Everything Happens For A Reason: Shannon Smith’s Senior Column

I think it is now all just hitting me. I have put off writing this column until the last possible minute. I knew that finding the right words to round out my four years at Penn State would not be an easy task. I also knew that once I began writing this column, the reality that I am graduating would set in.

When trying to figure out what I wanted to write my column on, one mantra that rang true throughout my time here kept popping into my head: everything happens for a reason. This is something that I wish I could have told my younger self so many times, but it was a lesson I would have to learn on my own.

My first memory of Penn State is minor but vivid. I was a junior in high school about to have friends over, and I went to let my dad know that we would soon take over the living room where he was watching football (sorry, Dad). He was watching the 2018 Penn State White Out.

Penn State was about to run out onto the field, and I sat down to watch the spectacle with him. The cameras panned over the roaring crowd, and I remember saying, “It would be so cool to go to a school like that…but I never will.” I had always envisioned myself at a much smaller school playing college lacrosse, and Penn State wasn’t even a thought.

At that moment, I didn’t know it, but my hopes of playing college lacrosse would ultimately fall through. When that happened, it would feel like my world was ending, and I had failed at something that I had dedicated a lot of time and work toward, but everything happens for a reason.

I ended up in Happy Valley by random chance when a field hockey coach took a gamble on me and invited me to a prospect camp. For me, it was love at first sight. I felt a sense of home even though I was 240 miles away from the home I grew up in on Long Island. Although I knew at the end of the camp that I would most likely not have a place on the team, I was set on applying in the summer. Little did I know that I would soon be calling that place my new home for the next four years.

College was rough at first, especially entering freshman year during a global pandemic and never feeling a sense of closure from high school. I was so anxious to join clubs and find “my people” as everyone had promised me I would. I had been waiting for that moment to happen for me, and at some points, thought that it might never come.

If only I knew in that moment to just enjoy it all. To know that when it was all said and done, there was a reason for every setback. To know that crying to my mom while eating a chicken basket at the Corner Room over freshman year drama would turn into a lunch spot tradition when she would visit. To know that the club lacrosse team I stressed out over making would end up becoming my biggest stress reliever. Or the fact that even though I joined several clubs and activities to make friends, I would meet one of my best friends in an elevator.

In moments where I doubted myself or what I was doing, there was always a reason for it. This is a motto that has held true throughout college, and I know it will continue to do so wherever life takes me.

To wrap up four years into one last post is impossible, and I would need a book to truly say everything I want to. When people ask what my favorite Penn State memories are, it is easy to name key events over the past four years, but I think what I will miss most are the little things. Hearing Old Main’s bells from my desk while I study, wine nights with my friends that turn into karaoke at Sharkies, lacrosse practices, and breakfast at Irving’s will all be things I will miss.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my Penn State experience. To my friends, I am going to miss our “colossal pregames” in 302 and dancing to “Just Wanna Rock.” To all my club lacrosse teammates, thank you for being the most supportive group of women I know and for allowing me to continue playing the sport that I love. Thank you to my family who has been my biggest support system over these past four years and allowing me to follow all of my dreams. And to anyone who has been a part of my Penn State journey, big or small, you were a part of it for a reason and have shaped me into who I am now.

To this day, my favorite class at Penn State has been my freshman seminar with Mike Poorman. That class is the reason I was able to become so involved in the clubs and the culture of Penn State. He would invite guest speakers to talk to our class, one of those being David Abruzzese, who spoke about his time with a student-run blog called Onward State. After listening to him, I was sure I wanted to apply but wasn’t sure if I had missed the deadline for that semester. Luckily, they were due that afternoon, and I still had time to submit mine. Everything happens for a reason.

Onward State, thank you for taking a chance on me and giving me so many amazing opportunities. I am going to miss Sunday meetings that sometimes turned into Applebee’s dinners. In moments where I doubted myself, someone was always there to remind me that “nobody knows anything” and to have faith in my capabilities. Podward State has been my favorite aspect of Onward State and being able to host a podcast alongside so many talented people has been an honor.

This is not a goodbye to Penn State, and I know I will be back, just in a different way. The memories and the relationships I have made over these past four years will be with me forever.

Thank you for everything, Penn State.

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About the Author

Shannon Smith

Shannon is a senior majoring in public relation. She is a part of the Onward State visual staff and a host of Onward States's podcast, Podward State. To send her your favorite TikTok dance, follow @shann_smith31 on Twitter or @shannon_smith31 on Instagram.

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