No Place Like Home

More than 100 Welcome Week activities are underway as thousands of Penn State students get acclimated with their new extended family.

In Hawaiian culture, the term “‘ohana” is often used to refer to one’s family or extended family, close friends, or communities in which they belong. For Evangelina Evans, who is beginning her first year at Penn State coming all the way from Honolulu, Hawaii, hearing “we are” expressed in tours and orientation sessions across campus creates a certain sense of nostalgia.

“I was a little nervous coming to the mainland that I would experience culture shock,” says Evans, “but I’m relieved to come to campus and see diversity.”

A female student opening a suitcase to continue unpacking her belongings.

Feeling at Home

Evangelina Evans, a first-year student in the Schreyer Honors College, unpacks what she managed to fit into a few suitcases following a flight from her home in Honolulu, Hawaii. She and her mom, Edie Evans, shopped for the rest of her room furnishings after landing in Cleveland, Ohio before driving the rest of the way to University Park.

IMAGE: Michelle Bixby

“I was a little nervous coming to the mainland that I would experience culture shock, but I’m relieved to come to campus and see diversity.” - Evangelina Evans, first-year student from Honolulu, Hawaii

Coming from Hawaii and traveling extensively due to her dad’s military career, feeling a sense of community and one that supports diversity were important to Evans when it came to choosing a college. A first-year student in Schreyer Honors College, Evans is considering a similar path as her dad—Penn State alumnus and United States Naval Captain Ashley Evans—by pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering.

She recalls first coming to campus to meet with a friend and former colleague of her dad’s, Dr. David Titley—who is currently Professor of Practice in the Department of Meteorology and founding director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk. Titley had served as a naval officer for 32 years before rising to the rank of Rear Admiral.

“I fell in love with the campus when we came to visit,” recalls Evans. “Plus, it was fun to see my dad and Dr. Titley catching up like old friends.”

Getting involved from the start, Evans is taking part in the Women in Engineering Orientation Program (WEPO), which offers an immersive experience for first-year women wishing to pursue an engineering career path. She plans to one day pursue a job with NASA or perhaps in private industry, hoping that Penn State’s community and alumni network will continue to serve her, even after graduation.

“With such a large alumni association and network, I know I’ll have that as a resource wherever I go,” says Evans, who already feels embraced by that network after attending a send-off in Hawaii, hosted by the local Penn State alumni chapter.   

A Family Affair

Matt Wozniak, of Atlanta, Georgia, is honest in saying that Penn State didn’t top his list of colleges when he began his search. A visit to University Park and the embrace of the Penn State community became the game changer.

“I fell in love when I came to campus,” says Wozniak. “Everyone here is so friendly and they really show that they’re here to support you.”

A male student puts a stack of towels into a closet in Simmons Hall at Penn State's University Park campus.


First-year student and Schreyer Honors Scholar, Matt Wozniak, of Atlanta, Georgia, gets settled into his room in Simmons residence hall at Penn State's University Park campus.

IMAGE: Michelle Bixby

“For me, this is my new home, my new community, and really it’s that for the rest of my life.” - Matt Wozniak, first-year student from Atlanta, Georgia

Wozniak, whose parents and sister accompanied him on move-in day, said the entire family is already getting immersed in the Penn State tradition.

“My dad already booked flights for him and my mom to come up for Parents Weekend,” Wozniak says with a laugh. “We’re all really excited by the sense of community. For me, this is my new home, my new community, and really it’s that for the rest of my life.”

Welcome Week Continues

To find Welcome Week information about all campuses, see the Penn State Student Arrival website. On the University Park campus, Welcome Week includes dinners, involvement fairs, social events, and more. Events are free to students, but some require a student id+ Card for entry.

Here are a few highlights to take note of for the remainder of the week:

Involvement Fair: Wednesday, Aug. 22, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., outside the HUB. Connect with over 1,000 student organizations at the annual Involvement Fair. Meet with people who share similar interests and explore new opportunities.

Results Will Vary*: Thursday, Aug. 23, various times. Graduation is your goal. We are going to help you get there. Your choices and experiences will define your journey. Join us for an interactive theatre performance that explores the reality of life as a Penn State student. A show for students, by students.

LION Bash: Wednesday, Aug. 29, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., Allen Street, downtown State College. Get to know State College! LION (Living in One Neighborhood) Bash includes live music, a chance to learn about local organizations, free food, and more.

Many more activities are scheduled throughout the beginning of the semester. Check your Penn State campus website for details.