Settling in State College
I'm starting my seventh month in Pennsylvania. My seventh month of weird, not quite Midwest weather. My seventh month of being a full-fledged "adult" and still defining what that means to me. My seventh month of showing up at the Pattee & Paterno Library, not sure what will happen that day (which is the best part really).
I'm settling. Finally. I felt the settle when I attended a presentation on President Trump's Muslin Ban at the Penn State Law building and felt a part of the community having the discussion. I felt the settle when I entered the White Building for the 7:45 PM workout class I've been attending on Monday nights. I felt the settle when I attended another musical by FUSE Productions. I felt the settle when I walked up to my office and ran into the history PhD cohort I've gotten to know the past seven months. "Hailley!" they called and a smile spread across my face. I feel settled when I walk through the library, catching up with the students who work at our desks and see familiar faces of students I've worked with, studying throughout the library. And I feel settled when Friday rolls around and I'm out and about, having another weekend adventure.
In moments like these, I catch myself in deep reflection. I'm thinking about community building (internal and external), retention (shout out to Tinto), and my previous post on how change takes time. I've learned a lot in these first seven months, but I know there is still lots of learning left. The work I am doing feels important and best of all, I feel supported in and out of work. Everything feels a little more possible.
When I think about community building, my old habits kick in. Lots of listening and lots of questions. I seek out context and try to assemble a picture of where I am and what happened before I moved here. It helps frame my work and pushes me to be intentional about the things I put all my energy into. I care about the experiences of those around me and want to hear about them. As a liberal arts college gal, I'll never truly, fully understand what it's like to be at a Big Ten school, but I'm getting a better picture every day I'm at Penn State. Their experiences will continue to fascinate me.
And in terms of building my own community, there has been some great people added to it. Co-workers and new friends bring their own strengths to the group I'm lucky to have.
I may not be in graduate school anymore, but I still feel the need to go-go-go. Now that I feel settled, I'm thinking ahead to what more can I do. Settled for me in this case doesn't mean rest, it means I have the space to do even more! More exploring comes to mind first. There's so much of State College I haven't seen and luckily, I've got people to show me around. It was this time a year ago I was applying for this job. Seems like a lot has changed in that year and I imagine that in five months from now, when I hit the one year anniversary of being in State College, I will feel this settle even more. I cannot wait.