a lot that happened. As a freshman, I don’t have much to compare it to, but I think I made the most of what I got. I made amazing friends (one who even liked me enough to move in with me after the second time we met), joined some really awesome student orgs, and used all the challenges this year put in front of me as something to learn and grow from. I’m happy with the way that things turned out at the end of this year, and I’m happy that I was able to make really amazing friends given the circumstances. I’m excited about the future, too, now that I know what a not-so-normal year is like and where all the potential for even more exciting opportunities may pop up.

Trae Morgan-White

I really learned a lot about myself this year as a Penn State student. I didn’t get the chance to experience the new normal on campus. Instead, I relied on a glitchy computer, expensive textbooks, buffalo wings, Spotify, and poor Wi-Fi to survive the semester at home. I fought through a year of anxiety and depression and didn’t know how to cope with issues I had after leaving Happy Valley in 2020.

This year, I needed to readjust and regain my confidence. After false friends, systemic racism, feuds with student organizations, and mental health issues that took a toll on me in 2020, I wanted to prove to myself that I could bounce back. Sadly, I’m still a senior planning on graduating in the next few months. But when I do, I’m leaving Penn State as a fighter.

Acacia Aster Broder

This year was definitely harder than I thought it would be. Taking classes virtually from home was isolating, and I needed to work extra hard to actually absorb material. Combined with not seeing my friends in person, I definitely felt lonely and out of the loop more than not. That said, I’m closer with my family than I’ve ever been before, and I’ll be a bit sad to head back to campus in the fall. I began to take time to slow down and practice self-care and got into yoga and meditation. Overall, I grew so much this year and the good things that came out of it outweighs all the struggles. 

Annie Kubiak

My first year of college did not go as expected, and not because of COVID…well, maybe partially. In the first semester, I made friends with the wrong people and it went downhill from there. I wanted to go home every weekend, and I hated being anywhere in East Halls. Just as I was close to hitting rock bottom, I met another freshman at Onward State, Mackenna. After hanging out twice and talking about how I did not like where I was living, Mackenna said, “There is an extra bed in my dorm suite. Do you want to move in next semester?” The rest is history.

Shortly after that, my first year at Penn State began to improve. In the spring, I made new and better friends and I had more opportunities with photography. The highlight of this year was being able to shoot soccer, volleyball, and baseball this semester, even in the freezing cold and pouring rain. Joining Onward State was the best decision I made this year, and it changed my freshman experience for the better. I honestly do not know what I would have done without it. Thanks, blog <3

Tobey Prime

Honestly, this semester wasn’t that bad. The greatest thing that happened this semester was I joined the Onward State staff. It’s been quite a blast so far. Also, I finally got a little taste of normalcy with one in-person class, COMM 360: Radio Broadcasting. I still needed to take strolls around campus to remind myself that I do go to Penn State and not Zoom University.

Knock on wood, but I hope we can get back to in-person classes in the fall, and I cannot wait for that new Bellisario Media Center!

Matt DiSanto

If you’ve read this far in this post, you already know that Penn State students spent the year studying online while sparsely seeing their friends and worrying about catching COVID-19 in a borough once ranked as having the worst virus outbreaks in the country. In short, the 2020-21 academic year sucked. Big time.

This year showed an ugly side of Penn State at times. It shed light on a university that could’ve taken a stronger stance against hate speech or the pandemic itself. Man, remember when Penn State tried making students sign an agreement back in August asking them to assume full responsibility for catching COVID-19 on campus and potentially falling ill or even dying? Good times.

But above all the bullshit, this year showed me there’s good in Penn State — specifically in its students. I can’t tell you how many times I saw friends and strangers alike lend a helping hand as others struggled to get through the day. It takes guts to pull off a fully virtual THON or an online music festival. It takes even more passion to keep Penn State chugging along when the world seems to have taken a gap year.

With vaccinations on the rise, I’m confident we’ll see a Penn State we recognize once we return to campus in August. If this year’s shown us anything, it’s that there are some bright, bright days ahead for Dear Old State.

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About the Author


Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.


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