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Coming Full Circle: Megan Kelby’s Senior Column

Writing a senior column is a bigger feat than you’d imagine. It’s even harder when you (me) spent much of your time here wishing it away. 

I hate to say it, but Penn State did not sit well with me at first. I was never particularly excited to leave home. I told myself I was, but the amount of water my body lost in tears that first semester was enough to prove me and everyone around me wrong.

I cried when my parents dropped me off (my dad had snot and tear stains on his shirt from me), I would cry in my sleep and wake up sad that I wasn’t home, I would cry in the communal showers of West Halls, and I would cry almost every time I thought about my dog. If I could’ve had one wish freshman fall, it would’ve been to go home. 

When I got home after that semester, one of my brothers asked me where I was going to transfer. I was confused as to why he thought I would leave, and what would make me quit that easily, but apparent to everyone but me was that all I did was complain about school, so why wouldn’t I leave?

Well, in between all of that crying time, I was also learning how to be on my own. I joined clubs, I got a job, I went to all of my classes and did all of my homework, I ate three meals a day, and I walked around campus for hours. I loved the campus, all of my classes, and my professors. I was just lonely.

But, unbeknownst to me, I was consoling myself every day.

In my junior year, I started volunteering at the Centre County Historical Society in the fall, which turned into an internship in the spring. I worked on the archives with a former university archivist, Jackie Esposito, on two collections: the Kaufman Collection and the Hamilton Collection. Die-hard Penn Staters will know the significance of the Hamilton name (or residents of Hamilton Hall or Hamilton Avenue) and recognize that their family history goes back centuries.

A majority of this collection dealt with correspondence between family members, most of whom were from the 19th century, so aged and decrepit papers became my specialty. One day, in particular, there was a newspaper from the 1800s that was in poor condition. Me being me, I was scared I’d mess something up. I told Jackie I didn’t want to unfold the newspaper because of the possibility of tearing it. Her response: “If you won’t, who will?”

At the risk of sounding too cheesy, that really spoke to me and everything I’d learned from my time at Penn State. Along with an overwhelming sense of independence and understanding that everything takes time, I didn’t know there were more life lessons left for me to learn here, but there it was.

No one is going to be able to take care of you or me or anyone else as well as they can take care of themselves. We’re all built to recognize our own needs and do what we will with that information. 

Over the years, I found myself envious of friends I met later in my college career and the experiences they had their first few semesters. They were indulging in their apartment parties or having massive tailgates and I was becoming friends with the old man who ran the free movies at the HUB. I always wished I had the opportunity to have those memories and that college experience, but I had my own. By default, any experience you have in college is a college experience. It’s YOUR college experience. One isn’t better than the other (although I don’t think anyone would choose to cry every day), but there are differences.

It wasn’t my time for that college experience yet. I had to be able to enjoy myself and get my bearings before I could be ready for any of that.

But it wasn’t all crying. I joined CommRadio my freshman fall and with all of that free time, I decided to apply for a lifeguarding job at the natatorium. The first time I ever saw someone I recognized on campus was my freshman spring and I felt like a celebrity. I went to my first formal with my random roommate.

Sophomore year, I started to grow into myself and my writing more and applied for Onward State. That day, I learned there was a downstairs level to Irving’s and I might be slightly better at writing than I ever gave myself credit for. I went to my first formal alone and left with one of my very best friends whom I met that night, Nina Jeffries.

By junior year, the homesickness had stopped. I turned 21. I became incredibly close with the previously mentioned freshman year random roommate (hey, Mackenzie). I went through a lot of firsts and hopefully a lot of lasts. I felt like I was at home, like I was my own person. When I went home at the end of junior year, all I wanted to do was come back.

Keeping with the trend, senior year has been nothing but good to me. I’ve found such deep friendships, realized what drives me, and I’ve spent a lot of time wishing for that time back. I wasn’t ready for it then, but I am now.

Despite the paragraphs and paragraphs of me tooting my own horn, none of what I’ve accomplished and learned would’ve been possible without the people who have been supporting me along the way.

To my parents and siblings, you guys put up with a lot of tears these past four years and are going to see a lot more on May 4. To all of my home friends, I love and appreciate you more than you know. Those weekly FaceTimes freshman year were the best part of my week. To Mackenzie, Lauren, Nina, Lindsey, Carey, and everyone else I’ve ever sent a five-paragraph essay describing a two-minute interaction I experienced, thank you for always listening to me talk about anything and telling me I’m funny (please don’t ever stop). To my boyfriend, Gabriel, thank you for being my biggest hypeman and the kindest soul around. To my professors, mentors, and everyone else who has guided me in some way, thank you for teaching me everything I know and helping me learn a little more about myself each day. And last, but not least, to the Blog, thank you for trusting me with your name. It was an honor to work with each and every one of you and be able to take on the responsibility the OS reputation requires. You’ve been so patient with me finding my voice, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the encouragement and support of the editors over the years.

In my final words as an Onward State staffer, I can now confidently say I don’t regret any of it. My confidence in my writing was bolstered by my editors and professors and I am forever grateful for the experience. The love I was missing freshman year has been replaced tenfold by my connections here. And now, in a few weeks, instead of crying because of my desire to leave Penn State, I will be crying because I don’t want to. 

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About the Author

Megan Kelby

Megan Kelby is a senior at Penn State majoring in journalism. She is from the great state of Delaware and does not tolerate any 302 slander. Megan is a fan of Sudoku, music, and rocket pops. If you feel the need to, you can email her at [email protected].

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