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Home Is Where Your Heart Is: Connor Krause’s Senior Column

Home.

“The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or a household.” 

To most, a home is synonymous with a house — an immovable, physical structure constructed with tangible materials. Most homes are built from the ground up with sturdy walls, windows, doors, and a roof.

My home is different. 

Not many people can say they grew up about 150 miles away from their home. I did.

I knew it then. To this day, that sentiment rings truer than ever. 

Growing up, Penn State felt utopic. It wasn’t a college town. To me, it was a vacation spot, the way most children would see Disney World. 

Joe Paterno was my Mr. Rogers. The Nittany Lion was my Mickey Mouse. An Irving’s Breakfast Special was my Happy Meal. 

I didn’t love Penn State for fall Saturdays, giant ice cream cones, or birthday celebrations spent in the backdrop of Mount Nittany sunsets. I loved it because it brought together all the people I care about most in one place. 

Naturally, the colors blue and white, the distinct smell of burning charcoal, and grass stains from the grounds adjacent to Jeffrey Field became more synonymous with family than holidays. 

It didn’t take too long before realizing that, from an early age, my heart was here. Penn State was my home. 

I could bore you with a chronological journey of my time spent in Happy Valley, but I wanted to organize my last-ever article for Onward State more creatively. 

For those of you who are familiar with me and my friend group, to say our humor is unique and objectively bizarre would be an understatement. 

Heading into our senior year as students, we commonly used the phrase “building” as a nod to the fun we’d have together as an “outfit” (shoutout to Ryan Coughlan). 

When our school work was turned in, job interviews were completed, and grad school applications were submitted for several of my friends, all we wanted to was “build” memories together before we’d all seemingly pursue different walks of life. 

Throughout my four years at Penn State, I feel as though I did just that. I always wanted to center my senior column around the theme “home is where your heart is” for what Penn State meant to me before coming to Happy Valley as a student. 

However, the truth is that a home is nothing without altering its blueprints as unforeseen circumstances arise. Boxing my journey as a Penn Stater into a four-year window wouldn’t fully encapsulate what this place truly means to me. 

Instead, four distinct building processes come to mind as I try to describe my Penn State experience in full just days before gracing the Bryce Jordan Center stage ahead of graduation. 

Here’s how my heart, which I originally compared to as a “home” at Penn State, was built into something so much more expansive, meaningful, and purposeful in what feels like such a short window.

Pouring The Foundation

Before contractors set out to build a property, concrete is typically poured into wooden molds to give the structure shape. 

A foundation should resist the movement of the earth around it while lasting forever. While researching the building process, I realized I couldn’t describe my foundation with Penn State much better than that. 

My parents “poured” the Penn State “concrete” into my veins as early as I can recall. From there, the blue and white allure was never forced. For lack of a better term, it became a lifestyle. 

I can’t remember a fall Saturday growing up without donning my No. 31 Paul Posluszny jersey my dad bought me after he attended a game in 2005. 

Growing up, I loved sports and built so many lasting friendships with teammates throughout my childhood. However, I hated playing games on fall Saturdays. 

Brisk autumn air was meant for family, Penn State football, and nothing else. The feeling of spirit, togetherness, and unity can’t be better replicated anywhere than it is in Beaver Stadium — and I still believe that to be true.

Ironically, the first Penn State football game I ever attended was the Nittany Lions’ historically ugly 6-4 loss at the hands of Iowa in 2004. While I have no recollection of that matchup other than the remains of a soggy ticket stub, I still feel as though I likely fell in love with Happy Valley that day. 

From there, my family and I formed a tradition of attending at least two games per year — one in Beaver Stadium and one at a Big Ten road venue.

Before the first wave of conference expansion hit in 2011, my dad began the ritual with the idea that each contest we attended would serve as a de facto college visit to a different Big Ten campus. 

Unfortunately, as more teams were added to the league, we ran out of years from the tradition’s onset until my high school graduation to stop at every opposing conference destination. 

From Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, Illinois, to everywhere in between, the college visits rarely served their designed purpose other than simply enjoying college football as a family in unique environments. 

As a high school senior, I applied to Penn State, and Penn State only, with no backup plan. Fortunately, I banked on my “foundation’s” mobility to Happy Valley, although I always knew the structure was meant to be framed here. 

Most people who build homes typically think they’ll be able to envision its final design just from the foundation’s outline.

Nearly four years ago, I was one of the “future homeowners” who couldn’t have been more mistaken. From there, in August 2020, the next construction phase began. 

Despite the change from high school to college, I still knew my heart was meant to belong here. Penn State was meant to be my home. 

Framing

When I finally felt as though my destiny was fulfilled as I became a Penn State student, my vision for what I thought my “home” would look like didn’t initially mirror my experiences as a freshman. 

Like all seniors, COVID-19 rocked our social lives from the start. Dorms required masks everywhere, from the bathrooms to hanging out with students in neighboring rooms. 

There was initially no plan for the Big Ten to reinstate the fall football season, and zero intentions of ever allowing students into Beaver Stadium’s gates even if a shortened campaign was pieced together. 

Less than two weeks into my stint in Bigler Hall, I thought I had buyer’s remorse on the home I so badly wanted to build at Penn State. 

For the first time, my heart wasn’t here. Penn State didn’t feel like it was meant to be my home. 

The framing process of construction is typically when homes begin to take their shape. Beams are installed to give the structure support before insulation, drywall, and exterior materials are added to the shell. 

At that point, my “beams” were found in the support of Seth Richards, Alex Smith, Reed Lautenslager, and Tommy Myers. 

Four of us, minus Alex, are still roommates to this day. If my column didn’t have somewhat of a word count, I’d include his story, but his “support beam” meant more to my home than he’ll ever realize.

Around the same time, I joined my first on-campus club at Penn State in Onward State through encouragement from professor Mike Poorman. 

Weeks later, my home morphed from a sad, abandoned structure into a blossoming design fostered through lasting friendships and a newfound sense of belonging through Onward State. 

Instead of rolling out of bed to half-listen to my ECON 102 class at 9 a.m., I found myself waking up early each week to find an empty classroom in Wartik Lab to attend football player Zoom calls ahead of the October Big Ten slate. 

For the first time as a Penn State student, it felt as though my foundation was being tied in with my framing process. I was writing two to three football articles per week, and with the help of Matt DiSanto, Will Pegler, and Gabe Angieri, I quickly grew as a writer thanks to their endless support. 

As my first fall in Happy Valley wrapped up 3.5 years ago, my heart drifted back here, too. Penn State felt like home again. 

I found my people in my friends from Bigler Hall and through the Onward State community, which only fostered more growth in my ongoing building process.

Interior & Exterior Alterations

With my output and effort put into Onward State and a growing interest in my news writing classes as an underclassman, I couldn’t have been initially happier with my choice to apply to Penn State as a journalism student. 

I became an editor for the blog during the fall of my sophomore year, but at the same time, I felt as though I framed an additional wing into my home in the form of a heightened social life. 

Seth, Reed, Tommy, and I met six close friends shortly after moving into the Diplomat as sophomores, with most happening to live across the hall from our new apartment. Now, Ryan, Evan, Lucas, Ethan, Dan, and Austin added another element to an already tight-knit friend group. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Michael, too, who I met as a Nittanyville board member that year. The 11 of us watched the Penn State vs. Wisconsin game together in our freshly decorated apartment, and to this day, have continued to “build” as a “community” ever since. 

For the first time as a student, my social life seemed to take precedence over my schoolwork. My GPA suffered that semester and Matt let me go as an editor after going from Onward State’s most willing contributor to a slacker. 

Around that timeframe, I attempted to utilize my Onward State portfolio as an asset to apply for my first-ever journalism internship. I put all of my efforts into one application with a local outlet in Pittsburgh, and while I made it to the last round of the interview process, I fell short. 

At a time when the framing process appeared to look right on track from the outside, I was forced to do some internal soul-searching for other design ideas. 

While I couldn’t have been happier to find Penn State in the way I always envisioned, I felt as though I needed to shift my blueprints to better capture my full academic and career interests. 

After my sophomore year, I realized I didn’t want to simply scrap my journalism track. However, I wanted to do more. I picked up a double major focus in supply chain management.

Before attending Penn State, I couldn’t have even described to you what “supply chain management” was. Hell, I could barely define it in detail to my friends after I declared my major after taking just one introductory course. 

Double majoring was never a part of my vision for my home’s visible facade, but looking back on it, I couldn’t be more grateful with how it turned out in the end. 

The setbacks made me realize that, aside from a diploma, a future in journalism probably didn’t have a place in my ever-evolving home. 

Still, my heart continued to grow here. As time continued to pass, the more I realized Penn State was meant to be my home. 

Final Walkthrough

The additions to my home, to reach the final walkthrough phase, continued to mostly stay on schedule as an upperclassman. 

My friend group and social life largely remained the same, and my bond with friends only continued to grow. From “The Community” to “The Guild,” there was rarely any shortage of fun to fill my entertainment cup.

My role in Onward State never returned to what it was during my initial stages with the blog, but I still enjoyed writing detailed football and basketball pieces when my schedule allowed. 

Through the walkthrough phase, however, I learned to value the importance of reflection more than I ever have before. 

As my four years here are set to conclude in a few short days, I’ve never been more certain that my heart will always have a place here. Similarly, Penn State will always be my home. 

However, my heart won’t be a permanent resident of this home because of its location and history in my life alone like I thought it would be as a wide-eyed freshman. 

My heart will constantly live here because of how my friends, experiences, and memories shaped me into who I am today. 

On Sunday, four friends (Ryan, Evan, Lucas, and Ethan) and I drove from Penn State to Washington, D.C., for an EDM show that started at 1 a.m. on Monday. Before college, I couldn’t have ever envisioned myself doing something like that.

Memories like that will always capture my heart, and in turn, feel like home. To me, they will always tie back to Penn State — the place where I met my best friends, my girlfriend, and countless others who shaped my life forever. 

If by some off chance, you’re an incoming freshman reading this column, I urge you to take one piece of advice: never say no to “building” a memory with the people you cherish most. 

Before you know it, you’ll be like me, with less than a week of your walkthrough phase remaining. Love the people closest to you hard and enjoy every moment of each construction phase. 

While I’ll be working over 700 miles away from Happy Valley starting this summer, my heart will always be here. 

I’m proud of the home I’ve built and will continue to build as a lifelong Penn Stater.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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