From Happy Valley to North Philly: Why I’m happier at Temple

And I haven’t looked back since

As I sit in my apartment at Temple overlooking the incredible city of Philadelphia, I find comfort in the fact that I will never hear another “We Are” chant outside my window again.

I transferred to Temple from Penn State, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Before I begin, I want to include that I am not here to bash Penn State, well at least not too much. I met amazing friends in Happy Valley and had some unforgettable experiences.

I will always be inspired by Penn State’s THON, which is a two-day dance marathon that raises millions of dollars for children with cancer. Many colleges participate in their own THON, but Penn State’s is truly special and is the biggest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Every person goes on a different journey in college, and I understand my personal experiences will differ from many. However I can confidently say it was not the school for me—in every way.

My freshman year at Penn State was filled with highs and lows, but the ultimate impression it left on me was negative.

Greek life at Penn State is one big social competition

At Penn State, there’s a social norm you have to uphold, or at least I felt that way. Unless you were on a sports team or a part of an organization, Greek life was the only “normal” route to take in order to have a social life. As a first semester freshman I rushed your average “mid-tier” sorority and pledged for two long months with 65 other girls. It pains me to even say “mid-tier” because I think the whole ranking concept is absolutely disgusting.

Since there’s nothing around campus besides fraternities and bars, your social life depends on those frat houses. It is a world where girls are defined by the letters they wear on their cotton pullover, and teenage boys have the power to turn people down at their fraternity house door just because they aren’t in a certain sorority. At Penn State, there’s this identity you receive when joining a sorority — an identity that comes along with the sorority stereotypes, reputation and way of life. I am thrilled to say I am not defined by any of that anymore.

There’s an overwhelming pressure to love Happy Valley

It’s overbearing, and I find there’s an underlying fear of not falling in line with the rest of the students. Don’t get me wrong — I know people who actually do enjoy Penn State. However, I also know so many people who go through the motions and say they “love” it because they kind of have to. Being in the middle of Pennsylvania with nothing but farmland and a Wal-Mart (okay Wegman’s too — shout out to you guys) off campus is isolating. Nothing else surrounds the school that represents real life — and I had entrapment anxiety the whole year. This just adds to that pressure because there’s nothing else to do than be a Penn State student. You are in this box that is the campus and your life revolves around it.

This brings me to my life now.

I love Temple for so many reasons, and every time I compare my experience (so far) to the one I had at Penn State, it makes me so happy to know that the stress of transferring was all worth it.

Living in a city has changed me for the better. I’m more independent and cultured than ever. I’m open to meeting different types of people and trying new things. There is no individual “culture” of people at Temple. It consists of all different walks of life — and the most diverse group I’ve ever been among.

There’s no social norm at Temple

Greek Life has a presence on campus, but I’ve observed it’s nothing like that of Penn State’s. Many people go into Center City on the weekends, or stay on campus and socialize in apartments, houses, and dorms. Whether you’re staying in to do work, going to a party, or just heading to dinner in the city with friends — it’s all good.

There are so many opportunities when you are a Temple student. One thing I find here is the motivation among the student body. Everyone I know is in multiple clubs, doing an internship, part of an academic organization, or working in the city when they’re not in class. There are thousands of ways to establish a meaningful identity, and that’s enlightening to me. Here — it is all “real life” people who are not solely labeled by the school they go to or the sorority/fraternity they’re in.

Being a college student in Philly, I have gained so much perspective and have been thrown back into reality — in a good way. I spend a few days a week in Center City, and I enjoy my time just being a 20-year-old girl exploring new experiences and focusing on the things that make me a better person. I’ve made connections with Philadelphia professionals and made some great new friends.

I’m sure someone from Penn State will see this and tear down my opinion and view of their precious school. However, I don’t really care — at all. I am excited to share this part of my life. I am in the most positive place I’ve been, and for that I am so grateful. I’ve grown as a person and a student, and have learned so much this past year. For those at Penn State loving life — I am happy for you. I believe everyone should enjoy the environment they live in.

I am Nicole, a student at Temple University who enjoys drinking coffee while people watching, loves living in North Philly, and looks forward to my Wednesday night Communications & Public Life class more than one should. I am growing, learning — and I am proud to be an Owl.

Temple University