To junior Greg Depalma, Penn State isn’t anything more than a brand.
He’s certainly not the only person in State College that holds a less-than-positive opinion of the university.
“It’s like Nike,” Depalma (junior-chemical engineering) said. “It’s like Adidas. It’s something that people recognize so people give you respect for it, but that’s all it is. There’s nothing identifiable about Penn State outside of the fact that we go crazy for sports.”
However, that’s not to say that he doesn’t think Penn State is a good institution. Penn State was his first choice, partially because of the networking.
“The opportunities outside of this place are great,” Depalma said, “but it’s just a name.”
Before attending University Park, Depalma went to a branch campus. There, he said, he made friends and had a positive experience.
“I had just a good a time as I am up here,” he said. “There’s a little bit more resources, a couple more buildings and 10 million other people.”
It’s because of this that Depalma doesn’t identify with the “stereotypical” Penn State student who might go out every weekend and live for Saturday football. While he does like football, Depalma said he doesn’t have much school spirit, or feel any connection to the name “Penn State.”
“I think it’s okay to have pride in something,” he said. “Obviously, I love this country. But I just don’t see the point in having pride in a college where I understand that it can make a big impact in your life, but this is just four years of your life, and it could set you up for the rest of your life, but it’s still just a college and my life story could happen anywhere else.”
Depalma said that he means no disrespect toward Penn State, just that it’s nothing more than a “babysitter” to him while he pays to attend classes.
Rabab Rahman feels similarly, despite this being her first semester at Penn State. Penn State was also her top choice.
“I mean, it’s a really good school,” Rahman (freshman-international politics and criminology) said. “I feel like there are many opportunities and things to find. Since it’s such a huge school, you can turn a corner and find your groove and find anything you want to do.”
Questions about failure elicit flushing of cheeks, averted eyes, nervous chuckles and a spac…
Still, Rahman doesn’t identify with the stereotypical Penn State student either — she even finds it isolating.
“Yeah, sure I’m going to be wearing my Penn State shirts or buy them,” she said, “but there’s like a football culture where everyone’s really proud of Penn State… I really don’t relate to it, so it kind of alienates me from the general student population.”
In her first week and a half at Penn State, she said she’s been trying to find her niche by finding people with similar interests or people that look like her.
Trae Hawkins has taken this approach throughout his Penn State career and said that while he enjoys his time here and likes being part of student organizations like the creative writing club and Kalliope.
However, Hawkins said that he has issues with the university.
“I do think [Penn State has] a lot of issues when it comes to the administration because I know I’ve had friends that’ve had issues and they bring it up, they don’t really feel like their issues have been taken care of,” Hawkins said, “so I guess they could show a little more urgency when it comes to caring for their students.”
In addition to this, Hawkins said that he doesn’t love Penn State — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t positives.
“I’ve made a lot of good friends here and I like the classes and everything,” he said, “but I just don’t feel that sense of, like, you know if someone were to say something bad about Penn State I wouldn't feel like I had to rush in to defend it, necessarily. So I’m not like a hardcore team spirit type of person.”
Hawkins said that he’s confronted with the culture of being a die-hard school spirit fanatic when he tells someone he’s not into football and gets negative reactions.
Despite this, Hawkins said he values his Penn State experience, even if he’s not the typical Penn State student.
“I feel like as long as you find your group of people here,” he said, “you’re fine. Join a club or something and then you’ll find people.”