I grew up in suburban Pittsburgh, drawing with chalk and playing kickball in the cul-de-sac and playing capture the flag until sundown. I spent much of my childhood outside, and the woods behind my house that wove through the neighborhood was my happy place. 

Through a lot of my childhood, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. As I got older, I really didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be. I remember in high school talking to my mom, who just like my dad, started her career in advertising. When they were first married, they lived in Los Angeles. She told me that, while there wasn’t anything wrong with her job, she was eventually overwhelmed by the feeling that what she was doing wasn’t tangibly impacting the world in any positive way. I realized that that same sentiment is what initially piqued my interest in teaching as a child.

Throughout high school, I focused heavily on academics. Although I loved my art classes in elementary and middle school, I stopped taking them once they were no longer required. By senior year, I realized how much I missed having a creative outlet in school, and I enrolled in ceramics and graphic design on top of the other classes I needed to fulfil my graduation requirements.

As I started looking at colleges, I still had no idea what I wanted to study. The only things I did know were that I genuinely loved to learn, I needed a creative outlet, and I wanted to make tangible, positive change in the world. With these things in mind, I headed to Penn State’s open house for the College of Arts and Architecture. I was there to check out the Graphic Design program, but when I arrived, the schedule had space to attend presentations from two different programs. I walked into the Graphic Design presentation excited, but unfortunately, the presentation significantly underwhelmed.

On a whim, I went to the Landscape Architecture presentation during the afternoon session. The presentation was organized, dynamic, and exciting. We toured the studio, which was bright, airy, and buzzing with activity. I had already submitted my application to Penn State with an undeclared major, but as soon as I got home from the open house, I edited my application to reflect my newfound interest in the Landscape Architecture program. I received my acceptance that Halloween, and the rest is history! If you want to know about my experience at Penn State, I’ve written about it on our blog here.