By Navin Zachariah, Conestoga Class of 2015
My first day as a student at Schreyer Honors College didn’t start out like your average first day of school. In fact, my first day of school took place somewhere in central Pennsylvania called Camp Blue Diamond. When I first decided to attend Penn State University, I wanted to make sure my experience was different from the experiences of the other 46,000 undergraduates here. One of the ways in which I first set out to do that was by signing up for a unique honors course called Leadership JumpStart (LJS). For this class we had to come to Penn State about a week before everyone else and jump on a bus that would take us to this overnight camp, where we stayed for around three days. This class was one that met once every month on the weekends and contained projects that helped students develop their leadership abilities. It was a unique experience because I was able to get a “jump start” on making friends and still learn about a crucial concept in leadership. Through this class I was even able to be a part of a small team that created an organization that raised over two hundred dollars each for both breast and prostate cancer research.
When I entered college, I came in as part of the College of Communications. I chose to be a part of the College of Communications because I was strongly interested in becoming a future sports journalist. Although that interest in sports journalism has never left me, opportunities do arise due to certain circumstances. For me, I found that I couldn’t take many journalism courses until my junior year. This opened up an opportunity for me to explore other fields. So I devoted a large portion of my class schedule to science courses and found that the School of Science at Penn State was a better option for me. I am in the process of making that big change now. I currently am also a part of the sports journalism certificate program here at Penn State.
This change in focus was able to spark another interest within me pertaining to my future career path. I always had thoughts of becoming a doctor in the back of my mind, but my deep infatuation for sports journalism always drowned out any thoughts of making that a reality. I still don’t know for sure what I want to do, but I can definitely say that I’m much closer to making that important decision.
Now all these thoughts about my potential career did not deter me from furthering my passion for writing about sports. As soon as I got on campus, I knew that I wanted to join the school newspaper. The only problem—there’s two major news outlets on campus. Both The Daily Collegian and Onward State are quality organizations, but Onward State is solely an online medium. The ability to continue with print journalism, like I had done with SPOKE, led me to join The Daily Collegian. Although I knew I had a talent for sports journalism, as soon as I walked into the Collegian’s building I was overwhelmed. It felt like a tense workplace. So I had a gut feeling that something didn’t feel right from the start. This is because I not only wanted to write interesting stories while in college, but I also wanted to have fun while doing it. After being a part of The Daily Collegian for 1½ years, I realized the joy that I once felt covering sports at Stoga was no longer present as a part of the Collegian’s team at Penn State. Why do something if you don’t enjoy it right? So I chose to leave the staff.
I immediately acknowledged that I had initially made the incorrect decision to not join Onward State, since it was an organization that was more Penn State-oriented and had a stronger following around Penn State. In fact, Onward State is the most followed student news organization on Twitter with around 115,000 followers. This past month I applied to and joined the Onward State staff. From the beginning I found a more welcoming atmosphere—one where I could enjoy sports journalism again. It definitely felt like there was more freedom on this team than there was on The Daily Collegian. On the Collegian, the editors really constrained what you were able to cover. At my core, in journalism, I look to inspire through telling people’s stories. Whether that’s in sports or other topics, I aim to be a storyteller. In just my first meeting on staff, I was able to take on a story about a local DJ who had gone to Rome for a study abroad trip and decided to pursue DJing as a full-time career after his experiences there. Those are the types of features that I enjoy writing. So I was finally having fun with journalism again.
One of the other organizations that I decided to be a part of was THON. It’s something that I wanted to join because I always found it so inspiring how all the students at Penn State unite together to raise money and put together a dance marathon to help fight childhood cancer. This year, I was part of a committee that helped set up and tear down the location where the dance marathon was held.
Additionally, I was able to witness the exciting comeback of Penn State football this past season. Everyone counted the football team out this year, including myself. However, after we upset Ohio State during our annual home whiteout game, something felt different. We were a completely different team—one that finally exhibited confidence and played with a swagger. We made an incredible run this year that included a Big Ten Championship victory and a trip to the Rose Bowl. I won’t even get into how we were robbed of a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Now nearing the end of my sophomore year, I honestly can’t believe that it’s been almost two years since I was last a student at Conestoga and covering high school basketball games from the sidelines. Of course, I will never forget the memories that came from the four incredible years I spent at ‘Stoga, but time never stops for anyone. Everyone has to grow up to face new challenges and experience new things.
That’s why I have grown to appreciate not only Penn State more and more every day, but also the small town of State College where it’s located. This college town is a great place for a college student to be introduced to independent life. Most importantly, I have developed an immense appreciation for the reason that I originally came here: Schreyer Honors College. The Honors College here opens up opportunities that I would have never had otherwise and is so welcoming to the variety of students that enter through its doors. I now truly understand and appreciate how special of a program the Schreyer Honors College is and how blessed I am to be here surrounded by so many talented and ambitious people. We Are!