Learning and Changing: My College Experience, Part 11 (Beginning a New Journey)

Taryn Noll, The Pennsylvania State University

Editor’s Note: While numerous academic advisers and administrators have written about the advising endeavor, the voice of the student is often missing in the academic literature. In September 2009, The Mentor began publishing a series of articles by Taryn Noll, a Penn State undergraduate student who volunteered to share her thoughts, observations, challenges, and strategies while navigating the University, making decisions, and experiencing educational opportunities. Below is Taryn’s eleventh journal entry, which marks the end of her Penn State journey. Part 10 in this series of articles was published on September 28, 2012.

The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and summer is in full swing. Every day I look around and see the many things I have missed in my hometown of Churchville, Pennsylvania. I see my nieces and nephews running around the yard. I pass by my family’s favorite restaurant down the road. I hear the buzzing of cars and the moving of school buses every morning and afternoon.

Although I am happy to be back in the town I loved for the first eighteen years of my life, I can’t help but miss the many things I grew accustomed to seeing every day for the past four years at Penn State, my second home. No longer will I take a break between classes to lounge on the HUB lawn. No longer will I walk the long way home to pass by Old Main in all its glory. I no longer see the vastness of Beaver Stadium in the distance.

My time at Penn State was filled with many turning points, beginning with my first day in Discover House, continuing with the first time I was asked to write for The Mentor, and leading all the way up to my decision during senior year to apply for Teach for America. Penn State presented me with many opportunities, and it was my job to act on the ones that were right for me.

There were times when it was hard to conquer some of the challenges I faced. I worked tirelessly to pick the major that was right for me. Along the way, I thought I wanted to pursue Political Science, Comparative Literature, and even dabbled with the idea of entering the Nursing program when my mom was battling breast cancer. One of my most memorable turning points was coming across the Communication Arts & Sciences major and feeling as though it was the absolute perfect fit.

Another turning point I will never forget was deciding that I wanted to take on the responsibility of being a THON captain. It was a decision I made not once, but twice, as I had the opportunity to lead a rules and regulations committee two years in a row. I made the decision to devote a large portion of my time to the battle against pediatric cancer. It meant juggling my academics with many meetings and events, and it was at this point that I learned to become highly organized and efficient in my daily routine. This is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Aside from choosing a major, I faced another important turning point academically. I decided to pursue a degree through the Schreyer Honors College when Penn State introduced its new Paterno Fellows program. Again, this commitment added a significant amount of responsibility to my plate. I had to complete honors courses, an internship for credit, and as a final challenge, submit an honors thesis before graduation. The decision to enter the honors college brought with it many late nights and early mornings, but it was a turning point in my academic path at Penn State that I would not trade for anything.

I could go on for days about the many decisions I faced during my stay at Penn State, but these are just a few that stick out in my mind. Looking back, I realize that college was one large turning point. It was the place where I prepped myself academically for a future career path. It is also the place I grew stronger in my values and beliefs. As graduation approached, I was sad to leave the beautiful and happy valley I now call home, but I was also proud of all I had achieved during this important time in my life. Little did I know, however, that I was not quite done with life-changing events and major turning points.

I have spent the past month preparing for my newest turning point—my career as a Teach for America Corps member in Philadelphia. Although I have not yet begun teaching, I have experienced many challenges thus far. The decisions I have made are ones that I am indeed proud of, and I owe this all to my four years at State. When I look back on my college years, I will of course think of Beaver Stadium on a windy fall Saturday and the Old Main lawn on the first sunny day of spring; but I will mostly think of the challenges I faced, the decisions I made, and my achievements because of these decisions. I found the perfect major; challenged myself with extracurricular, volunteer activities; and submitted a thesis that meant something to me not only academically but emotionally as well. Penn State presents its students with many opportunities that can change our lives, depending on how we approach and handle them.

Change can be a scary thing, but I’ve learned that it also excites me. After facing many turning points during the past four years, I know I can handle any decision I need to make. I not only look forward to teaching English for the next two years but also to the turning point that will occur thereafter. Wherever life takes me, I will always have the strong foundation that Happy Valley provided me. For all it has given me and for all the glory, we all are and will forever be Penn State.

About the Author(s)

Taryn Noll, The Pennsylvania State University

Taryn Noll is a Penn State graduate preparing for a two-year commitment with Teach for America. She is additionally the president and founder of The Power of Pink at Penn State. Taryn can be reached at tnollx3@gmail.com.

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