Abington senior reflects on college years, life-altering CHANCEs

Colleen scuba diving

Abington student Colleen Kesley studied the biodiversity of coral reefs in Bocas del Torro, Panama, this summer at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Credit: Penn State

She is passionate about conservation, Penn State Abington, and life in general. So it isn’t surprising that senior Colleen Kelsey spent time during the demanding opening week of classes to reflect on her final college semester.

The science major’s post, "So Many Things, So Little Time!" on the Abington Lion Tales student blog explores her realization that the next few months will be filled with endings and beginnings:

…It dawned on me, (right about the time New Year’s came around and everyone else started talking about their resolutions) I’m a senior. This is my last spring semester. These will be my final science classes. This April, I’ll go to my last Nittany Ball. I’ll be volunteering for my final Spring Fest. … I’ll no longer be involved in Student Life, and I’ll be on my way to adulthood. ... The first week of classes is already over. I’ve got tests and what I’ll be wearing to the next dance planned. ... It’s so strange, because sometimes I feel like I’m still 16, yearning for knowledge and freedom…then I look in the mirror and realize how much I’ve learned, how much I’ve grown, and how much that “freshman 15″ can really stretch out your favorite pair of jeans!!

… I don’t want to make plans for anything other than to soak up those moments. Get in those LAST chances. … I didn’t make a resolution. I made a promise to myself to enjoy everything. Let college have its last little moment in my life, because very soon, those college memories, will be only memories. …

To read Kelsey's full post, go to http://pennstateabington.wordpress.com/

Kelsey is active academically and socially at Abington, serving on the event programming and production teams, and as an orientation leader. But she said it was her family’s move from the Midwest to the Florida-Georgia border in high school that jump-started a transformation that continued at Abington.

“I experienced total culture shock and learned to appreciate my own roots as well as expand my branches,” she said. “And then I decided to branch even further and moved to Abington for college. I wanted to develop my knowledge of the environment and conservation systems throughout the world.”

Last summer, Kelsey’s passion for the environment led her to an experience that likely was far beyond what she imagined growing up near Chicago. She traveled with a group of undergraduates and four Penn State faculty members, including Abington’s Kathleen Fadigan, to Panama to conduct global climate change research through CHANCE (Connecting Humans and Nature through Conservation Experiences), based at the Lehigh Valley campus.

Kelsey had the rare experience of working directly with scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, one of the world's premier research organizations. She visited an indigenous village and conducted research on plant and bird life. The group also studied the biodiversity of mangroves and coral reefs, participated in sea turtle conservation, and manatee observations.

And while they researched and interacted with experts from around the globe, they also learned important lessons in gratitude while living at times with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Read Kelsey’s posts about her Panama experiences at http://pennstateabington.wordpress.com/?s=panama including this one:

And at the end, it was all completely worth it. Every little thing I used to take for granted, I fully appreciate and it has made me a much better roommate (because I’m so much cleaner), daughter (because I thank my parents more sincerely now), student (I put a lot of effort into my projects).