My Road to Commencement: Gurleen Grewal

Gurleen Grewal poses at the state Capitol with her cap and gown

Gurleen Grewal will be graduating from Penn State Harrisburg in May with a bachelor of science in criminal justice.

Credit: Gurleen Grewal

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Gurleen Grewal will be graduating from Penn State Harrisburg with a bachelor of science in criminal justice. She shares what her educational journey was like as a first-generation college student during a global pandemic, saying, “As a first-generation college student, my journey through higher education has been a testament to resilience, determination, and the power of seizing every opportunity that comes my way.” Read her story below.

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I enrolled at Penn State Harrisburg, not knowing what the next four years were going to look like. Being in college during this time, I faced many challenges  from the start. Instead of attending regular classes and campus life, I was forced to learn online and stay at home. I lost the opportunity to make friends and enjoy all the events Penn State Harrisburg has to offer. I also had to adapt to using computers for everything. This turned my life completely upside down, the high levels of uncertainty and the fear of this unknown virus. Having to adapt to the virtual classrooms was not always the easiest way of learning, while also trying to balance family responsibilities, financial issues, and the academic demand. Amidst the chaos, I maintained my determination to succeed."

"Being a first-generation college student in my family, I did not have a 'helping hand' to get me through all the hefty paperwork and admissions, but I took a leap of faith and, just like Dory [a character from the film 'Finding Nemo'], said, 'Just keep swimming!' I proved to myself and others through my resilience and drive to overcome any hurdle that came my way. I discovered my strengths and weaknesses but used them to my advantage for my passions. Dr. Shauntey James has been my inspiration! Without her I would not be where I am today. She has kept me on my toes but given me the guidance to see my career in front of my eyes. Having the loving and ongoing support from family, faculty, professors, and peers has led my journey to an end as a graduating proud Penn State student.

"From the moment I stepped onto campus, I knew that I wanted to make the most of my college experience, not just for myself, but also for my family who had sacrificed so much to see me here. Being the oldest of three siblings, I knew I wanted to become the role model for them. I wanted my them and my parents to feel proud of me and my achievements. I immersed myself in campus life, eagerly joining clubs, organizations, and leadership roles that allowed me to grow both personally and academically."

"I have dedicated myself to fostering and maintaining a positive and inclusive environment beyond my academics. I have made many meaningful connections with both the student body and the faculty, which was my main reason why I chose to stay at Penn State Harrisburg for all four years. My aim for all the contributions with my extra-curricular activities has always been to create safe spaces for peers with diverse backgrounds to come together and create those long-lasting friendships. I have a genuine appreciation for the guidance I have received from faculty and professors and having that wonderful opportunity to openly communicate issues/concerns that I had whether it was regarding my academics, trying de-stress before a big test, or just needing that personal conversation. I have always been accepted for who I am and have been given the guidance I needed.

"Every event attended, every project tackled, and every connection made served as a reminder of the incredible journey I was on, one that was not just about obtaining a degree, but about breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations. I often question how I am going to say goodbye to a place that I called home for years. This home has nurtured me, and essentially made me who I am today. This home has provided me resources for my needs and wants. This home has provided me with friendships, relationships, and long-term bonds. My peers and I have embraced every opportunity thrown at us, faced every challenge head-on. I’m about to start yet another new chapter in my life, and Penn State Harrisburg helped me to define who I was in this crazy yet confusing world."

"My road to commencement has yet to come to an end, tears flowing down my face writing this. But I am glad that I was given this opportunity to share how this University has impacted me so positively. I would like to thank everyone that has been through my journey, and I wish I could thank everyone individually. Thank you, Penn State Harrisburg!