Learning and Changing: My College Experience (Part 4)

Taryn Noll
University of South Carolina

Volume: 11
Article first published online: December 22, 2009
DOI: 10.26209/MJ1161541

Keywords: advising, academic advising, adviser, advisor, student journal, college experience

Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of journal entries written by Taryn Noll as she reflects on her undergraduate educational experiences. Part 3 was published on November 12, 2009.

I am writing this article on the bus ride back home for winter break. I use the word “home” interchangeably these days. Sure, I am going back home to Bucks County and will be there in about an hour, but I am also coming back home to University Park in just three short weeks. “Happy Valley” has a tendency to do that to you.

My first semester really flew by, especially once Thanksgiving break hit. I think I can finally say I am fully adjusted to college life. I have experienced a lot of firsts this semester: I shared a room for the first time ever, went to my first THON meeting, accidentally overslept and missed my first class, and took my first final exam in college. I am sure there are many more firsts that I will encounter in my second semester and even semesters after that, but there is something about first semester that has this nostalgic presence I will never forget. I am really proud of myself for the grades I have earned and the opportunities I have taken, and it is nice to be able to go home, feeling so accomplished, and just relax with friends and families over the holiday break.

I feel that I am making it seem as though my first semester was a breeze, and although it did fly by, it was not always an easy, flat road. At first, especially during the first week of classes, it seemed like I had this unlimited amount of time at my fingertips. But class workloads quickly picked up, and it was easy to get behind. There were also tons of other activities available to try, and it was so hard to pick what I wanted to devote my time to. I made it a point to walk through the HUB at least once a day, even if it were just a quick pass-through between classes. There is always something interesting going on—always. Just from this past semester, I remember stumbling upon an ESPN-hosted radio show, free popcorn, and the THON merchandise sale, just because I cut through the HUB's lobby instead of walking down Pollock Road to get back to my dorm. If you are a student at University Park, I recommend making it a point to walk through the HUB once or twice a week. It really is the central part of campus and an easy way to get involved in something or just get some free stuff.

I know I said in my previous journal entry that I had a huge breakthrough with choosing a major and was heading on a narrowed path to becoming totally decided. This is still true, so don't let me discourage you, but I did hit a bump in the road recently. Over Thanksgiving break, I had to take my mom to chemotherapy. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of this year. I watched the nurses taking care of my mom and the other patients, and I saw what an impact these nurses had on each person in the room. Suddenly, I had this epiphany that maybe I wanted to become a nurse. I really had a strong gut feeling that this was a major I had wrongfully overlooked, and now I had an emotional connection to it. So I did my research and made an appointment first with a nursing adviser and then later with my Division of Undergraduate Studies adviser, Laura Brown. The nursing adviser gave me the facts and did not sugarcoat anything, something I was thankful for in the end. She said I would have to be in school for an extra year and take classes at Hershey Medical Center for one of those years. She also told me there were other things I needed to keep in mind, like qualifying for the major, before I worried too much about the details.

With this information in hand, I headed to Laura Brown's office, where she and I talked for an hour. The first thing we did was make a list of pros and cons. Laura and the other advisers I have worked with have this indescribable way of making you feel like they, too, have “been there.” Every time I talk to Laura, she has a story about a former Discover House student or a Penn State alumnus that relates to what I'm going through. If she doesn't have the answer to a question, she certainly will find the person who does, and this is very comforting to me.

After meeting with Laura and taking a few more days to think things over, I realized perhaps I was acting on more of an emotional whim than on logical decision making. Nursing involves helping and interacting with others, characteristics I really value, but it also requires science classes I despise. I remember something Laura said to me in our meeting: When you choose a major, what you are really choosing are your courses. Truer words could never be spoken. If I didn't like the classes I was required to take for nursing, how could I ever be successful in the major?

lthough it can be frustrating as I second-guess my choices here at Penn State, I do not regret looking at my options from every angle. That is why I am here at Penn State. With so many resources, I easily got over my little bump on the road to a major. With the help of a DUS focus group, Career Services, a few advisers, and my own research, I was able to get back on the path to the major that is right for me and to feel more assured than ever about my choices.

Until next semester,


About the Author(s)

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