Finance students rub elbows with 3,000 professionals at industry conference

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend Finance majors Paige Espenshade and Jared Orr recently attended TD Ameritrade Institutional’s National LINC conference in Orlando, Florida, where they were able to get an insider’s view of their chosen field of study.

Espenshade and Orr, who were accompanied by Eric Robbins, lecturer in finance, were two of fifty-six financial planning students from twenty-eight colleges and universities who attended the annual conference in late January.

While there, they had the opportunity to explore job opportunities and connect with more than 3,000 financial advisors and other financial services industry professionals and experts from across the nation.

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Finance students Jared Orr and Paige Espenshade are flanked by TD Ameritrade Institutional President Tom Nally, left, and Kate Kealy, managing director of TD Ameritrade’s Generation Next Program. LILA PHOTO for TD Ameritrade Institutional.

TD Ameritrade is a leading provider of brokerage custody, technology and practice management services for more than 6,000 independent registered investment advisors (RIAs). Since 2007, the firm has been inviting undergraduate financial planning students and their program directors from schools across the U.S. to attend its annual conference, covering travel and hotel expenses for them to do so.

Being Penn State students, Espenshade and Orr garnered special attention from some alumni in the finance industry.

“I was very honored to be actively sought out by alumni and advisors looking to talk specifically with Penn State students,” Espenshade said. “I spoke to an alumnus with an alternative investment firm as well as one with a firm in North Carolina. Altogether, I exchanged contact information with about ten advisors and five vendors.”

At this year’s conference, students attended feature sessions by Ian Bremmer, president, Eurasia Group; Viola Davis, award-winning actress of film, television and theater; Marc Goodman, New York Times best-selling author of Future Crimes;  April Rinne, advisor, Pathfinder, and member of the World Economic Forum; and Jeremy Siegel, the “Wizard of Wharton” Wharton School finance professor.

They also heard about the convergence of financial services and technology from a keynote panel on innovation that included Adena Friedman, president of CEO, Nasdaq; Tim Hockey, president and CEO, TD Ameritrade; Ric Edelman, executive chairman, Edelman Financial Services; and Lex Sokolin, director of fintech strategy, Autonomous.

“Throughout the week I was able to learn about the role of wholesalers, which is a division of the industry that I had never been exposed to,” Orr said. “I now understand the importance of this niche and have a greater understanding of the financial services industry as a whole.”

The students also participated in smaller breakout sessions and panel discussions on investing and evolving as a financial advisor, and attended networking events with advisors and leaders of our firm, including Tom Nally, president of TD Ameritrade Institutional, and Kate Healy, TD Ameritrade’s managing director, Generation Next.

Both Espenshade and Orr say the trip exceeded their expectations.

“It was an amazing event that has had a positive impact on my both my professional network and my awareness of the financial services industry as a whole,” Espenshade said.

“It was a transformative experience,” Orr said. “I now have a better understanding of the different roles within the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) industry,” Orr said. “The conference exposed me to several aspects of the industry, and because of this, I was able to see what a great community RIAs across the country have created. I hope to attend the conference one day as an RIA so that I, too, can give back to the students as the advisors did for me this year.”

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Holiday gift ideas from Behrend faculty and staff members

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It’s crunch time. The holidays are nearly here and there’s only so much time left to grab the perfect gift.

Still need some help? No worries, Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members are here for you.

Here are some suggestions for gifts that are both fun and educational:

Idea provided by Tom Noyes, professor of English and Creative Writing

2018 Pushcart Prize XLII. The annual Pushcart Prize anthology gathers the best fiction, nonfiction and poetry published in America’s literary magazines and small presses over the course of the previous year, making it an ideal gift for any book lover on your list. The newest edition, 2018 Pushcart Prize XLII, contains a special treat. The poem “Praying Mantis in My Husband’s Salad” by Laura Kasischke was chosen from the pages of Lake Effect, Penn State Behrend’s award-winning literary journal. $13

Idea provided by Mary-Ellen Madigan, director of enrollment management

BRIXO. Enjoy LEGOs? Then you’ll love BRIXO, which is similar but with even more customization. Some of the things that young people can create include vehicles, wacky lamps, remote-controlled lighthouses and motorized quadcopters. If someone on your list has a big imagination, this gift is for them. Prices vary.

Ideas provided by Tracy Halmi, assistant teaching professor of chemistry

Bath Bombs. It’s a chance to bring chemistry to the tub. Bath bombs are hard-packed mixtures of dry ingredients and give off bubbles when wet. They can be purchased from the web, or young chemists can use this Bath Bombs guide to make their own. $19

Amigurumi Chemistry Set Pattern. This crochet chemistry set pattern is perfect for the person on your list who is crafty but loves science, too. $14

Organic Compounds Cutting Board. Know someone who likes to cook with spices? This cutting board displays all the molecules that add the fragrance to spices. $38.50

Reactions: An Illustrated Exploration of Elements, Molecules, and Change in the Universe. The third and final installment in the trilogy of visual books developed by Theodore Gray, this book details chemical reactions with a set of stunning pictures and stories. $30

Ideas provided by Richard Zhao, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering

Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini. Who wouldn’t want a personal assistant that can tell the weather, order pizza, play music, control home appliances and more? These home automation gadgets from Amazon or Google are also on sale this holiday season. $30

Themed Night Lights. While this makes a nice holiday gift, the lights can actually be used as a home decoration all year round. Prices vary.

Catan. Able to be played by up to four players, this popular board game can be enjoyed by both family members and friends. It’s also easy to learn and fun to play. $49

Secret Lives of Faculty — Dr. Chris Harben, musical/stage star

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

There’s much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.

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Photo courtesy of Erie Playhouse (Credit: Julie Lokahi/ DV8 Photography)

Lecturing can be viewed as form of performance art. Faculty members take center stage, staring in their own daily productions to keep students engaged in the subject matter.

“Performing is what I do in front of the classroom all the time,” said Dr. Chris Harben, assistant teaching professor of management.

It’s also what he does in his free time.

Shortly after accepting a teaching position at Behrend this summer, Harben landed a lead role in the Erie Playhouse’s production of Annie: Harben plays Daddy Warbucks, orphan Annie’s wealthy savior, in the show which is onstage at the playhouse this month.

Harben as Daddy Warbucks

Photo courtesy of Erie Playhouse (Credit: Julie Lokahi/ DV8 Photography)

“During the interview process at Behrend, I learned that Dr. Greg Filbeck (director of the Black School of Business) was a board member at the Erie Playhouse,” Harben said. “I looked at the playhouse’s website and saw they were going to be doing Annie. This was around June when I was currently in rehearsals as Daddy Warbucks at a theater in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, so I thought it was fortuitous!”

Harben, who was a faculty member at Bowling Green State University, nailed both of his “auditions,” and was offered a position at the Black School of Business and a starring role at the Erie Playhouse.

We caught up with Harben to learn more about his love of musicals, his role as Daddy Warbucks, his unusual part-time job, and why he’s been making it a priority to start hitting the gym again.

Why did you choose Behrend?

It was really because it had a small school feel with all the benefits of a big state school, such as research opportunities.

How long have you been acting or singing on stage?

I was in a couple of shows in high school, but then didn’t do any stage work until I completed my doctorate a few years ago. I met an actor who had played Valjean from Les Misérables on Broadway and was inspired to get back into it. My first show as an adult was three years ago.

Do you prefer musicals?

Yes. I don’t consider myself a great actor, so I prefer to audition for roles that require a lot of singing.

What has your experience been like so far at the Erie Playhouse?

The playhouse is an incredible Erie asset. I have never performed any place like it. It is closer to professional theater than it is to a community theater. The experience of rehearsing and getting ready has been fairly typical with ups and downs—especially “tech week,” which is always the hardest week as all the technical aspects and bugs are worked out. But, to work on such a great stage with wonderful sets, a full experienced crew, a full-time professional costumer (who is also in the show, starring as Rooster), a director as professional as Kate Neubert-Lechner, and an incredibly talented orchestra, is an amazing thing that makes me smile every time I walk into the theatre.

There are a couple of Penn State Behrend students in Annie, too?

Yes. Anthony Ventura, a senior Political Science major, has multiple roles but I interact with him the most in his role as “Drake” my butler. Jacqueline Dumont, a junior Communication major, is also in the cast and plays several roles as part of the ensemble.

What do you enjoy most about musicals/stage performance?

I love being able to transform into someone else. Many of my roles have been similar in terms of their character, though, so I’d like to try something different soon, perhaps a comedic role. But the very best part of participating in stage shows are the relationships I’ve been able to build with other cast members. I can honestly say that I keep in touch with people from every show I’ve ever been in. Theater really is a small world.

What’s the most challenging aspect of theatre?

Well, there is drama in drama. Also, things happen that force actors out of our comfort zones. For Annie, we didn’t have the rehearsal time we might have liked because the playhouse’s stage was undergoing renovations, which threw the schedule off a bit. But you just have to roll with it. It is part of being in theater. Stuff happens. Sometimes it happens live on stage.

There are real dogs in Annie?

Yes. Two shelters dogs. One is a sweet, docile pitbull from the Northwestern PA Humane Society and the other, Romeo, is a younger mixed breed dog from the A.N.N.A. Shelter. Romeo is a little hyper, but that’s probably to be expected with all the commotion, lights, audience, and cast members on stage.

What’s your favorite musical?

The Phantom of the Opera! It was the first musical I learned to sing. I’d love to play the Phantom some day.

What has been your favorite show/role, so far?

Daddy Warbucks has been my favorite role and Annie my favorite show, but playing Javert in Les Misérables is a very close second.

What’s your dream role?

I already mentioned the Phantom, but on a more realistic note, I’d love to play Dr. Jekyll in Jekyll and Hyde. I have sung “The Confrontation” from that show at a cabaret in Ohio. It is an incredible song in which both Jekyll and Hyde are singing, and it’s the same actor!

What’s next for you on stage?

I’ll be playing King Triton in The LIttle Mermaid at the Academy Theatre in Meadville. We start rehearsing in February and open in April. The director asked me how comfortable I was going shirtless for that role. So, suffice to say, I’m working on getting in shape for that role now.

Switching topics, let’s talk about your work as an Emergency Medical Technician?

Yes. I’ve been an EMT for five years now. I was a volunteer EMT in Ohio while I was working on my doctorate. I’m still trying to get my certification in Pennsylvania, but I hope to do some volunteer work here, too.

Being an EMT is quite a change from the corporate world. What appeals to you about it?

I became an EMT for a couple of reasons. First, my family is full of medical professionals. My dad was an EMT when I was very young. My mom is a nurse. My sister is a cardiovascular perfusionist, and my brother is a physical therapy assistant/athletic trainer. So I grew up around the language and culture of medicine. But, for me, becoming an EMT was more about giving back. I tried joining service clubs like Optimist and the Rotary Club, but I never felt the impact I feel when I show up at someone’s house who really needs help.

It’s also a summer job for you, right?

It is. For the past few years, I’ve been working as an EMT at Cedar Point, which is a large amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. One of the benefits of that job is that I’ve developed a great relationship with the leadership team there. I actually just had the park’s vice president and general manager come to Behrend to speak to one of my classes. I do hope to work there this summer, too. It’s only a couple of hours away from Erie.

Any other hidden talents?

I can play the drums, trumpet, and French horn. I also love photography and owned a photography business for several years. All the art in my office in Burke are photos that I’ve taken.

What words do you live by?

When I was finishing my doctorate, I had the Chinese symbol for perseverance tattooed on my arm. That is a word that I live by.

Annie is on stage at the Erie Playhouse, 13 W. 10th St., through December 31, 2017. Visit for show dates and ticket information.












A Maryland State of Mind: Staying Social

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By Brandon Moten
Senior Communication Major

Hello Penn State Behrend students, faculty, and staff. This is Brandon Moten, and I’m back with another post in my new blog series, “A Maryland State of Mind,” where I share my experience of attending Penn State Behrend as an out-of-state student from Bowie, Maryland. If you’ve missed my previous posts, I have touched on my transition to Erie and coming to Penn State Behrend.

Today’s post is about the challenges I faced as I wanted to stay social and meet friends while getting acclimated to a new environment. Before coming to Behrend, I was hopeful that I would be able to use my social skills to help make great friends and create amazing memories. I’m a very social person, and I knew I would need people to help me get through the transition of being an out-of-state college student. My roommate was assigned to me over the summer, but I was still nervous and anxious about meeting him.

Once August came, all of my fears of being able to make friends were put to rest once I met my roommate Giovanni Carrera. To this day, he is still one of the best friends I met here at Penn State Behrend. Also, I have met so many amazing individuals through him, which also helped me branch out and meet people through my classes, work, and extracurricular activities because my experience with him gave me so much confidence. So many amazing people attend Penn State Behrend, and the campus setup makes it easy to meet friends because you are likely to see them often, whether it’s through Brunos, Dobbins, class, or common areas in the residence halls.

Today, I have many friends and connections that will stay with me for years. I attribute that to Penn State Behrend matching with a roommate that fits my personality. In a few weeks, I will graduate, but I know the friendships I started here will last a lifetime. That’s just another reason why I love this school and the experiences I have enjoyed as an out-of-state student.

Stay tuned for more… WE ARE PENN STATE!

PLET students explore Austria and Germany

Guest Post by Haley Palys, senior Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 12th, a group of PLET majors embarked on a 10-day trip to Austria and Germany. We asked student Haley Palys to keep a travel log and tell us about her trip. Here’s her report:

Oct. 12-13 — The Journey Begins.

Our bus to Toronto-Pearson Airport left at 9:00 a.m., so a few of us in the group decided to enjoy the Breakfast Place’s food one final time. We later arrived at Toronto early, leaving ourselves PLENTY of time to enjoy the airport’s free Wi-Fi and long lines. A couple hours later, and we were off to Austria (not Australia).

As soon as we arrived in the Vienna Airport, I knew this city was beautiful. Unfortunately, the jet lag wiped out majority of the group. I decided to walk to the famous Museum-Quartier square, and in the Volksgarten, enjoying the perfect weather and sunny skies. Others in our group opted to check out the Natural History Museum and explore.

Everyone got to experience the famous Viennese food, including my first bites of the wiener-schnitzel (and my favorite now)! Meat, cheese, bread, and Italian food were on menus across the town, yet it was all in German, so we couldn’t read it anyways. Later into the night (7:30 p.m.), I was fighting the jet lag while others were still getting to know the city.

Oct. 14 — Exploring Vienna

Everyone met at 8:30 a.m. after a refreshing breakfast of orange juice, sliced meats and cheeses, and bread. Within 30 minutes of walking through the fresh air, I was awake and feeling good.

Our group of six got to the Schloss Schönbrunn as it opened and began to walk the yards. The entire estate was jaw-dropping, especially how large it was. Then we learned it was only a summer-house for the royal family. We then toured thirty-six of the rooms in the palace, which all were stunning—my favorite being the ballroom and porcelain room. Out of the whole experience though, the pretzels and fresh-pressed orange juice at the café blew our minds. We were all done sooner than expected, giving us time to head over to the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. There we toured the catacombs, saw some bones, and then climbed 343 steps for a gorgeous view of the city. After a long day of walking, we found a spot on the Danube River to sit and watch the river boats do 180°s.

For lunch I had a grilled salmon with hollandaise sauce, while the others enjoy more traditional dishes like bratwurst. Some even opted on trying out the non-alcoholic beers, and I struggled to avoid ordering “fizzy” water. Later for dinner, we shared some laughs at a nice outdoor-patio café and wine bar.

Oct. 15 — Saying Goodbye to Vienna

At 8:30 a.m., we were all packed and ready to head out to start the day. After locking up our stuff, we headed off to the Technology Museum. It was located close to the Schönbrunn, and had gorgeous views of the palace.

The exhibits were awesome, and the whole place was huge! We were enjoying the interactive exhibits along with the kids for a while, then realized just how much information there was. The whole museum was about four stories high, with about ten different areas ranging from Energy to Media based technology. After rushing through to get a look at everything, we enjoyed some delicious pizzas and pastas before heading back to pack up. We hopped on the train, and got a stunning view of the countryside and Alps.

Oct. 16 — ENGEL Tour

Our group started the day with some more cold cuts and cheese and bread, then an hour long bus ride to Schwertberg. We were lucky enough to be touring ENGEL, a global injection molding machine manufacturer. We spent the morning there and were served the fanciest lunch plates I have ever seen, with of course sparkling water and orange juice.

After touring the Schwertberg headquarter plant, we set off to the Dietech plant where the automation, or robot, equipment is manufactured. It was a quick tour, but we got to see a lot.

Afterwards, we left for St. Valentine where the big machinery is manufactured. This was truly incredible to see, because everything was bigger than anything I have seen or worked with. Tommy Vervoort and Joe Donofrio were familiar with these large tonnage machines thanks to past internships, and were able to ask questions to the engineers. At the end of the tour, my group was allowed to step inside the machine platens for a picture—that’s how big it was!

We said our thank-you’s and goodbyes, and headed off to the train station. We then left for Munich, enjoying even more views of the Alps along the way to Germany.

A small portion of the group will spend tomorrow in Innsbruck, Austria to spend some time on the slopes of the glacier, so they left to catch their own connection train. They stayed the night there and will spend the next day skiing until their train to Munich arrives.

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Innsbruck, Austria

We who went straight to Munich found their way to our own hostels. After the long day of traveling I needed some comforts of home—so we went to the KFC down the block for dinner, while the others spent a little more time trying to find a good place to eat and walked around Munich.

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ENGEL tour, Austria

Oct. 17 — Munich Adventures

Today was another free cultural day, and I had planned to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp. Our group arrived close to the opening time, so the already somber camp seemed even more chilling and empty. The actual museum was moving and gave an in-depth look into life at Dachau. The grounds were serene, despite the immense history surrounding us.

After the solemn tour, I wanted to cheer myself up, so we wandered through Munich past the Marienplatz, and ended up at the Hofbrau Haus for lunch. We each enjoyed some traditional Bavarian meals and drinks, and I was ready to buy all the pretzels I could find.

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With our stomachs full, we decided to walk it off and check out the famous English Garden. Specifically, we wanted to see the Eisbach, or the man-made “perfect surfing wave” in the streets of Munich.

On the way there we ran into some others in our group at an art museum. Ryan Bauer then clued us in on some architectural history of the museum. It was once a Nazi headquarters, and was converted to an officers’ mess hall after WW2, but evidence of its origin, swastika tiling, could be found on the ceiling right outside the front door.

After we had out fill of the street surfers, we strolled past a nude park [unexpected], and began our walk back to the hostel. We walked through the Hofgarten and saw the Bavarian State Chancellery, which also had evidence of the war. Along the front columns, large bullet holes painted the façade.

Oct. 18 — Neuschwanstein Castle

Everyone made their way to the train station at 6:30 a.m. promptly, and boarded the train towards Füssen. Half the group got their tickets for the tours of both castles, and we started our uphill trek towards Neuschwanstein. The fifteenth-century castle was stunning from all views, but the scenery around us was even more breathtaking. We climbed the mountain adjacent to the castle for a birds-eye view of not only the castle, but the mountainous landscapes, pristine lake reflections, and miles of farm land.

Once we had our fill of Neuschwanstein, we took a horse carriage ride down the hill and headed to the other side of the valley to see Hohenschwangau castle. And once again the views took my breathe away. After eating some bratwursts for lunch, we met up with another group to head back to Munich.


Oct. 19 — Rosenheim University Tour

Today we were fortunate enough to spend the day at Rosenheim, a university in which some Behrend students have studied abroad at. We were shown around their plastics lab, and got to see all the machines and capabilities they had. We were then treated to lunch, and then sprinted to catch our train back to Munich. We retrieved our bags, and headed to Bieberach to spend the night and rest.

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Rosenheim University, Germany

Oct. 20 — FAKUMA Show

After enjoying some more lunch meat, orange juice, and bread for breakfast, we left for the FAKUMA show, a case show for companies in the plastics industry to network to customers and showcase their newest technologies and capabilities. We had about five hours to walk around eight different buildings which were each jammed-packed with companies.

We somehow made it through everything (and still missed a lot), and showed off our gadgets and trinkets with each other. The highlight of this was a watch that Arburg, and injection molder manufacturer, was assembling and giving away.

Oct. 21 — Heidelberg

As this was our last day to enjoy Germany, I decided to relax and just walk and see how much of the city I could see. One group hiked up to a famous outlook of the city and Heidelberg Palace, and discovered some more castles along the way. We even found an American themed bar next to the hostel, and showed everyone there how to properly eat a burger (not with a fork and knife).

Auf wiedersehen, Deutschland!






A Maryland State of Mind: Transitioning to Erie

By Brandon Moten
Senior Communication Major

Hello Penn State Behrend students, faculty, and staff. This is Brandon Moten, and I’m back with another post in my new blog series, “A Maryland State of Mind,” where I share my experience of attending Penn State Behrend as an out-of-state student from Bowie, Maryland.

Today’s post is about my transition from living in Bowie to moving to Erie to begin my journey at Penn State Behrend. Since I was a child, I had always wanted to go to Penn State, something just drew me to this school. I never thought that dream would come to fruition, but in 2013, it became a reality. I accepted my opportunity to attend Penn State Behrend on the same day I received my acceptance letter. However, in the back of my mind, I knew this would be a big change for me, and there were many days where I wondered if I was ready for such a change.

I had lived in Bowie my whole life. I love everything there: my friends, family, environments, and just the general lifestyle, too. I never had been to Erie before, so knowing that I would be moving away for four or five years was hard to comprehend. It was hard to imagine living on my own, doing things on my own, balancing schoolwork, maintaining a new social life, and other numerous changes. The whole situation created a lot of nerves and doubts for me.

Thankfully, I put my nerves and doubts behind me after visiting the campus in July. I immediately felt like the Behrend campus was the place for me to succeed, grow, and enjoy life. The campus gave me a home-style feel, and my nerves and doubts turned into excitement and determination. Also, having amazing support from my family and friends gave me the motivation to continue my transition to Penn State Behrend.

That August, it was time to move into Senat Hall and leaving Maryland was not as difficult as I felt it would be. Based on my July visit, I knew my transition would be a good one. There were definitely rough times throughout my freshman year. I often missed home, family, friends, and even Maryland food. In the end, I got through all of it because  of what Behrend had to offer. I quickly made new friends and found Senat Hall to be a wonderful place to live. It was amazing to go to a college I have always wanted to attend since I was a kid.

Leaving your hometown is never easy, but Penn State Behrend made it a lot easier for me. I’m happy that I can say today that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have grown as a person, met amazing people, and the learning experiences here are really something special.

Brandon Moten’s Maryland State of Mind

By Brandon Moten
Senior Communication Major

Hello Penn State Behrend students, faculty, and staff, my name is Brandon Moten. I’m a senior from Bowie, Maryland, majoring in Communication with certificates in Advertising & Social Media. I have been attending Penn State Behrend since August of 2013 and have loved every minute of it. From the people to the class experiences, it’s been an awesome time.

Over the course of the semester, I’ll be writing a new series of blog posts called “A Maryland State of Mind” where I’ll share my experience of attending Penn State Behrend as an out-of-state student. I will discuss my transition from moving from a place I lived my whole life to a new state, differences between where I’m from and Erie, how I balance school and daily life, and how I handled the challenges I faced along the way.

Penn State Behrend is an amazing school, and I have grown in many ways and experienced so many new things. When I first came to college in 2013, I had no idea of what to expect. I have been living in Bowie, Maryland, my whole life and leaving home was not easy. In the beginning, I had nerves about experiencing new cultures, being six hours away from home, leaving my friends and family, and so much more.

I’m sure there are many current and future out-of-state students who are or will be experiencing the same emotions. I hope this blog series helps those students who have these same thoughts and emotions as I once did. Ultimately, I hope to give everyone a better idea on the life of an out-of-state Penn State Behrend student.

Stay tuned for more… WE ARE PENN STATE!