Your boy Smalls just graduated from the Pennsylvania State University, and he’s feeling sad.

I realize I’ve already written one of these sappy, nostalgic articles before (An Ode to Blue-White Weekend), but one of the things I’ve grown to love while writing for Thoughts From The Bench over the past few months is that it gives me a platform, no matter how big or small, to write about what I’m passionate about. It’s a tool for me to put things into words that my inarticulate personality normally doesn’t allow. And leaving State College is one thing I haven’t really talked to anyone in person about yet. So here goes.

Growing up, I loved everything Penn State. If you’ve read any of my articles before, you’d probably know that. Both of my parents went here, and all I heard about was what a great place this was. I followed as many Nittany Lion sports as I could, with football being the major one. Hearing the crowd, the hits, and even the band play on TV was mesmerizing on TV. I became obsessed early on. Any time I had a soccer, basketball, or baseball game on a Penn State football Saturday, I immediately left when it was over, hopped in the car, and told my parents to find the game on the radio as soon as they could. I knew all the players, coaches, and fans that always made it on TV for some reason. Specifically, these guys:

It really was my first love when it came to sports. My whole family (mom, dad, younger sibling) would stop whatever we were doing on Saturdays to watch the Blue and White do their thing. It was expected that you’d be as loud as you could in our living room, no matter what the score was. The trips up to State College growing up to go to sporting events were some of my best memories. You could probably say I was brainwashed to be a Nittany Lion, which probably isn’t far off. But I knew it and didn’t care. It’s always been a family affair for me, and I hope to pass it down to my kids one day as well (fingers crossed).

It wasn’t just football and athletics that drew me to Penn State. I grew up hearing about how great of a school it was academically as well. I wanted to be an engineer pretty early on, so naturally my goal was to attend University Park at some point. It really was what drove me in school. With that and all of the stories my parents told me about the bars, parties and friends they made while they were here, I was determined to make it happen.

When I actually got the chance to go here, I couldn’t believe it. It was literally a lifelong dream come true. I was following in my parents’ footsteps, and I couldn’t have been more proud of that. The day I got accepted, I stopped all of my other college applications and accepted the invitation to attend my dream school. It was over. Good game.

Now I could sit down and write out all of the crazy stories of my time here. But I could be typing for hours if I did that. Instead, I’m just going to tell you the main lessons I’ve learned while I’ve been a college student. These are universal lessons, not just unique to Penn State. So hopefully anyone out there reading this can relate, even if you went to Texas, Florida, Bama, Slippery Rock, Robert Morris, or some small branch campus.

#1: Embrace the crappy freshman lifestyle

Listen, no one is pretending dorm life is glamorous. Freshman dorms are usually cramped, dirty, and loud. But you know what? Most of the time, that’s where you make some of your best friends. You’re all in it together, so just embrace the s**tshow that is freshman dorms. You’re going to see some of the rowdiest, sad, and gross things in your life. And yet, those are the things you’re going to talk about once you’re about to graduate.

“You guys remember the time (insert name here) came back drunk, wet his bed, and tried to dry his sheets by putting them in the microwave?”*

“What about the time we walked into the bathroom and saw (insert name here) completely naked with his leg hacked up on the sink while he was shaving his legs, shaving cream and all?”*

“Or that morning we threw snowballs at (insert name here) while he was sleeping, and his response was to drunkenly pick up is roommate’s Brita filter and launch it at the wall, waking up the entire floor?”*

*True stories, from my experience

The kids I still consider my best friends are the ones I met in the freshman dorms. So embrace it, and don’t complain about it.

#2: Employers don’t see your grades

Don’t get me wrong, I worked very hard in school. Because of that, I ended up in a career that I’m going to love. But I can still get behind the whole “C’s get Degrees” mindset. You know why? Because the only things that actually matter are that diploma and how you communicate with people. So instead of studying for a whole week ahead of your gen ed midterm, go outside and crack a beer. Go play a round of golf. Watch “Dead Snow” on Netflix with your roommates. Because at the end of the day, employers won’t see your GPA on a resume (unless you’re an idiot and put it on there). Relax, and don’t stress non-stop about your grades (as long as you actually graduate in time).

#3: Do your best to not say “No” to things

This is one I’ve had struggles with myself. There are definitely times where you’ll feel tired and won’t want to go out with the boys. But, speaking from experience, you regret the nights you missed out on more than the nights you said “F**k it, let’s go”. One of my best decisions in college was a last minute one. Back in 2016, when Penn State made it to the Big Ten Championship, me and my roommates bought tickets for the game in Indianapolis. It probably wasn’t the smartest decision making the 10-hour drive to Indy (and back), considering we had an entire project due the following Monday. But we went anyway, and it resulted in one of the best moments of my life.

I’ve left my fair share of nights on the table, but now that I’m about to leave and start life in the real world, I wish I would’ve taken more advantage of my time here. Be better than me and live your college life with no regrets.

#4: Happy hours are key

This one is self-explanatory. We’re all poor college kids trying to scrape by and still have a good time while only having $35 in our checking account at a time. One easy way to get around this is to know all the happy hour deals and stick to them. Your wallet and your hungover self in the morning will thank you. Plus, happy hours are usually the most fun anyway due to the shear number of people there. You’ll see way more or your friends this way, so take advantage. Be smart. Drink cheap.

#5: Tailgates are the best part of college

This one may come off as biased, but in my opinion, the best college experiences happen at the bigger schools where the sports events are more important. Here at Penn State, the football tailgates were king. There’s nothing quite like getting burnt to a crisp because you forgot to put on sunscreen while sipping on a cold Natural Light (which is basically water). Natty and Crown Rousse vodka are necessities, because when it comes to tailgates, its quantity over quality. The tailgating scene is the thing I’ll miss most about being an undergrad. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be back for plenty of games as an alum. But there’s nothing quite like being an idiot undergrad at a tailgate. So if you’re an undergrad now, take full advantage of your school’s tailgates.

#6: Take advantage of being able to make mistakes

My last and most important piece of advice is to try and enjoy making mistakes while you can. College is this weird period in life where being an idiot actually isn’t that big of a deal (most of the time). Whether it’s partying too hard sometimes or failing an exam, it’s almost always gonna be okay in the long run. Hangovers don’t last forever. It’s when you get out in the real world where your mistakes carry more weight and you actually have to be smart. So relax and don’t sweat the small stuff while you’re in school. You’re going to regret less that way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much looking forward to being a real adult with real adult money. But there’s something about Penn State that I’m always going to miss. It’s something that will always be a part of me and that I’ll always remember. It’s something I’m going to try to pass on to my kids one day, just like my parents did.

I love this place, and I’m going to miss it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have one last happy hour to catch.