College isn't about finding the balance; it's about creating your own

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Ask most students on a college campus what they do to have fun, and you'll get a staggering variety of answers.

Some will tell you about their gym regimen. Others, the work they do with the school band. A few may tell you a story about their time on student government and some will rave about their weekend -- and weeknight -- escapades.

Ask me and I'll tell you a much different story.

Since arriving at Penn State University three years ago, I've spent much of my time running from one location to another, struggling to fit an honors course load, a 40-plus hour work week at the student newspaper and a social life into an average week.

Needless to say, 24 hours in a day just isn't -- and never will be -- enough.

Most of my friends cringe when I tell them the amount of sleep I get (seven hours on a good night, but as little as three when work piles up) or struggle to comprehend why I would willingly give up hours and hours of my day to sit in a basement and help to put out a college newspaper.

My roommates know firsthand how many times I've had to cancel on dinner plans or a last-minute celebration thanks to breaking news. My professors bear witness to when I haven't studied enough due to a late deadline.

Sacrifices -- that's what they call these things in the "real world."

But even if I had the choice, I wouldn't change one minute.

There are no perfect words of advice or selling points to make anyone believe that what I do is "the right way" to do college or any better than the gym fanatic or the class president. That's the thing.

College isn't about finding the balance -- it's about creating your own.

So pick your interests and follow them everywhere. Whether its zombies or Harry Potter, go for it. Don't pass up the opportunities that you think might not come around again, even if it means sacrificing a few hours of sleep or a couple of points on a test. Don't get me wrong -- the night before your final might not be the best time to do it, but more often than not, your GPA will be just fine.

Personally, I've never been much of an idle person. I spent my high school years much like I've spent the last three in college -- running, running, running.

Occasionally, I get that nagging feeling in my stomach. Will I look back one day and regret my schedule?

Honestly, I've come to the crossroads plenty of times: Study for the exam I have tomorrow or grab frozen yogurt with my roommates? Go out and celebrate a really hard week or stay in to finish that 12-page paper a day early?

The beauty of it is there's no real answer, no certainty or proof that I made the right decision other than the feeling in the pit of my stomach that I can't seem to shake. The feeling that I'm doing something right.

So weigh the pros and cons. Or better yet, trust your judgment.

Sure, I've lost sleep, some points here and there, a chance to meet someone really special.

But with those decisions, I've gained a life.

No one will ever be able to replace the hours I spent in my red swivel chair at the newspaper office, sharing Five Guys French fries and debating what news was yet to come for Penn State.

The late night Creamery runs, the One Tree Hill marathons, the card games until my eyes glazed over -- those are the moments I'll always remember. Those are the times I'll take away with me.

This fall, I am editor-in-chief of The Daily Collegian, Penn State's student-run newspaper, taking on a job that averages about 50-plus hours a week while managing a staff of about 150 of my peers.

I will write a senior thesis about the future of the news industry, interviewing and studying the work of editors and reporters across the country to better understand what a hopefully successful future will hold.

I will continue to be a roommate, a journalist, a daughter, a sister and a friend, because these are the roles that mean the most to me in life.

But most of all, I am going to have a good time. Because that's what college is about -- finding the moments that you're going to carry with you for the rest of your life, the balance between those memories prescribed by your university and your best friend. And most importantly, because life is so much better when you're smiling.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep running, running, running.

I'm not sure I'd know what to do if I stopped.

education

Brittany Horn, who was a summer intern at the Post-Gazette, majors in print journalism at Penn State University at University Park. She can be reached at localnews@post-gazette.com.


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