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The Communicator


Seeking happiness in Happy Valley

Persistence and a promise helped journalism major Anna Meyer find success at Penn State

A girl with wavy blonde hair stands, arms crossed and smiling, while standing in front of gray concrete building on a sunny day.
Journalism major Anna Meyer always knew Penn State was the school that would help build the foundation for her career, so she persisted as she worked to adapt on campus.

Seven semesters into her academic career, Anna Meyer finally did something most students at the University do in their first semester — or even before they arrive on campus. She bought a Penn State T-shirt.

Until this fall, until that moment, it just never felt like the thing to do.

Make no mistake, Anna knew Penn State was the best place for her to build a foundation for the future and chase her dreams. Unfortunately, campus never really felt comfortable, let alone like home, through the first three years or so.

It’s not hard to understand why.

A tough transition

Anna and her mother moved from Arizona to Pennsylvania as Anna was entering her senior year of high school. That left her thousands of miles from longtime friends while adapting to many changes as her mother was also battling breast cancer.

Months later, when Anna was making a scheduled visit for accepted students to Penn State, the school she and her mom agreed was the pathway to her dreams, she did so on her own.

Her mother, Catherine, had entered the hospital two weeks earlier and never returned home.

“About 45 minutes after I got back from orientation, I learned her time on earth was limited and she would not make it,” Anna said. “When I visited her at the hospital, I did tell her that I was really going to love Penn State even though I wasn't sure about it. I just wanted her to know that her wish of me being happy at Penn State would come true and I would be OK.”

Catherine died on June 4, 2019, two weeks before Anna was supposed to start summer classes at the University Park campus. The University provided a deferral and allowed her to start classes in the fall — still just 63 days after her mother died.

Understandably, Anna’s first semester and first academic year were challenging.

“Not everyone is happy in Happy Valley,” Anna said. “That was me. It was so hard to get connected. The opportunities were obvious, but it was difficult to make the effort. It was easier to just go to class and go back to my room.”

Back then, a seven-day week for Anna included “one or one-and-a-half days” when she felt good about her situation, let alone happy.

Still, she persisted, avoiding the temptation to transfer closer to her new home near Philadelphia because she was sure Penn State — especially the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications with its award-winning student TV programming and popular Hollywood Program — was the right place to pursue her career goals.

Most of the time Anna felt alone. That was especially true the first couple of years, which were additionally impacted by pandemic restrictions and fewer in-person classes. Her mother’s influenced remained, though, and Anna refused to quit. Sometimes she trudged, but she knew she was working toward something.

So, while her roommates changed (another aspect of her life on campus where connections were elusive), Anna honed her skills and added academic variety. Along with focusing on broadcast journalism, she worked toward minors in Spanish and theater. She also found an internship as a writer for Afterbuzz Entertainment.

Lonely, but not alone

Slowly, she got more comfortable on campus. Telling her story helped. Understanding many students battle the same issues was reassuring and even a little empowering. Along with her passion and the influence of her mother, Anna felt like she was moving forward, at least in part, for others as well.

Last spring, the spring of her junior year, Anna applied for and was accepted into the Penn State Hollywood Program. She’ll move to Los Angeles in January 2023 with 15 other Bellisario College students to pursue internships and complete classes she hopes will lead to a career in the entertainment industry.

When Anna found out she was selected last April, she was thrilled. “I’m so glad we stuck with it,” she said. Yes, she said 'we.' “Me and all the other students who could’ve given up on ourselves. That’s part of what motivated me, that it was more than just me, that my story could be something positive, despite how it started.”

“I’m so glad we stuck with it. Me and all the other students who could’ve given up on ourselves. That’s part of what motivated me, that it was more than just me, that my story could be something positive, despite how it started.”

Anna Meyer, journalism major

Her “we” carried a little extra personal connection, too. When she found out, Anna called her mother. Yes, she dialed the 10-digit phone number that remains active a couple years after Catherine’s death.

“I do call her every once in a while, just when I have something to share, something to tell her,” Meyer said. “The call about the Hollywood Program felt really good.”

She’s had more positive updates the past couple of years. Along with the Hollywood Program acceptance, Anna earned an anchor role with the 400-level class that produces the award-winning “Centre County Report” newscast.

This fall, her seven-day week typically includes “at least six” good days.

While Anna’s world often felt black and white not long ago, things are more vibrant these days. She’s proud of how she endured the struggles, persisted and found a comfort level at Penn State — even if it took a little longer than other students.

“Everybody’s different, and that’s OK. I always knew Penn State was the place that could make my dreams come true,” Anna said. “That’s happening. It just took a little while for me to feel at home here and really embrace Happy Valley.”