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Four Years at the Mount

June 2005 - Looking Back on the School Year

Environmental influences

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2015

The environments we live in influence who we are and what we stand for. The locations we call home and our journeys to new areas shape the path of our lives. In many ways, the environments we become accustomed to also become accustomed to us. We mold the land as it molds us. Together, we each are reborn, reflecting the impact of the other as we pass through in stages.

Often it takes the removal of something in your life to reveal how much it truly meant to you. This was the case with my hometown. You see, I often took Annapolis for granted. I admired its beauty but I overlooked its individuality. I simply thought the landscape I saw every day existed everywhere. When asked, I say I am from Annapolis. This is the truth but at the same time, Annapolis is so much more than simply my origin. Annapolis is where my life began, literally and figuratively. It is where my schools, jobs, friends, and family have been and it is still where my heart is. I love Annapolis but I never took the time to reflect on the influence it has had on the young woman I am becoming.

Now, looking back on my life growing up in Annapolis, I see myself as a piece of sea glass. The most common type of sea glass comes from broken glass bottles discarded into the bay. The glass starts off in worthless, shattered pieces. After being tossed, tumbled, and turned on the waves created by local boats, all the sharp edges of the glass are removed. The bay spits the sea glass out onto the shorelines when it is satisfied that it has produced a valuable treasure. This is how my stage of finding myself was. I was tossed, tumbled, and turned by everything around me. The bay wrapped me in its arms and guided me on my path. It helped polish me and removed my jagged edges until it placed me back onto the shore with the insight I had needed. It didnít take long before I was ready to venture from those shores and start the next stage of my life.

I didnít expect that the east and west sides of Maryland would be so different from each other. I guess the uniting force is the extremely unpredictable weather, but that aside, the areas juxtapose each other. On one side, the major aspects of life revolve around the water whereas on the other side, life functions around the mountains and the land. I knew I was staying in Maryland for college so I didnít anticipate that my environment was going to change so drastically. After all, it is still the same state. Of course, I was wrong.

As I traveled northwest to the Mount on move-in day, I was alarmed by the lack of bridges and boat trailers in front yards. As I acknowledged the number of trucks without fishing pole racks I began to realize that my environment would not be the same one I was used to. Soon enough, mountains and acres of land filled every inch of the horizon. It then hit me that the bay wasnít coming with me to college. Truthfully, I hadnít even thought about it. I naively assumed that the bay would always surround me like it does on my peninsula. I suppose on a broader perspective it still did, but it definitely wasnít what I was used to. Nonetheless, I was anxious to see what this new setting would have in store for me.

The bay had started to teach me who I was, but I still didnít know what I stood for. Once again my environment became my greatest teacher. Where better to learn what you stand for than at the base of a mountain that has never moved? "Clearly," I thought to myself as I looked up at the mountain from our campus, "I have come to the right place."

As my life was repositioned below that mountain, I did begin to discover what I stand for. Firm and tough like the mountain, I learned to stand tall for what I consider to be right and for the validity in my thoughts. In fact, it seems that it is only in believing that we have a reason to stand at all. Our mountain itself stands for belief in faith.

Like a seed, I was planted at the base of our mountain. New knowledge, experiences, and opportunities as well as the wonderful people I have met have all nourished me. I have learned to continue to climb when I begin to slip. I have discovered that different paths often take you to the same place. It is through a greater understanding of all of this that I have begun to grow. Of course, this journey does not happen quickly. It takes time. Just like it takes time for a seed to grow into a plant. But, I have finally sprouted.

I think we often go through life without acknowledging the influence our environments have on shaping the way we live, learn, and grow. It seems to me that our environments have the power to make all the difference on how we go through the stages of our lives. As summer approaches and the promise of warm weather arises, marvel in natureís beauty all around you. Identify those elements of previous stages of life that have shaped you into the person you are. Maybe at times you too have been a broken piece of glass or merely a seed. But what are you now? If you are unsure, maybe you are still being tumbled with those waves or being nourished until you are as tough as a mountain. I believe that something can be taken away from every environment. Whether it is a lesson, a new way of living, or a deeper appreciation, our environments have a lot to teach us. But are we always willing to learn? Beauty surrounds us all. Is there something you have overlooked?

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen

A College Life Crisis

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

At 20 years old, I canít help but think Iím having a mid (college)-life crisis. Itís bizarre to think that just two years ago I left high school to attend Mount St. Maryís University, and that now I am officially a junior. Looking back, I donít know where the time has gone or how two years could slip through my fingers so very quickly. However, itís with an odd feeling of pride that I reflect back on the past two years here on campus. I always vowed that when I went to college, nothing would be wasted. Every moment, memory, friend, and place would be cherished. No matter what happened, I would soak up everything I could so that when I looked back on my years at the Mount I would be satisfied that I lived the adventure to the fullest. What follows are some of my favorite memories from my brief two years here; it is partly a collegiate highlight reel and partly a meditation on the good that has been and the good that is yet to come.

The first weekend at the Mount was my initial step forward into the crazy world that I now live in. It was those first few days that tore away my shell and made me think that anything was possible. I had never been particularly shy before I came to college, but there was something holding me back from taking that final step and plunging into the water. My first three days in Pangborn Hall were less of a gentle nudge to make that step and more of a strong push straight over the precipice. I slept a grand total of nine hours in three days. I roamed my brand new domain until three in the morning with people whose last names I didnít know. I sat out under the stars talking about life, relationships, and just how awesome it was to have a total sense of freedom. Every time I crawled into my room, exhausted both mentally and physically, I had to force myself to close my eyes and sleep. Even at four in the morning I felt like some new experience was out there waiting for me to come grab it. That attitude, the idea that there was a whole world of new experiences out there, has colored my every action. No matter what happens, I know that the next two years hold a wealth of knowledge and memories for me to claim.

After the first weekend, things settled in and the tumultuous maelstrom of new experiences settled into a steady series of unbroken quests, jaunt, and activities with my friends. However, one of the things that punctuated these adventures was the chance to write columns for the Emmitsburg News- Journal. While this is something that Iíve mentioned before (I swear Iím not getting paid to write nice things about the paper), itís amazing to know that I have the chance to not only get paid to write, but also to reach a larger audience that is interested in what I have to say. Starting college and knowing that I was going to pursue a career as a writer was a daunting prospect already, let alone adding the numerous horror stories of the English majors working at Starbucks until theyíve forgotten what a pen looks like. Every time someone comes up to me and says something about the column Iíve written, or a point that I brought up in my work, it does my heart good. It is an immense compliment not just to the paper, but for me as young writer that people can be concerned, curious, or inspired by the things they have read in the paper. Itís an honor every time someone says something about the work that I, and the other staff members do, and itís an honor that I plan on continuing my role with the paper through the next two years.

Being a member of the Residence Life staff gave me even more adventures than I could have dreamed of, except now I am the one guiding young students on the same path that I once took and smiling as I see their experiences reflect my own. Iíll never forget the first week of this year. I was sitting in the lounge surrounded by my residents, who didnít know what to do or where to go because they were new. One of them complained that he just didnít know where to find something cool to do. I just smiled at him and said, "Adventure finds a way, my friend." Not even five minutes later, three girls from Sheridan Hall meandered up to the fourth floor where we sat and asked if my boys (as I so lovingly dubbed them) wanted to go outside and hang out. I slapped my resident on the shoulder and said, "Adventure finds a way!" while giving him a knowing wink. I couldnít help but laugh as the lounge went from a crowded hotspot to a ghost town in the span of a few seconds. As I sat on my laptop getting some initial classwork done, I felt an odd sense of pride; I had helped my peers find some new and exciting opportunities.

I suppose the final experience of these past two years that had a major impact on me was when I was able to see some of the seniors who I had grown close to, both in class and through Residence Life, graduate. The Residence Life staff graduated so many staff members that have served as reminders of who and what an RA is supposed to be. These people have shown me the way. It is both exciting and daunting now that they are gone, and I am left to help teach future members. In fact, speaking of teaching, a special thank you to the seniors leaving the Emmitsburg News-Journal staff this year and moving on to other things. These people have helped me to grow both as a person and as a man of words. I cannot thank them enough.

As I look back on the last two years and eagerly look forward to the next two years, I cannot wait to see what challenges the new horizons hold. Until then, Iím Kyle Ott. Wonít you sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott

How to Gain the Most from College

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

Looking back on my junior year, Iím overwhelmed by everything that has changed in my life with in the last ten months. I have discovered my lifeís work in helping others and have chosen a career in speech pathology. As a result, I will have to attend at least three more years of higher education after my senior year at the Mount. I have been given the opportunity to become a certified therapeutic horseback riding instructor, an exciting venture I am pursuing over the summer months. I am in the process of taking over the senior writing and editing position with the Emmitsburg News-Journal, which means taking over the very large shoes of my predecessor Samantha Strub. I have had the blessing to work with and befriend some of the most incredible people I have ever met, only to see them graduate on Motherís Day and scatter back to their homes throughout the States. Changes have been coming quickly and in rapid succession, which is both exciting and terrifying, and I know that this is only the beginning for me. This cluster of experiences has taught me some lessons which I would like to share with Mount underclassmen, though Iím sure all of these tips can be applied to anyoneís life.

First, take some time every day for others. Often the advice is to take time every day for yourself. That is also good advice and will help you stay sane despite a busy schedule. However, it is equally important to take time every day to benefit someone elseís day. In the long run, it will also benefit yours. This does not have to be a complicated act. Iíve done everything from taking out the trash for my mom to staying up all night because a friend was upset and needed someone to talk to. It could be the smallest act of kindness, even an anonymous one, but if you are not performing daily in a way that helps others, then your existence is incomplete. There is a self-fulfillment in helping others. You gain appreciation for your own abilities and respect for the limitations of the human condition. If you seek out those who are best served by your individual talents and abilities, I can guarantee you that giving back to them will give you a lightness of heart you did not know you could have.

Second, say no. I mean this in the most general way possible. Does your boss want you to take on an extra project when you arenít done the current one? Say no. Does a friend want you to attend a party scene that makes you very uncomfortable? Say no. If an activity is going to stress you out or overextend you, itís alright to say no. Both of these examples are actual scenarios Iíve experienced this year. The first, I was offered a tutoring position for my German class. A wonderful opportunity, but I was already working three jobs, studying as a full-time student, and volunteering on a weekly basis. It was simply asking too much of myself to add one more activity to my list. I said no. My professor was slightly disappointed, but understood and was able to find someone else who was available. Itís important to remember that, while you may be capable of something, it does not make you the sole proprietor of that talent. There are others available who will be able to pick up where you left off should the need arise, so take a deep breath and say it with me: No. Itís liberating, isnít it?

Third, prioritize. A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of walking one of the Gettysburg battlefields with a couple of friends. I had had countless trips to Gettysburg when I was little, but since Iíve lived at the Mount, I have never had the chance to visit. Iím simply too busy. Knowing this, one of my friends reminded me, ďDonít let school get in the way of your education,Ē and Iím not sure he has ever been more right about something in his life. There is so much to be learned outside of the classroom, but I was too busy hiding behind a pile of books to realize it. I donít just mean more ďacademicĒ type things to learn either. If youíre too busy studying, youíll miss out on learning new things, like how to fly fish, or the name of your best friendís favorite movie, or the color of a Japanese maple as it starts to bloom, or the sound of woodpecker chasing its prey, or the softness of a Cypress treeís bark, or the taste of fresh honey, or the smell of the local bakery. All of the senses must be used to complete the human experience. Every time you prioritize your work over your life, chances are youíve missed out on learning something. Take a break today. Go for a walk. Talk to a friend. Just because you can do that last report today, doesnít mean it canít wait until tomorrow. Some things are more important.

Fourth, try new things, even if they scare you. Scratch that. Especially try new things, if they scare you. Few things are more terrifying than the unknown, and as creatures of habit, we tend to turn to the familiar before trying anything new. Break that cycle. Now Iím not saying you need to go out this weekend and bungee jump from a bridge, but that karaoke bar youíre friend keeps trying to drag you to? Go, and try it. The worst that can happen is youíll make a fool out of yourself and have a good laugh about it later Ė isnít that the point? Iíve been able to do several new things this year including going to my first concert and dancing with a stranger. If either of those makes you squeamish, I suggest you try them as they are a lot of fun. If this is a big leap for you, start small. Try a new dish (Sushi, anyone?) or start a new hobby like crocheting. It doesnít have to be death defying; it just has to challenge you as a person. Remember, if it makes it easier, you can always drag a friend along for the ride.

Fifth, hang out with new people. All of my life Iíve been pretty introverted. I never went out much in high school and had a minimal social life. The same was true at the beginning of this school year. I talked to the same people I made friends with in freshmen year, and thereís nothing wrong with that, unless they are the only people youíre talking to. Within the past three months, I decided I was bored with it. I loved my friends and still spoke with them, but instead of hanging out with only them, I reached out to new people. Mostly these people were other resident assistants who I hadnít seen since training. They were names and faces I already knew, but I didnít know the personalities that went with them. I ended up spending all night star gazing with four people I had never hung out with before; now weíre making plans to hang out this summer. I also found a fantastic friend in one of the Mountís seminarians. We still talk nearly every day even though he is now over one thousand miles away being ordained. Involving new people in your life will not only provide you with new, fresh perspectives, but it will help you learn more about yourself. This year, because of the new people I have met, I have learned so much more about my faith, I have explored new music, and I have visited new places. Iím not saying to abandon your old friends, but try adding some new ones. You may be surprised by the result.

Finally, be open to change and Godís hand in your life. When I got home this summer and started unpacking piles of books from my suitcase, I realized just how prepared I was to go into the field of journalism. I have collected countless extracurricular texts on how to be a better writer, how to interview, and even how to write shorthand. I was so blinded by my own goals that I almost didnít see God guiding me down a completely different road towards speech pathology. Some may say that Iíve now wasted four yearsí worth of tuition going to a school without the right bachelorís degree. I disagree. The Mount has helped me grow and become a better person; it has taught me so much more about myself than I think any other school could have. In fact, I would even argue that if I had not gone to the Mount, I would not have come to the realization that I need to pursue speech pathology. That is not to say that God might not have tried to tell me sooner, and I just missed the signs. Either way, Iíve seen the signs this time, and I am ready to take the exit onto His highway for my life. Even if you, reader, do not believe in God, there is something to be said for changing your lifeís course if it is what will make you happy. Though I was fully submerged in the idea of journalism as a career, I knew I was not always going to be happy doing it. If thatís how you feel about something in your life right now, itís up to you to change it. Iím not saying you will be happy all the time, but if there something that will make you generally happier, why not do that instead?

I realize some of these tips probably seem a little idealized, but I do not think they are impractical. You are only going to get out of life what you put into it, but if you put in this much effort on a daily basis, just imagine the daily rewards. I am not promising you it will always be easy. Life never is, but if you can apply even one of these principles on as little as a weekly basis, I will promise that youíll find your college (or life) career more enjoyable. Who knows, you may even learn something along the way. 

Read other articles by Nicole Jones

Master your life

Samantha Strub
Class of 2013

It happened. It actually happened. I graduated from college. Iím now a college graduate. I completed four years of college and attained a Bachelorís degree. I did it! I achieved my goal of completing my undergraduate studies.

It was nerve-wracking and exhilarating to walk across the stage, get my diploma and shake the Presidentís hand. I was so concerned with falling or making a fool out of myself that I believe I did not enjoy the moment as much as I should of. I do remember feeling on top of the world, like nothing could hold me back. I had accomplished the goal I at one time thought was impossible. I had mastered the impossible. I made it possible.

I was thinking of mastering the impossible because that was what Archbishop Lori, the Archbishop of Baltimore, told us in his Commencement speech. His words to the graduating Class of 2013 were, "Mastering the moment is mastering oneís life." He told us that the key to mastering your life is to live it. If we live in the moment, the moment becomes ours. That is truly living and living with a purpose. Archbishop Lori wants us to have our "thoughts become actions, and actions become habits." The thoughts and actions we make become our habits. These habits are made into our identity. That identity has been formed by the experiences, studies, and people we have encountered that have made an impact on our lives.

If we master our lives we will be changing the lives of others. We will be helping others and making the world around us a better place. The Class of 2013 will be following through with our vocations if we are utilizing our talents to make the world a better place. That is the vision that President Powell has in mind for each member of the Class of 2013. Ironically, that is the vision that I had for myself.

The Class of 2013 came with the goal of attaining our degrees, making memories, and leaving our mark on the Mount. The main goal for each one of us was to attain a degree; some of us were not quite sure what that would be and some of us couldnít wait to get started. We came to be a part of Mount St. Maryís University that was grounded in faith, discovery, leadership and community. We came to be college students and figure out what we wanted to do with our lives. We came to change the Mount and the world. We came to make memories.

The Class of 2013 has achieved all of our goals. We have seen our beloved university grow so much over the past four years. We have developed from strangers to members of a group with their own individual talents. We have improved ourselves and the Mount community through our time at the Mount. The Class of 2013 has made lasting impressions on and changes to the Mount. We have risen to the challenge that our class president, Alexandria Proffitt, saw on a note posted on a bulletin board saying, "Leave the Mount better than you found it." This note inspired her to make a lasting difference on the Mount community. Though I had never seen this note, I too made it my goal to leave my mark on the Mount. Maybe my mark wouldnít be a building named after me, but instead, it would be the opportunities presented to me and the people I encountered.

I have tried to make the Mount a better place through the opportunities that have been presented to me. Right from the start of freshmen year I become involved with the Mount community through work study in the Education Department, Freshman Ambassador, Club Field Hockey, and the Emmitsburg News-Journal. I jumped at the chance to share my love of the Mount with future students and to the Emmitsburg community at-large. I was particularly excited to write for the Emmitsburg News-Journal because I had always dreamed of becoming published. I would be sharing the development of my college years with the world. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to share my story for the next four years.

I continued to stay involved in field hockey through my years at the Mount. It was wonderful to create a bond with those girls, play the sport I love, and release stress. Staying with the team throughout all four years has been a wonderful blessing to me. Sophomore year I joined the Presidential Mount Ambassadors. I loved sharing my experiences with prospective families. My goal was to make each one of them feel at home and see my passion for my beloved university. I wanted to get them the real experience of the welcoming community the Mount has to offer. I wanted to make a difference in their lives, no matter how small it may be.

Junior year activities continued with my work study, field hockey, Mount Ambassadors and the Emmitsburg News-Journal, but I wanted to make more of a difference. I was able to do that through my internships with my students and by working with The Arc of Frederick. I worked as a skills educator and job coach for people with learning and cognitive disabilities. I was able to make a lasting difference in their lives by assisting them in their needs. Teaching and working with the Arc was very rewarding and uplifting for me. I was making a difference!

All of my activities continued into senior year. I was making a difference in the lives of my students that I encountered in teaching, my clients with The Arc, and my readers with the newspaper. My efforts were affecting peopleís lives; this was all I really wanted to accomplish. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of the people I encountered at the Mount and the community at-large.

It is still hard to believe that the events in my life that I was writing about (often centered around teaching) would interest the community. I had wonderful comments on my articles throughout my years of writing for the Emmitsburg News-Journal. It is a great treasure for me to have my college years documented from my viewpoint at the time. I will treasure the articles themselves and the responses that I got from them.

The reality of graduation has set in now that Iím back home in Wisconsin. I cannot help but think about Dr. Seussí famous words, "Donít smile because itís over; smile because it happened." The past four years of college have flown by. They have been the time of my life, filled with countless memories. It is time to smile fondly at the memories and move on to the next chapter of my life. As college graduates, we are now looking to change the world, to make a difference in the lives of the people we encounter. The Mount has given us wonderful lessons in assisting the people we have encountered. Now it is time to for us to take those lessons and master our lives!

Read other articles by Samantha Strub