Sunday, April 28, 2013

One Last Tour

One Last Tour
By Robert Roselli

This journey started with a tour so naturally it ends with one.

On that beautiful autumn day, the 17-year-old version of myself walked this stunning campus with wide eyes, unaware of the memories that each building would represent about five years later.

There’s something stale about those “senior sendoff” columns full of generalizations, because what makes the Penn State experience so great is that everyone’s experience is so unique. We all see our four years in Happy Valley through a different set of lenses. This is my experience squeezed into one tour. I want to share my final tour with you right here as we walk the campus together.

We begin where it all started for me: 5th floor Packer Hall in East Halls. That’s my room, 506, where my roommate Jake and I played at least 300 games of NHL 10. That’s the commons area on our floor where Dan’s booming voice kept us up until 2 a.m. and where we staged our own version of Fight Club on a spontaneous March night. It’s also where we started “Chinese Food Sundays.” Special thanks Hunan Wok for the great prices and our belated apologies for the questionable tips.

That’s the luxurious Packer Hall bathroom, where the 3rd floor guys thought it’d be funny to fill our sinks with mulch one night and where at least five of us ended up after rowdy Saturday nights.

We leave Packer Hall and see the courtyard where an East Halls snowball fight once erupted after a fresh snowfall. That’s the main commons: home of the “steak” that’s just a glorified burger and where about 15 of us 5th floor Packer guys got to know each other on that first weekend. I went on to room with guys from that floor for the next three years.

Let’s head down Curtin Road. That’s the Creamery. My buddy Darius and I would celebrate perfect scores on Stat 100 quizzes there with Creamery ice cream.

There’s the Borland Building, where Jake and I inexplicably attended an 8 a.m. African Art course 3 times a week.  At least five times, I left my room at 7:55 for that class. Watch out for these colored tiles as we approach the forum. I almost ate it at least 10 times there on rainy days.

This is the famous forum, where we’ve all had the pleasure of awkwardly squeezing by frustrated occupants into a middle seat after arriving late. There’s the library, where we’ve all put in late hours at the “stacks” and taken naps on those big chairs in the Harry Potter room.

We arrive at West Halls, where I spent my sophomore and junior years. That’s my sophomore year room, 14 Jordan Hall. I’m almost positive it was a janitor’s closet before they transformed it to a triple, hence the numerous exposed pipes. But it was a sick man cave. We watched Juan Fernandez kill Penn State’s NCAA Tournament dream there and watched Alabama roll our Lions in Tuscaloosa.

Here’s the West courtyard. You’ll find some interesting characters out there on nice days. From here we can see Hamilton Hall. That’s where I spent my junior year and where at least 200 games of NBA 2K12 were played. I’ll never forget our last minute weeknight trips to West Wing for mozzarella sticks to curb nighttime hunger.

Inside is the home of the famous West Cookies. Vegas has the over/under for cookies consumed by me at 158. That same dining hall is where my buddy Andy silenced the entire dining hall after dropping his tray and where I witnessed my friend Dan consume a meatball sub and lucky charms for dinner at least 6 nights in a row.

We head down Burrowes. You can see Rec Hall up the road. That’s where the Men’s Hoops team should be playing at least 2 games a year and where you’re sure to find a tool bag “tough guy” wearing a high school pinnie in any pickup hoops game.

Let’s hang a left onto Pollock road. There’s the Willard building, home of the preacher we’ve all heckled at some point. I can see Carnegie building up ahead. That’s home base for us Comm. majors. The fine people in there genuinely care about the career paths of us students. You won’t find nicer and more helpful folks on campus.

Here’s the backside of Old Main. If we walk around to the front, we see the steps where a confused student body expressed itself on a miserable November night amidst a historic scandal.  Inside is where I worked during my senior year, in Penn State’s Public Information Department. It took me four years to learn that students can indeed study in Old Main.

That’s Davey Lab. I once had to go there for an Astronomy course with two classmates on a rainy Wednesday night to hear some guy go on and on about constellations. Gotta love Gen Ed requirements.

There’s the HUB. The HUB defines the spontaneity of Penn State. One day you walk through and it’s silent, the next day there’s a live band, balloons and free pens. Good luck finding an open seat in there during the middle of the day.

That’s the Thomas Building straight ahead. I once had a class the size of my high school graduating class in there. If we glance ahead on Pollock we can see the Testing Center. That’s where you have to put your belongings in those goofy blue tote bags. Behind it is the basketball court with the 9-foot rims. I still can’t dunk on them.

We’re not too far from the Lasch Football Building. That’s where I worked in Penn State’s football marketing department. I met Joe Paterno in there. 14 years prior, he responded to a letter I sent, encouraging me to become a Nittany Lion. I followed his advice.

In the distance you can see Happy Valley’s mecca: Beaver Stadium. That’s where 110,000 of my closest friends and I wreaked havoc on opposing teams for fun on Saturdays in the fall. In the surrounding fields, we tailgated with the best in the country. I was lucky enough to work for the football marketing department for two years. Next time they play “Doop Doop Doop,” on the speakers just know that’s my doing.

There’s the Bryce Jordan Center. I can’t really tell you why my friend Dan and I trekked there on frigid Tuesday nights in January to watch 15-point losses, but I can tell you that weirdly enough it was all worth it. That’s where I began my court storm against #4 Michigan with 3 seconds still on the game clock. In fact, we got to storm the court every year after taking down a ranked opponent. What more can you ask for at a football school?

Let’s stroll all the way down College Avenue to the scenic corner of College and Allen. During the holiday season, there’s no cooler-looking spot on campus. It’s the gateway to the beautiful campus we cherish and will probably visit many times.

About a mile down the road is my senior year apartment. Far? Yes. But would I trade my senior year experience for anything? No. You haven’t lived until you’ve washed all your dishes by hand, hiked 20 minutes to campus in snow and rode the R Waupelani bus, whose route you didn’t know for your first three years at Penn State.

We stop the tour here because this corner, to me, is the center of my Penn State.  Everyone has a different center. It’s about a mile from my senior year apartment and about a mile from Beaver Stadium. My place of work is right up the mall and all my classes are all nearby.

This is my center. It’s surrounded by all the different buildings that represent my personalized Penn State experience. Everyone has a different center. That’s what’s so perfect about Penn State. Our experiences are so similar yet so unique. We all go to football games, party hard and study harder, but it’s all the little things along the way that ultimately define our Penn State experience.

Seniors and future graduates: before you graduate, do your own campus tour in your head. Relive the good times and visit the stops that signify your experiences.

Then stand at the center of your Penn State and just pat yourself on the back for making the decision to spend the best four years of your life in Happy Valley.

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