Finding The Right Direction: Nina Jeffries’ Senior Column

The majority of my senior year at Penn State, I’ve spent outside of State College due to my student teaching in Altoona, where I teach 8th grade English. Throughout my long, 40-minute car rides when I have to get up at the crack of dawn to go to teach my kids in “Toon Town,” I would take the time to think about what I would be writing for my column.

I struggled to come up with ideas to write about because I honestly couldn’t make up my mind on what I should write about. The idea finally came to me the other day when I was going through and clearing old text messages (no, I wasn’t driving while doing this) when I saw this old message I had received from my old newspaper teacher from high school, who reached out to me during my sophomore year of college, specifically the first week of the spring semester, when I transferred to University Park.

Before moving to State College, the only times I ever came up here was first in high school when my brother had a hockey game at Pegula and my dad brought me along because I just accepted my letter a month before going to Penn State Fayette, where I planned on pursuing film, and he wanted me to see a little of where I was going to end up in the next two years. My dad didn’t drive around town after the game. I only remember going to Pegula and then going down the hill to McLanahan’s where he bought me a College of Communications T-shirt. And yes, I did flex it around the halls of my high school the following Monday. The second time, I came up with Fayette for the All-U Game back in 2021, and the furthest I went was Beaver Stadium, making my knowledge of Penn State geography mostly just all the stadiums.

When I moved here in January 2022, I transferred a semester early due to classes, and my geography was not what I remembered from the last time. Trying to make a plan to come up and visit during this time was impossible at my house. During my first year and a half of college, I lived at home, commuting to campus every day. I worked two jobs, was a volunteer Girl Scout leader, and helped my parents run my three siblings all over creation to practices. When my parents and I rolled up to Pollock Commons to move all of my stuff (which, according to my dad, I brought too much crap) in the middle of a snowstorm, it was a bit overwhelming.

At first, we couldn’t figure out which building was mine. My mom accidentally went to Shunk instead of Heister, and when we finally went to the right building, we entered my room, and I couldn’t believe how small it was. Also, my roommate at the time took up 75% of the room due to her previous roommate never showing up, so I wondered how she would adjust to me moving in. Luckily, I had the room to myself for the night, so I could do my own thing and organize my side of the room.

The next day, I had to go to Carnegie for my change-of-campus meeting. On my way, using good old Apple Maps, my walk there wasn’t that bad. However, a squirrel popped out of a trash can, and I thought it was going to eat me. When I was making my way back, though, I couldn’t remember which building was my dorm. They all looked the same, and Apple Maps wasn’t doing a great job of guiding me home. I remember walking around in circles around Pollock for about 20 minutes before finally figuring out where to go. After that fiasco, I figured that was the end of me getting lost, and I could make my way around campus with ease on my first day.

It turns out I was wrong. My first day of classes in the spring of my sophomore year was honestly one of the most embarrassing and humiliating days of my life. I made it on time to my first class, which was in Boucke. That building I remembered from my walk the day before. However, my next class was in Walker, and the damn GPS took me the wrong way. Instead of walking down Pollock Road, it made me walk up to Curtin Road and walk the whole way around. I ended up getting lost, being 30 minutes late, and making it to the last 15 minutes of class. After class, I had time to kill before my last class in Carnegie, so I decided to go to the HUB for lunch. When I put the directions on my phone, it told me to walk up to North Atherton Street and walk down Park Avenue.

I then walked the whole way down to Bigler Road and then walked the whole way up Pollock Road to the HUB. Throughout my walk, I was so confused about why it was making me walk the whole way around campus, and then I realized it was in driving directions and not walking. It took me a whole hour to make it to the HUB. I can remember sitting in the Burger King, cold and tired, inhaling a Whopper before trudging my way to Carnegie. On my walk home (that I learned from already getting lost previously), I called my mom crying, begging her to come to get me, saying I was going to transfer to Cal U. That was when she told me that I needed to give it one month.

During my life crisis the first week of classes, I got a text from my old high school newspaper and video production teacher, Mrs. Marzano. Taking her classes is what drove my passion for journalism and inspired me to pursue my education in film. She previously talked to my dad about how I was adjusting, which wasn’t great, so she reached out, which meant a lot to me and even more now that I’ve gone through my journey. She told me to give myself grace, and that the most important thing I needed to focus on was getting my degree.

This was the same moment I decided to switch my major to secondary education. I’ve always had a natural calling to work with children growing up. But during COVID-19, I babysat for one of my former high school teachers every Wednesday due to his kids’ school having no school for cleaning, and I helped his daughter with her homework. Watching her being able to comprehend and understand the content brought me joy, so getting that message from Marzano and remembering how I felt helping the kid I watched, I know my decision was right.

It’s funny how fate works because then two years later, I was mentored by someone who is currently teaching news writing, my awesome mentor Mr. Clouser, and also I’ve been writing for the best news outlet at Penn State. (TDC are dweebs who suck at dodgeball.) I love that I can take something I’m passionate about and bring it into a classroom, where I can inspire others to be able to write about things they couldn’t normally write about in their English classes. So any schools out there interested in hiring a journalism/news writing teacher, please feel free to reach out, and I can gladly submit my resume.

Overall, if I decided to go down all the different paths, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. And I am so grateful for the path I have taken, all the people I have met along the way, those I already knew, and finally, those I will meet as I continue moving forward. That being said, I want to shout some people out because they deserve it and have honestly kept me going.

First, I’d like to thank my mom, Liz, and my dad, Keith, who have supported me throughout these last four years, emotionally and financially, throughout my journey to becoming an adult in a time when the world went into chaos. To my siblings Jesse, Jack, and Anna for being anti-Penn State, so I can have all the Penn State memorabilia to myself. And to my other family members, there are too many of you to shout out, but I love you all.

To all my organizations, Student PSEA and Sisters On the Runway, thank you for the leadership roles, connections, and experiences that will last a lifetime. Overall, you’ve helped me find my voice and speak up for my passions.

To my friends Lauren, Frankie, Thea, Abigail, Keida, Zoe, Devyn, Autum, Bethany, Kate, Hannah, Josephine, and Beka: you are truly some of the greatest people I know, and I love you all.

Finally, the last person I wanted to thank is my dear friend, Miss Megan Kelby, for being my OS partner in crime and my favorite recipient of the Nolan Wick Award. You’ll find us in the back hanging out at every meeting, and I will miss every 4 p.m. Sunday meeting in Carnegie and our crazy weekend adventures.

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About the Author

Nina Jeffries

Nina Jeffries is a senior secondary education English major, minoring in English from Uniontown, PA. If you don't know where that is, you're not alone. She's a Pittsburgh girl at heart, has an unhealthy obsession with "The Office", and still is in denial about One Direction breaking up. You can follow her on Twitter @njeffries06 and reach out to her email [email protected].

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