Living Columns & Blogs

How do you meet new people in State College? Tips for finding a community

Emily Chertow
Emily Chertow

Dear Emily: I’m a Penn State grad student in chemistry and new to town. I do not like to drink and am kind of shy, but would like to meet some new people. Any suggestions for things to do in State College?

Dear New to Town: Allow yourself to take time to explore what State College has to offer. Believe it or not, it’s never-ending and there is always something neat going on. Just because this is a “college town” does not mean that you have to partake in the activities that many college students do, especially on the weekends.

Take time to think about what you like to do outside of your studies. What relaxes you? What makes you happy? What hobbies do you have? Then, think about who you want to surround yourself with. What kind of people do you like? Who in your past has made you happy? What traits and interests do those people carry?

Once you’ve sorted through those thoughts, pursue spaces that will you allow you to be around the type of people you want at events and activities you enjoy. It’s OK that you are shy or maybe even an introvert, there are many ways to find your people and your place. Make wherever your feet are your home. When you allow yourself to explore and be comfortable in your surroundings it will be easy to find that opportunities and experiences will come to you.

That said, you have to put yourself out there. I encourage you to attend events in the community alone. There are many people in State College that are searching for the same things as you in likely similar places.

There are always planned events going on during weekends but if you want to find a place that is consistent I recommend joining a gym, getting your library card, frequenting a coffee shop or even joining an establishment that connects with your faith (if you have one). At these establishments, you will find a community.

If you meet someone and feel a connection, invite them to join you to go to something that you think you’d both enjoy. This is a way to find your tribe and build your community. You don’t need a large group of people to be fulfilled with friendships. In fact, I’ve found the smaller the circle I have the happier I am. I understand that it can be hard to extend the hand at times but once you do it’s likely that you won’t regret it and that it will eventually be reciprocated.

It’s still early in the year and many people are looking to branch out too. Take advantage of the remaining nice weather and spend time outside whether it be Old Main or the Arboretum — I’m sure there are others having mindful alone time that, too, would welcome the company.

Dear Emily: I’ve been hosting a big tailgate for the past 10 years but this past three months I have drastically changed my diet for health reasons, causing me to cut out alcohol, dairy and wheat. What are some alternatives for me so that I can still have my tailgate be an inviting?

Dear Veteran Tailgater: Good for you for kicking out the toxic food for your body. I’m sure your digestive system is thanking you but just because you’re getting rid of all these fun and tasty goods does not mean you have to put everyone else around you through it, too! I suggest keeping what you’ve had in the past but adding to it.

Go with the classics. Load up on the fruits and veggies. Heck, if you’ve been hosting for the last 10 years then make the most of it and make some fruit salads and fancy alternatives that are healthy but fun to eat. Everyone loves scoops of assorted melons that are held together on toothpicks. Honestly, there is something about decorative food that makes it taste better.

Dips. All sorts of dips. Veggie dip. Hummus. Buffalo dip. Bean dip. Kale dip. Since you can’t eat the chips, have an assortment of carrot chips and celery sticks for dipping.

Since you’ve been in the tailgating game for a long time it sounds like you’ve likely spent a lot of time preparing for your Saturdays. Since this change in your life has occurred maybe it’s time to kick your feet up a bit and pass the hard and time consuming tasks to someone else. State College has numerous catering services or restaurants that you can call and plan a set list with. You can do it all from veggie wraps to mac and cheese. Don’t limit yourself!

Also, since your adjusting what you’re eating, focus on the atmosphere of your tailgate. Do you have a good tailgate spot in the right lot? Are there enough lawn chairs? A killer ‘80s playlist? Enough games for everyone to jump in and join? The fall is here and you can begin to theme your tailgate. Everyone loves a tailgate that makes them feel at home. Consider different warm ciders and festive decorations to help set the mood and not just celebrate how strong the football team is but how festive Happy Valley can truly be in the season.

Emily Chertow is a Penn State graduate who grew up in State College. Questions for her column can be sent to Information on who is asking them will be kept confidential.