Learning and Changing: My College Experience

Taryn Noll
Penn State University

Volume: 11
Article first published online: September 11, 2009
DOI: 10.26209/MJ1161524

Keywords: advising, academic advising, adviser, advisor

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.

This feature will give us the opportunity to “hear” from Taryn Noll, a first-year exploratory student enrolled in the College of the Liberal Arts at The Pennsylvania State University. Several times each semester, she will share her thoughts, observations, challenges, and strategies with Mentor readers as she engages in the educational process and, more specifically, as she chooses a major.

We hope that her “journal within a journal” will provide you with some insights into what students are thinking, how they engage in crafting their own education, how they encounter and respond to advising, and how they go about making decisions regarding their studies. Likewise, we hope that Taryn will find this process personally useful as she continues on her own educational journey.

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Taryn. I am from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, right near Penn State's Abington campus, and I have just embarked on a new journey. A few weeks ago, I moved into Beaver Hall and officially became a first-year student at Penn State, University Park. I will never forget how sad I was when my parents and I went to lunch on move-in day. My mom can read me pretty well, so she naturally asked me what was wrong, why was I so quiet. I gave her an answer I am sure she was not expecting. I said, “I am sad that I have to leave in four years.” These words were never truer. The first day flew by, the first week did, too, and I know the next thing I know I will be in my cap and gown getting my picture taken with the Nittany Lion Shrine one last time.

Penn State was not always an easy choice for me, although it should have been. I am a very indecisive person, so picking a college was no easy task, considering I have trouble deciding what I want to eat for lunch. Lucky for me, it hit me one day that Penn State held every opportunity for me to seize. I felt and still do feel comfortable about being undecided. I am staying on the fifth floor of Beaver Hall because of a program called Discover House. Discover House is a special living option that Penn State offers to about seventy first-year students every year. I am surrounded by an eclectic group of people, all just as unsure as I am. I started to get nervous over the summer. I felt unaccomplished and incompetent that I did not have a major. But literally the second night of Discover House, these doubtful feelings disappeared. Laura Brown, our adviser in the Division of Undergraduate Studies, met each of us personally the first day we were here. In fact, it was she who recommended me for this journal assignment. It was one of those opportunities that just fell into my lap, an opportunity I had heard so many upperclassmen talk about on campus tours or in meetings.

I feel honored that I can spread the word about all Penn State has to offer, including the Discover House program. It is pure luck I am in Discover House. I just picked it because my friend from high school, Mike, had chosen it, too. And now, here I sit, creating a family of friends on my floor and exploring all kinds of majors. Our resident assistant, Hank, and our program assistant, Courtney, have really made the first week here home already. The first night, we did a small ice breaker. Honestly, I hate ice breakers, and I did not think it accomplished much. I still only knew my roommate's name by the end. Of course, I should have known that Hank and Courtney knew what they were doing. As we made our way back to our rooms, everyone left their doors ajar. By the end of the night, we were spread out in groups of five or six, just sitting on each other's beds, talking about everything and anything. It was then that I realized that Discover House was the perfect place for me to spend my first year. I am making it my goal to spread the word to incoming first-year students about Discover House, because many, like myself, have no idea about its benefits.

As far as roommates go, I am probably a nightmare on paper. I am a night owl but also an early riser. I don't like to keep a lot of snacks in the room, and keeping the TV on helps me go to sleep. Luckily, my random roommate assignment has been working well. Caroline, from an apartment in Manhattan, and I, from a suburb in Pennsylvania, could not be more different. But we really have gotten along. I don't think we will be best friends forever and ever as the cliché story always goes, but we respect each other a lot and have had open communication from the start. We have made a pact to keep each other on top of our academics. So far, I have not been overwhelmed. The freedom we have with picking classes helps a lot. It is not like high school. I don't have to take chemistry; instead I am taking an environmental science class for credit. When your courses interest you, it makes all the difference with putting the effort in.

During my stay here at Penn State, I will be updating you on the challenges, the highs, and the progress I make as I search for a major and try everything this university has to offer. Hopefully, I will give you some good insight about what it is like to be a college student in the twenty-first century.

I'll write again soon,


About the Author(s)

Taryn Noll is a first-year undergraduate student at Penn State. She can be reached at tln5038@psu.edu.