Smile On My Face: Anna Wiggins’ Senior Column

Well, here it is. 

After four gone-too-soon years as a student at Penn State and a member of this blog, I find myself staring down an empty document almost too choked up to put words on the page. A part of me will exist forever in Happy Valley thanks to the people, places, and all of the tiny moments” that made up this chapter of my life. I’m so thankful for all of it.

Many of the senior columns Onward State publishes contain some sort of advice, revelation, or lesson to be passed on or learned. I’ve thought long and hard about what advice I may wish to pass on and realized that I don’t have anything remarkable or profound to say. Also, nobody actually wants advice from me. Thus, as my parting words with this blog, I figured I would walk you through the past four years through some playlists. 

So much of what I’ve done with Onward State has been playlist curation (seriously, look at the archives. Actually, maybe don’t). Thus, when I realized I had playlists of music capturing my time in Happy Valley, I figured it fitting for my senior column. 

For me, and many others, music carries memories and has the ability to take me back to certain times and spots in my life. Following my freshman year, I took my favorite songs from my playlists throughout the school year (an aside: the only correct way to organize your music is through monthly playlists, and if you do any other method, you’re a freak) and compiled them into a playlist called “Sounds Like Freshman Year.” Even still, this playlist is so nostalgic and takes me right back to that freshly 18-year-old-girl who had awful eyebrows and was somehow taking a freshman seminar that studied the art and culture of East Germany (don’t ask).

So, I kept up with it. I’m sure a lot of people have done this in their own right, but I think it’s pretty cool to have my college experience documented this way. 

Sounds Like Freshman Year

Freshman year has the most distinct sound to me, probably because the p*ndemic made this year a complete fever dream. To me, freshman year was my double Simmons dorm room I had all to myself for 75% of the year, joining the blog, car rides with my friend Erin (college was never the same after she transferred to Georgia), watching football at the Met, that soul-crushingly long winter break, the unfortunately canon event that is constant freshman year friend group drama, never understanding what was going on in my German class (both my freshman seminar and GER 01), and surviving solely on coffee and a croissant from Edge. 

Favorites (in no particular order; it was actually so hard to pick a few I love all of these songs on all of these playlists so much):

  1. “Omegaman,” The Police
  2. “State of Love and Trust,” Pearl Jam: OK, I’m soapboxing for this song. Tattoo this song on my forehead (except don’t). My mom is a huge Pearl Jam fan, so I’ve grown up listening to “Ten.” This song was originally supposed to appear on that album but instead got featured in the 1992 film “Singles,” which is a favorite movie of mine, and of course, a mom recommendation. I actually can’t preach about music without mentioning my mom, who walked so I could run (in every capacity and not just this one). Thank you, love you.
  3. “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Head And The Heart (cover of Crowded House – the original appears junior year, relax)
  4. “Young Robot,” Dance Gavin Dance
  5. “Stargazing,” The Neighborhood
  6. “Concrete (Fish Out Of Water) – Live At The Hamilton,” The Revivalists — Specifically the live version. The studio recording is (sorry!) trash.
  7. “The Kiss Of Venus (Dominic Fike),” Paul McCartney & Dominic Fike — Happiness in a song. Hearing this live (thanks, SPA!) my sophomore year was peak.

Sounds Like Sophomore Year

Sophomore year was ~so college~. We were “back to normal,” so to speak. I think I accidentally blacked a lot of this year out, but looking back through pictures, it was fun.

Sophomore year was another (renovated!) dorm in South Halls, a return to pen-and-paper quizzes (to this day I haven’t recovered), meeting the people from this blog that I had only seen on Zoom, those people becoming my best friends, joining a dance org, quitting that dance org, apartment hunting, attending my first football game ever, experiencing the glory that is Penn State football, having a frat rat era (short-lived and never again), State Patty’s with that gorilla, class in Kern, tomato soup, four hours in Panera that resulted in the creation a french version of Onward State that caused mayhem among the blog (this was the most time-consuming prank of my life), and trying to go in every building on campus. 


  1. “I Won’t Run From It,” Big Red Machine
  2. “Tears Dry On Their Own,” Amy Winehouse
  3. “Always Be,” Jimmy Eat World — So happy-sounding, lyrically so sad.
  4. “Flightless Bird, American Mouth,” Iron & Wine
  5. “American Girl,” Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  6. “Only The Young,” Journey — I love Journey, man. More than a 21-year-old in the year of 2024 should.
  7. “As It Was,” Harry Styles — Writing this column and listening to this song is like a punch to the gut. “You know it’s not the same as it was?” I don’t need this right now.

Sounds Like Junior Year

Junior year was largely hell, but there was still so much good in it. Junior year was moving into my apartment (I will absolutely cry when I move out in August), a very specific and now impossible to find Target candle that smelled like waffle cone and cotton candy, blog socials at Gabe Angieri’s house, a truly awful IST 110 class that Keeley Lamm and I hope no other DMTA minor needs to suffer through again, tailgating and football, a top-hat themed party, Lowjack, a fish named Pending, a USC-Utah watch party that decided if Penn State would play in the Rose Bowl (I still have the rose from that night sitting on my coffee table), a group project from Hell, receiving an awful Fuck-Ass-Bob™ against my will and it completely destroying my self confidence, sitting inside the Weinermobile, State Patty’s Trivia (AKA The Best Day Of My Life), Dollar Dog Night and hot dogs, realizing I actually love country music, and finding happiness and myself again.


  1. “God Don’t Make Lonely Girls,” The Wallflowers
  2. “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,” Elton John
  3. “For Emma,” Bon Iver
  4. “Young Hearts Run Free,” Candi Stanton
  5. “Breathless,” Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  6. “Right Back Where We Started From,” Maxine Nightingale
  7. “Missed Calls,” Mac Miller
  8. “My Honest Face,” Inhaler
  9. “Scary Movies,” The Rions — This song and all the music that came after it so vividly reminds me of spring and probably some of the happiest weeks of my life.
  10. “Death of a Strawberry,” Dance Gavin Dance
  11.  “Magdalene,” The 502s
  12. “Bathroom Light,” Mt. Joy
  13. “Lots of Nothing,” Spacey Jane
  14. “Soothsayer,” Brave Baby 

Sounds Like Senior Year

Senior year. It’s bittersweet to have to reflect back on this year knowing it’s over. I have had truly the most fun this year with people I love the most in a version of myself that has changed and grown for the better after these four years.

Senior year was raspberry lemonades outside at Doggie’s, road tripping to Richmond to see some bucket-list musicians at a music festival, having a horrendous first semester schedule, all of my friends turning 21, watching Penn State football at the bars because I didn’t get season tickets (fuck you for real, Ticketmaster), hot dogs (again), “If you can tell me what animal this is I will drink tonight,” the Champs Basement and DVSN (if you’re an upstairs Champs person, you’re so wrong), Cafe 210 drag shows, Irish goodbyes, a 30+ hour THON shift, trying to find a job, social media editor Pie fainting right before I was about to get a piercing, TouchTunes (and LineLeap), playing the lottery at Walmart, Allen Street Pizza, porch time, playing a little game called “Drink Your Drink Faster,” having hair again (!!!) (real talk I’m never going to a hair salon ever again), and of course, being Onward State’s social media manager. 

It was really difficult to narrow down my favorites from this year, probably because it’s all so recent. So, I didn’t attempt to narrow it down at all and there’s 37 songs here.  


  1. “She Calls Me Back,” Noah Kahan — I got to see Noah Kahan in August at a festival called Iron Blossom (yes, I’m flexing). I was more excited for Hozier, who also headlined, as he’s been a bucket-list concert for years now. However, as amazing and unforgettable as Hozier was, Noah Kahan’s songs stick out to me more-post concert. I also got to see Lord Huron, who was also prevalent throughout my playlists this year.
  2. “Lunchtime,” Spacey Jane — Probably my favorite band right now and this is for sure an all-time favorite song. The things I’d do to hear this live.
  3. “Lonesome Dreams,” Lord Huron
  4. “Hope is a Dangerous Little Thing,” The Menzingers
  5. “If You See Her, Tell Her I’m over It,” Rare Candy
  6. “Fool for Love,” Lord Huron
  7. “Guilty Conscience,” 070 Shake
  8. “Something to Talk About,” Koe Wetzel
  9. “Overtime,” Zach Bryan — This is insane live.
  10. “Fear and Fridays,” Zach Bryan
  11. “Nineball,” Zach Bryan –- Can you tell I saw Zach Bryan live at the Bryce Jordan Center?
  12. “One Thing At A Time,” Morgan Wallen
  13. “Your Wild Years,” The Menzingers
  14. “Take My Head,” Turnover
  15. “Porch Light,” Josh Meloy
  16. “Whiskey Glasses,” Morgan Wallen — I distinctly remember screaming this song at the top of my lungs in Pickle’s in August.
  17. “SLG – Demo,” Dexter and the Moonrocks — I love this band. I unfortunately like the demo more than the master recording.
  18. “Under the Weather,” Mac Miller
  19. “Loud,” Mac Miller
  20. “Cinderella,” Mac Miller and Ty Dolla $ign
  21. “run for the hills,” Tate McRae
  22. “The Bandit,” Kings of Leon
  23. “Pontiac,” Rec Hall
  24.  “Danielle (smile on my face),” Fred again… and 070 Shake — I was late to the Fred again… train. This song scratches an itch in my brain no other song can reach. If you hear this playing in Champs, I 100% TouchTunes-ed it. Although this song is ~technically~ about being in a toxic relationship, I’m chosing to interpret it differently and in a happier, dancier, more positive way for the sake of being able to title my senior column after it.
  25. “Lavender Boombox,” Miniature Tigers — A saxophone solo? Crazy.
  26.  “One of These Nights,” The Eagles
  27. “Lost In Time,” Daily J and Boo Seeka
  28.  “Rumors,” THE DRIVER ERA
  29. “All We Ever Do Is Talk,” Del Water Gap
  30. “Delilah (pull me out of this),” Fred again…
  31. “Dig,” Incubus — “If I turn into another, dig me out from under what is covering the better part of me.” Knife to the heart.
  32. “Fishnets,” Treaty Oak Revival
  33.  “Split Screen,” Kings of Leon
  34.  “LOL,” Rainbow Kitten Surprise — I’m back and forth between this song and “Danielle (smile on my face)” as my current favorite. I forget how unique Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s sound is and this is another one of those songs that just scratches a metaphorical itch like no other can.
  35.  “Wonderin’ Bout The Wind,” Morgan Wallen
  36. “Irish Goodbye,” Treaty Oak Revival 
  37.  “Drink N Dance,” Future and Metro Boomin’ 

Happy listening, folks. Love you forever, blog.

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About the Author

Anna Wiggins

Anna is a senior (ew) public relations major from Alexandria, Virginia, and is Onward State's social media manager. Anna spends her days contemplating what emoji to use in a tweet and dreaming of Doggie's Pub's hot dogs, in that order. Share your song recommendations with her on Twitter @annaewiggins and send your best gossip to her email, [email protected].

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