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‘Change Is Hard, But It’s Going To Take You Far’: Dana June Nunemacher’s Senior Column

For the majority of my life, I only knew the rolling hills of Susquehanna County and the same 76 kids that were in my graduating high school class. I woke up each day to horses in my front field and a tiny herd of dairy cows roaming in the back field.

Unlike many of my 40,000+ peers at Penn State, I didn’t grow up with sidewalks or with an iconic fast food place right down the street where everyone would hang out after a high school football game (my high school didn’t even have football). Any mall was an hour’s trip away. I didn’t even try Chipotle or know what Lululemon was until late into my first year of college. 

With all of this being said, how did someone who literally had to learn how to cross the street end up at such a large school like Penn State?

I am glad you asked. It all started on a fateful day in September 2013. My Aunt Jan took me to my first Penn State game against UCF. Penn State lost, but I felt like I had won. At just 12, I experienced love for the first time. It was with Penn State. How amazing was it that so many people could come together with such pride for one school?! I decided in September of 2013 that State College was my town. As of December 2022, it still is. 

I came here with a goal created by a young #girlboss — become a sports broadcaster. I love college football. With a passion six years in the making, I willingly (yes, willingly) came to Penn State during summer session. I admit to a lot of people that I do not remember much of what happened in the week leading up to leaving for college. However, I do remember crying every day. I cried happy tears, scared tears, and sad tears. This was about to be the biggest change in my life. I didn’t know anyone. I was going to a campus that I barely knew. The biggest change that was already forming in my head was the fact that I did not want to go for sports broadcasting anymore. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go to for journalism, but why would I even DARE to throw away the sweet dreams of a child? With that mindset, it didn’t surprise many when I took two internships with Penn State Athletics during fall of my freshman year. I spent 147 hours working between the Bryce Jordan Center, Beaver Stadium, and Rec Hall. I enjoyed every moment.

Notice I didn’t write that I loved every moment. The experience was fun, and I am so thankful to have been given the experience. It still felt like something was missing though.

After the fall semester ended, there was no rest for a small-town girl crawling her way to the top. In January 2020, I packed my bags and cried for three hours as my dad drove me to Harrisburg for the Pennsylvania Farm Show. I earned a spot as an intern on the digital content team. I found myself in a familiar position. At barely 19 years old, I was again the youngest intern in the room with one semester of college under my belt. I didn’t know anyone or what the next week of my life would look like. It turns out that one week in Harrisburg looked like how I wanted the rest of my life to look. 

I was emerged in the world of agriculture and unlike working in sports, I loved what I was doing. I had never felt more myself than I did when I was creating videos about potato donuts or taking pictures of every farm animal imaginable. My mom picked me up after my weeklong adventure and dropped me off in State College to begin my spring semester. I called her the next day and told her I was changing my major. My place in this world is telling the story of agriculture. 

The brilliant song “Caroline” by Briston Maroney is what inspired the title to my senior column. The song features the line “Change is hard, but it’s going to take you far”. From what I can tell by my Spotify playlist, it looks like I favorited the song at some point during the start of my freshman year. Between my Instagram account and the story I have told you so far, that point of my freshman year looks like it was the most beautiful time in my life. Little did everyone know that I was sitting in the shower crying every night. As the tears would fall, I would repeat the lyrics over and over again.

Change is hard, but it’s going to take you far.

Change was really hard and I was gaining so much from it, but at what cost? It felt like if every day that I wasn’t doing something extraordinary, I was nothing. That feeling took such a toll on me. During Thanksgiving break of my freshman year, I finally broke. I cried into my mom’s arms as I told her I wasn’t good enough. I told her the nightmares of failing at Penn State. I told her how hard it was being three hours away from my family. Looking back on it now, having a breakdown like that doesn’t shock me. I was screaming for help throughout all of high school and no one heard me. It wasn’t that they were ignoring me. It’s just hard for someone else to hear you when you aren’t even listening to yourself.

Although I was whispering those words in some of my darkest moments, it’s crossed my mind in the best of times as well. Since changing my major to public relations with all of my focus on telling the story of agriculture, I have been honored to intern at places like Berkey Creamery and the Center for Dairy Excellence. This time next week, I will be wrapping up my first week working at the place where it all started — the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Changing my life plans around was hard. l had to say goodbye to a childhood dream that pushed me through middle and high school. Looking back on it, my childhood dream was never about the job I thought I wanted. It was about finding my passion and letting nothing stop me from pursuing it.

There have been moments that I have not wanted change to come, especially recently. I mean those moments of change when I realized that certain chairs at the dinner table would go empty during the next family dinner or that certain laughs that made my heart warm wouldn’t be heard ever again. When I cross the stage on Saturday, there are three people who won’t be waiting for me back in northeastern Pennsylvania. My Pop-Pop passed away when I was in the 3rd grade. He never got to hear about my dreams of going to Penn State, but I know he would have loved them. I also know that in this universe he is always with me. My cousin, Becky, passed away during my sophomore year of high school. She was truly one of those people that lit up every room she walked into. When I learned that I was going to Penn State, she was the first one I wanted to tell. She already knew though. My grandpa recently passed away in November, just less than a month shy of graduation. He was so excited to see me graduate. As we gathered in my nanny’s living room on that November day, I was engulfed in tears every time I thought of my grandpa and his Penn State grandpa gear. My aunt reminded me that wherever he may be, he has a much better view than the graduation livestream that Penn State offers. So, grandpa, my final request for you is to please get me across that graduation stage without tripping. 

You can probably tell that through all of this change my family has always been my core to me. I could write another whole senior column where I thank them, but the site doesn’t have enough room for that. To keep it short, thank you for loving and believing in me every day. You have all seriously showed up to every event in my life with the most unconditional love. I am sure I really tested that love from elementary choir concerts to terrible high school plays. Your love and support is what has gotten me through each day over the past three and a half years. 

Mom and dad, you deserve a whole column to yourself as well. Thank you for everything. Thank you for buying season football tickets each year. Thank you for the miles you have put on your vehicles from Montrose to State College. Thank you for answering my FaceTime calls when I just need to talk. Thank you for letting me know that it is really okay to not be okay. I have been blessed with the best parents in this world.

To my friends (HEC 2022, Onward State, Leap Mentors, Gamma Sigma Sigma, and everyone in between), thank you for every laugh, tear, and Gaff pitcher. YOU are the reason I have been able to thrive in State College. Thank you for all for sending me any social media content that features a cow, letting me know that you liked my Onward State article for the day, or picking me up an unsweetened iced tea just because. I love you all. My love especially goes out to Alysa Rubin. Alysa, you are a gift to this world. Never forget that. 

I always found it corny when people would include their significant others in their senior columns, but Anthony, you deserve it. The person I was before you is someone I am not sure I would recognize today. I am amazed by you every day. You have supported me through so much in the past 18 months. Whatever our next adventure is, I am glad it is our adventure. 

State College, thank you for every lesson you have taught me. Thank you for the high points and the low points. Without experiencing either of those, I would never be the woman I am today. This little town felt like a big city when I first got here. I was forced to grow in ways I didn’t imagine. I wouldn’t have wanted these experiences anywhere else.

Here’s to change and may it always be for the best!

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About the Author

Dana June Nunemacher

Dana is a senior, who is studying public relations. She is from the 570 and yes, she has watched The Office. Her passions in life include drinking unsweetened iced tea and spreading her love for agriculture (yee haw)!

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