Four Years Later: Alexandra Pepe’s Senior Column

I don’t even know where to start here. As a graduating senior, there is a lot going on in my head right now. A lot to say, a lot to be thankful for, and a lot that I don’t even want to think about — like how for the first time, when we all leave in a few weeks, we aren’t going to come back. 

I have been lucky to call Penn State home for the past few years, and I’ve decided that I’ll take this opportunity, here, with my senior column, to share what’s made Penn State truly the best place or, better stated, what gives Penn State students and alumni alike the pride and “culty” feeling that many other schools clown us for. 

As said by my parents and maybe many of yours, “you can make a big school small, but you can’t make a small school big.” If this doesn’t embody Penn State, I don’t know what does. I remember on my tour circa 2019, there was a giant stage being set up on HUB Lawn. When I asked the tour guide what it was for, he responded, “Ahh, I don’t even know.” And from that day on, I was locked in. A school where a giant concert being set up is just a routine, normal, mundane, or even an uneventful occurrence is a school where I want to be and where anyone can thrive. 

Although, concert or not, it truly is the people you meet along the way. I was lucky enough to meet my best friend on the first day of freshman year. Back as a COVID-19 freshman, we were stopped from having any sort of orientation, commencement, or even classes that weren’t starkly awkward on Zoom. So when a fiery-haired girl spoke up about being hungry in the third hour of our terribly boring RA meeting, I knew I’d found a built-in buddy. 

Despite all the bitterness I used to have about lost milestones, I was able to connect with so many people across my time here who I am lucky to have for the rest of my life. Lexie, Maddie, Julia, and Tara, it’s been a joy being your roommate for the past three years, and even though a pan may be left out or the bathmat is soaking wet or there’s no water in the Brita, I would live like this forever if that was an option.

I never imagined I’d be here, writing for the largest student-run media company in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked writing, but it was just a thing to do when I was bored. My fictional stories in a beat-up notebook from when I was a bratty eight-year-old, or the papers I had to write in high school, came naturally to me, but I never could see myself actually writing.

Being an accounting major with an information system management minor, mostly everything I do involves computers, numbers, or balance sheets. Here, though, writing for Onward State, I am able to act on my hobby and make it more than that — helping a man with a love for cooking open up his own store or shedding light on two Penn State alums’ Philly Cheesesteak shop in the city of Seoul or even telling the story of a strong woman who triples as a firefighter, professor, and author

It is more than writing a story or being a part of a club. My time in Onward State has created an unbeatable connection to downtown and the people and businesses I’m honored to feature.

I like to think I have helped many other peoples’ lives as it has also benefited my own. Despite the time or stress that comes with it all, one story alone makes it all worth it. And side note: frantically typing what someone is saying in an interview, while not missing their next point, is an art I will never be able to master. 

Of course, I balance it with some fun, too. I have had more fun here — sorry Mom and Dad, I mean achievements — than I ever could have imagined. At what other place could 100,000 people come together every weekend of the fall to scream a chant and wear coordinating colors? Shoutout to Penn State for choosing navy and white… the best colors to make an outfit. 

The stupid memories along the way are just as memorable. Even though Bagel Crust really isn’t that good (I said it!!!), it’s one of the things I’ll maybe miss the most. From freshman to senior year, meeting with my group of friends to debrief the night, or perhaps the week, over a nice BEC and a coffee is truly an indescribable experience. From an iced coffee downtown to a fresh cappuccino in Madrid during my time abroad there, I hope to carry these coffee chats with me wherever I go and possibly make some new ones along the way, even if I’m switching out for Joe and the Juice in New York City (if my wallet allows the $9 coffees!). 

Thank you Penn State, and best believe I’ll be back, wreaking havoc with my friends, whether I’m a 26-year-old alum or a 62-year-old alum. And, hey, maybe I’ll be able to force my non-existent future kids to go here, too, to have the same opportunities and experiences I’ve had.

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About the Author

Alexandra Pepe

Alex is a senior from New Canaan, CT, pursuing the Master's of Accounting program and minoring in journalism. She spends most of her free time with friends, watching "Curb Your Enthusiasm", or trying to figure out the buses. Her favorite things are getting breakfast sandwiches on a Sunday morning, listening to new music, and... writing for OS, of course! She can be reached through her email [email protected].

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