Graduation can cause a moment of reflection over the past four years of a long and adventurous story that has culminated in a well-earned degree. Plans can change during the journey, and choosing a different path than the one originally planned can end up being best. Penn State Altoona alumna Min Lo Hsieh knows that first-hand
Hsieh grew up in Taiwan where she looked to come to Penn State in hopes of transferring to University Park's Smeal College of Business after two years. She believed that the strong business program and the State College community was what she wanted to do while attending Penn State. She soon realized that the environment and atmosphere of Penn State Altoona made it easy to call it her new home.
Not only was it a difficult decision not to go to University Park, but it was equally hard for her to move away from home in Taiwan. Having never been to the United States, Hsieh knew that there would be some challenges and adversity that she would face. After learning about the culture at Penn State, she knew that she could not pass up the opportunity. She liked that Penn State Altoona provided her with smaller classrooms and more interaction between faculty and staff. She described it as a culture shock at first, but by the end of the first semester, she had found her niche.
Hsieh learned that she wanted to focus on marketing and management through her involvement in the Sheetz Fellows Program which is only offered at Penn State Altoona. This unique program allows students the opportunity to become leaders in their community and molds them into well-rounded individuals for their future in the business world. The Fellows Program has many benefits that interested Hsieh. She was able to find mentoring opportunities that helped build relationships with people in her field. Hsieh felt that being able to participate in a special academic community was the most important aspect of the program because it allowed her to work on projects that were beneficial to not only the program but the Altoona community as well.
“I think my favorite was my first project with ArtsAltoona. It's called Start Here. We decided to bring everyone's attention to Juniata Road near Chestnut Avenue which has a lot of really cute shops there. The idea was to bring arts and music to the area so we had a musician come to perform for the whole day. We had different vendors and we had people painting on the walls to beautify the area. That's my favorite because I feel like we brought a lot of people from Altoona to that area, and that made a difference for that street.”
Throughout her time in the Fellows Program and at Penn State Altoona, Hsieh was able to connect with people that she might not have been able to in Taiwan. With a smaller school like Altoona, Hsieh felt that it was easier to connect with other students and organizations in order to build relationships. Smaller classroom sizes also allowed her to be more open to other students, and to get to know them better. She liked the idea of not having to sit through a lecture with hundreds of students, but rather have a more personal experience with her fellow classmates.
Penn State Altoona also provided her opportunities outside of class to meet people. One of her best experiences came from the International Student Orientation on her first day. Student Orientation provides students the opportunity to be shown around campus by a mentor, but also begin creating bonds with other students to make their transition to college easier. This transition is even harder for many international students because it is their first time coming to not only Penn State Altoona but the United States. Hsieh found her first friend group during this orientation. “I think there's a lot of commonality between my culture and here. I also think the environment at Penn State Altoona helped with that. There are fewer people, and the campus is not as crowded.”
One of the main reasons for her decision to stay at Penn State Altoona was the environment she found throughout campus. Not only did the Sheetz Fellows Program have a big part in her decision to stay, but also the overall classroom experience as well. Many students who enter Penn State Altoona go through the 2+2 program that allows them to go to University Park after their first two years at Altoona. Like many students, Hsieh found that the individualistic style of Penn State Altoona gave her a better environment and helped her build closer relationships with students and peers.
“I feel like I grew a lot as a person. I'm always really independent and I think that's why my parents trusted me to come here by myself, but I definitely still felt like it was hard at first. Especially when you're a minority in a country and your first language isn't English. But I kind of just got used to it. I met a lot of amazing people and started focusing on my academics and everything went really well.”
Hsieh earned her degree on May 4, 2020. Hsieh looks to find a job in Taiwan dealing with project management or human resources. She looks forward to finding a job that makes her happy and where she learns something new every day.
“One of the best experiences about coming to Penn State Altoona is that you get to meet so many different people from different cultures. I feel like you’d be missing out if you’re too afraid or uncomfortable to do that. You just have to take the first step. You have to make things happen; people won't make things happen for you.”
Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications