If I’m being totally honest, Penn State was not my dream school. In fact, right up until the point that I applied, I was always adamant that I would never go here (it really is funny how things work out sometimes).
During my senior year of high school, I was planning to go to college for musical theater, and I applied to some of the biggest theater programs in the country. However, towards the end of the school year, I had a sudden change of heart. I realized that despite the love I had for being on stage, I wanted to do something with more of an academic focus. So, less than a week before the deadline, I applied to Penn State for Psychology.
Because I applied so late, I ended up getting into a branch campus on the other side of Pennsylvania rather than going straight to University Park. In just a few weeks, I went from planning to live in New York City to preparing to move to a small campus just outside Reading. At the time, I felt like I’d made a huge mistake. I thought that opting to go to one of many branch campuses within a state school was the definition of settling, and I resented my decision for quite a while.
What I wasn’t expecting was to fall in love with the campus I went to and all the little things that go along with it. Classes were small and I formed relationships with my professors and other students. I met some of my best friends there, all of whom I love with my whole heart. I could sit and study practically anywhere on campus, and someone I knew would come up and sit with me and hang out.
By the end of my two years at that campus, I was actually really sad to leave. I truly felt at home there, and it was hard to imagine being somewhere else. Of course I love living in State College and the life and energy that radiates from this campus, but there was something so special about starting out somewhere smaller. I was able to build a sense of community for myself and take time to figure out what kind of person I wanted to be before moving to a place with such a large student population, and for that I will always be grateful.
If I had gone to New York, or even if I’d gone straight to University Park, I probably wouldn’t be living the life that I am now. I might not have studied abroad, I probably wouldn’t be living with my best friends, and I certainly wouldn’t be the same person that I am.
Eighteen-year-old me had big dreams. I had what I thought was a very clear image of myself and what I wanted to do. If that girl could see me now, she would probably be pretty confused. However, I like to think that she’d be proud of who we’ve become. I really do feel like I’m becoming the version of myself that I want to be. I have a close-knit group of supportive friends and family, I am excelling academically and I’m working to set myself up for a successful future, and I am truly the happiest that I have ever been.
Things don’t always end up the way we expect them to. Everything can change in an instant, and one seemingly small decision can turn your whole life upside-down. The great thing, though, is that sometimes the very things we initially view as losses can turn out to be some of the greatest things. I didn’t get into my dream school, but I ended up somewhere even better, and I think that’s one of the greatest life lessons I’ve learned so far.