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To Build A Home: Samuel Brungo’s Senior Column

I often find myself explaining the life I grew up with and what it is like to be a local kid at Penn State. I find myself feeling the need to justify my decision to go to college a stone’s throw away from the house I grew up in. I find myself joking that my mom does my laundry, gets me groceries, and how I get a beer with my parents once a week. However, I rarely find myself wishing I would have gone somewhere else.

Growing up, I was infatuated with this school and with the idea that one day I would be a student here. I think that this stemmed from the fact that my cousin, Jess, played for the Lady Lions. As you could imagine, she was busy with traveling to games, practice, meetings, and class, so seeing her play at the Bryce Jordan Center was a treat, but not as much as it was getting to see her and her teammates after the games. At 4 years old, I was the Lady Lions’ biggest fan. It all started there.

I started to follow the football team as I got a bit older, learning the names and numbers of each player. I became a huge fan of the team. Going to these games with my dad, playing catch in the cow fields, drinking ginger ale pretending it was beer — these were memories that shaped my childhood. I continued going to the games as a hobby, but also to relive those moments. As I grew older, they looked a little different, including real beer pregame and more stress during the game. Spending time with my dad, and the rest of my tailgating family, are memories that I will never forget.

In 2011, when the scandal happened, this town became a dark place to be. Every day seemed to get worse. Once the season started, I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. The people of State College became close, and the Penn State community rallied around the team more than ever. I knew that this was something I would always be a part of.

I couldn’t have imagined going anywhere else for college. I toured other places, but there was always something wrong. “The campus is nice… but not as nice as Penn State” I’d say. Or, “It’s a cool town, but not as cool as State College.” I applied to four other schools, but, to be honest, the only acceptance letter that mattered was the one that came from down the street.

Once I got to Penn State, I started slow. I roomed with a friend I knew from middle school and already had my friends from high school, so I didn’t really feel the need to reach out and make new friends. I love my friends, don’t get me wrong. But I felt like I was missing something in the “college experience”.

Come sophomore year, I joined two clubs. Again, I started off slow and kept to myself. But at some point, I felt friendships begin to blossom. It was a really cool thing — getting to start fresh, meet new people, and fall in love with them. Joining those two organizations, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, and forming new relationships was one of the best decisions I made.

Two summers ago, my sister moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, nearly 2,000 miles away. I remember asking her if she ever got homesick from State College, and she told me no. I was a bit confused. I remember thinking, “How could you not be homesick from a town like this?”

But she said she doesn’t miss State College at all…She just misses the people she knows there. And she wasn’t wrong.

This town and this university are beautiful, and they offer so much, but that just isn’t it. I can’t imagine growing up anywhere else or going to school elsewhere. I’ll absolutely look back on the physical place and think of good memories. But, in the end, those memories could be made anywhere. It’s the people I was with that made my time growing up here so special. It’s the people I was around that made my time at Penn State so important.

All year, I felt like I was ready to move on to the next phase of my life, and I didn’t think that I would be sad. While I do feel like it is time to move on and I don’t think sad is the right word, I am certainly feeling sentimental. I really do feel a connection to the people in my life, and personal relationships are so important to me. If you’re in my life, you’re here for a reason. It may not always seem like it, but I appreciate you.

To quote my best friend’s favorite song, “Home is wherever I’m with you.”

Thank you to the people of State College and the people of Penn State for making this place my home.

With love,

Sam

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About the Author

Samuel Brungo

Samuel graduated from Penn State in 2022. If you'd like to contact Samuel, you can email him at [email protected] or connect with him via Twitter & Instagram at @SamuelBrungo.

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