When I first arrived in Mansfield as an 18-year-old freshman, I immediately fell in love with Mansfield University's Victorian brick structures that sit majestically atop a mountain and overlooking some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen.
Being an artist and an outdoorsman, I appreciate beautiful scenery.
I will never forget the first time I took in the view from above the football field. It was fall, and leaves were at their peak of vibrancy and color as they were turning red like lava and yellow like the sun as they lit up the hills for as far as the eye could see.
I could definitely see myself getting used to that. But as much as I loved the campus, that's how much I loathed the town.
It was just plain underwhelming to me. All I saw was two diverging highways in rural Tioga County, one main intersection, one supermarket and a McDonald's.
No movie theatre, no club, no real way as I saw it for college students to entertain and preoccupy themselves. It was all very black and white; I saw it as cruel juxtaposition to the Technicolor views of the campus and countryside.
However, that began to change at an incredible rate, and since the addition of a multitude of natural gas drilling wells, commerce has boomed.
I am a senior now, and during my stay at Mansfield, the borough has seen the addition of restaurants and eateries like the Lambs Creek, Changos, Sheetz and the Hungry Monkey.
Some existing restaurants also have expanded or upgraded in some way like Papa V's pizzeria. The town has seen new additions in the way of shopping such as the addition of Peebles, Sears and Lowes, and it seems like a new hotel goes up every month.
The town I once chastised for being too boring and sleepy now is filled with shops, restaurants and activity. Unfortunately, the landscape has paid some of the cost.
Now, the noise and smell of trucks fills the air most of the time. The views still are magnificent, but now are occasionally spotted with drill rigs, gas fires or black smoke. Even some local farmers have compromised their land's natural beauty to install various pipes and drilling equipment.
During my stay at Mansfield, I have seen quite a radical transformation. It is astonishing how something that's been under the feet of Mansfieldians for centuries is all of the sudden able to alter the environment above so drastically.
I suppose that because one aspect improved while another got worse, the town of Mansfield is in about the same place as it was when I started out, as far as how attractive it is to the outside observer.
It will always, however, be a place where I've had many fond memories and enriching experiences.
No matter what type of reformations and renovations the town of Mansfield undergoes in the future, it always will be my alma mater, and a place I hold close to my heart.
Dinan wrote this while he was a student in Dan Mason's class at Mansfield University.