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Four Years at the Mount

Looking Ahead

(February, 2013)

I am here now

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

Wow! My first semester of college is already over! I canít believe how fast time is going by. It seems like it was just the other day that I was at freshman orientation, about to begin my college career. I remember stepping onto the Mount campus with my mother by my side. Butterflies filled my stomach with the unknown lying ahead. Throughout the day, the word "Veritas" kept being thrown around, though the meaning was at first unclear. After I entered the Knott Academic Center and took a seat at a wooden desk, the chatter about the new Veritas program for freshmen students unrolled. I remember thinking, "What is that?" and wondering what the word even meant.

It turns out that "Veritas" is the name of the Mountís new core program that all incoming freshman will go through. The Class of 2016 is the first class to experience this new system that includes roughly 50 credits to fulfill the curriculum. The Veritas program works to ensure a common background of liberal arts education within all students. The course requirements are organized into different levels throughout oneís years at the Mount. As a freshman student, there are 21 credits that should be taken to fulfill the Veritas program, along with 9 credits of a studentís own choosing. The number of Veritas courses required per year decreases as the grade level increases in hopes of having the students become well rounded and educated in liberal arts upon the time of their graduation.

So, I signed up for my Veritas classes. Among the required courses are two semesters of a foreign language. This was not something I was excited about based on previous experience. Having had a very rough time taking Spanish during high school, I was determined that if I had to take a language, I would start fresh. I decided to take a language I had never taken or even considered before. Thinking it would benefit me the most, I chose Latin. I pondered, "How hard could it really be?" After all, it is a "dead language."

Latin was my very first class in college. After locating the classroom, I walked in and sat down a few minutes before class was scheduled to start. I recall smiling politely to my new classmates and wondering what to expect. With his briefcase in hand, Dr. Sollenberger walked into the classroom and all side conversations ceased. In anticipation, we waited to see his plan of action for the upcoming class. He began by calling roll and we learned our first phrase in Latin: "Ad sum," meaning, "I am here."

Simple phrases in Latin like "ad sum" are eye openers because they make you aim to discover a greater meaning in the translation. For this reason, Latin and all languages, are extremely intriguing. I was surprised to find out that the language I thought was dead is actually the basis for nearly every other language. It is fascinating to be able to recognize the tremendous influence Latin has had on the words we say every day. I have been astonished while discovering the connections between the vocabulary in English and the vocabulary in Latin. The similarities make the language easier and more interesting to learn. Latin has helped me grasp even more of an understanding of English, so much so that it seems like I am studying both languages. I guess in a way, I am.

It has been a privilege to have Dr. Sollenberger as a professor. He has been a truly caring educator. Thankfully, he is always available to provide extra explanation if it is needed. He is extremely knowledgeable and Latin is just one of the multiple languages he can fluently speak. Dr. Sollenberger is inspirational because of his clear passion for the language and his enthusiasm for teaching. His obvious love for the subject matter he presents to his students is infectious. He implants a desire within his students to seek mastery in the information and to reach their full potential in every aspect. His sense of humor has made learning a difficult subject engrossing and cheerful. It has been very comforting to know that I will have the same professor for a full year.

The hardest part about college is settling into the new changes and the different environments. Luckily, I will remain in class with Dr. Sollenberger throughout my entire freshman year. I am looking forward to his instruction in Latin and his ability to provide me with phrases to which I can give daily meaning. Maybe it was part of Dr. Sollenbergerís master plan to open with such a simple phrase, knowing that it would lead a student to think about what it actually means on a deeper level. In my opinion, the best teachers are the ones who make you think more profoundly about life in their effortless actions and statements.

My friend Claire McGrath raised a question to me recently. She asked how often I am fully present. Of course, my immediate thoughts were highly in my favor. It is only after discussing with Claire and reflecting on Dr. Sollenbergerís opening phrase that I now realize how important it truly is. After thinking about it for a couple of days, I have finally found out that the real answer to Claireís question is that I am rarely fully present.

You see, we now live in a society that encourages multitasking. We have the luxury to do nearly everything with instant gratification at the touch of a finger. Even when we are not enthralled with technology, we still distance ourselves from each other and from the tasks that lie ahead of us. We focus our thoughts, feelings and attention onto past regrets and mistakes or onto ideals for the future. We deny ourselves the joy of being present by constantly living in comparisons between the past, the current and the future. Somehow, the present doesnít ever seem to be enough to satisfy us. Personally, I know my thoughts wander from one thing to the next. Too often I am thinking about what is upcoming or what has just happened instead of thinking about the importance of what I am currently doing.

Although it sounds like a contradiction, I am looking ahead with the goal of being fully present at each and every moment, now and throughout the future. Ad sum nunc. I am here now. Isnít this the way that we should all live our lives? If all of our attention, feelings, and thoughts are not focused on the present, how can we expect to learn or grow? There is that old clichť that we should live in the moment. Maybe whoever said that was on to something after all. It is in the moment that we are truly ourselves. So I challenge you when you go through your everyday tasks to say, "ad sum" and give it the meaning it deserves.

As the spring semester lies in front of me, I am excited for the opportunities, challenges and memories it will bring, but I am more focused on what is here and now. I have learned so much in my first semester of college. It is exhilarating to think that I have three and a half more years of learning, laughing and being present. It has been in Latin class that I have finally discovered the meaning of "Veritas." It turns out that "veritas" is Latin for "truth." The truth that I believe the Mount is trying to teach its students cannot be achieved if the students are distracted from the true message of their education. Donít be absent. Be present. Be excited for what is ahead and learn from the past but vive hodie. Live today. I am here. Where are you?

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen

Lessons learned

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

Returning to campus after break is always a bittersweet experience colored by the sadness of leaving the sphere of safety and comfort that comes along with being home. It comes with returning to trees struck bare by the cold and quietly missing the presence of family and friends that surrounded you for the past month. However, this melancholy is always accompanied by a sense of frenetic excitement that permeates the air. This vibrant sense of being seems to go along with every activity. Itís present when roommates reunite after a long absence, when friends help each other unpack all the items and experiences they brought with them from home, and when students discuss the new and exciting classes to take and people from which to learn. Everywhere you look, there is a feeling that anything and everything is possible and that a new beginning is poised to leap into our lives at any moment.

It is that second feeling that has captured my imagination and my very sense of being now that I am back home on the mountain, with my friends, my teachers, and the residents in my hall. With the semester beginning, I have decided to take full advantage of the clean slate that I have been given and work on some of the things that have been setting me back both as a student and as a person.

For several years now, I have struggled with being organized. Yes, I know it sounds like a humorous, almost comical issue to have, but for years I have been the poster child for procrastinators everywhere. If there was a project to be done, it was a safe bet that I would do it at the last minute. If there was a meeting that had to be attended for one important reason or another, then I was the guy who showed up five minutes late at the very least. Although the problem improved my first year here at Mount St. Maryís University, there are still moments when I am forced to work really hard and quickly because I have forgotten a vital detail or important assignment. As we return to campus and the next chapter of my life begins, I would like the pages to tell of my complete organizational 180-degree switch, how one young man slew the mighty dragon that has been dominating over him for years.

This year I have come prepared to wage my battle against a lack of organization or go down trying. As the great philosopher Aristotle once said, "Habit leads us to the good," and in addition to my responsibilities as a columnist for the Emmitsburg News-Journal, a full-time student, and a Resident Assistant, I have embarked on a habit-building regimen to help me in my quest. As I have progressed (and to my great surprise, improved markedly), Iíve realized that there are a few small principles that can help one lead to a better tomorrow and seize the new beginning that everyone deserves. So, I submit for your consideration a few lessons from a formerly disorganized person:

1. Itís All About the Little Things

I thought I was going to have to grit my teeth and deal with this habitual disorganization. Then I received a gift from my parents in the form of a small personal planner. This planner was a gift from my mom and dad when I had started college; the planner had collected dust on my shelf for several months before I finally decided that enough was enough and that I was going to try and use it, if for no other reason than to quiet my parentsí nagging. For two weeks I carried that little book around to each of my classes, using a different colored pen for meetings, homework, and projects. Within a few days I saw improvement; I was less stressed, I forgot less, and most of all I had something that gave me just a little peace of mind. It wasnít elaborate or expensive and it did not take a ton of time. All it took was a few minutes each day and some colored pens.

When we face a problem, especially one that seems to permeate every aspect of our lives, it can be incredibly easy to lose ourselves in overly complicated solutions and ornate plans. However, the path to change is often the simplest, the one most easily missed, but most effective.

2. Make a Plan and Stick to It

The most effective part of my plan was that every single day I would do the same thing over and over again without fail. When I went to bed at night, my keys and wallet were always put in the exact same place. When someone told me about an important upcoming event, I would immediately write it down in my calendar with a description, time, and location of whatever I had to do. Then I started to do it for everything, not just events. When I had homework do later in the week or a reading for a class, it went to the calendar, even something as little as spending time with friends or going to lunch found its way to the large parchment on my desk.

At first it was tedious and obnoxious having to stop whatever I was doing to write down all the things that I thought were going to be easy to remember, but as I continued to follow my routine it became second nature and without realizing it, the habits that I formed turned into my own nature. A wise man once said, "Small strokes fell mighty oaks," and this adage holds completely true.

3. Never, Never, Never Give Up

Clichť as it may seem, there is no substitute for genuine persistence. If I had decided to stop my journey of self-improvement after my first time failing, I guarantee I would not be where I am today. There isnít any hidden secret to this concept. Itís the idea that when everything gets hard, you respond by throwing your weight behind the task at hand. Many times I considered giving up my quest for self-improvement, but there is no achievement without the blood, sweat, and tears. Since I kept going, I have been able to not only improve but also achieve my goals.

In summary, this year I can honestly look forward to a chance to continue to succeed at my goals and to reap the benefits of the lessons that I have learned. In these months of rebirth, we all have something to look forward to and perhaps that can be a positive change in your life. Iím Kyle Ott; wonít you sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott

The best is yet to come

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

Have you ever tried to learn a language? Most of you have probably had a taste of Spanish or French in your years of high school or college. Such beautiful, fluid languages are always popular among to the majority of people, not to mention their practicality as we see an increase in Americaís Spanish-speaking population. I took two years of French myself when I was in high school. The French teacher, Mrs. Wood, was one of my favorite teachers. She was full of life and sarcasm, wasnít afraid to call you out and embarrass you, and had a love for teaching that always made her classroom a fun place to be. Mrs. Wood was also the schoolís librarian, which meant French class was held in the library Ė my favorite room in the entire school.

That library introduced me to two of my favorite novels: Pilgrimís Progress by John Bunyan and Man Oí War by Walter Farley. Of course there were many other books as well which sucked me into their pages, into worlds of fantasy and danger, of history and mystery. Reading had always been one of my greatest pleasures, but before I had to go to the public library to find what I wanted. Now the school was able to fulfill my need, feeding my curious mind.

That curiosity never really went away. I realized this just this week as I was watching television. Not able to fall asleep, I turned on the TV and flipped to the Discovery channel, which was airing a program about elephants. My mind soaked in the information like a sponge. Did you know other animals follow elephants, trusting their leadership to find water? I almost felt childlike while I watched in wonder as a herd of African bush elephants lead buffalo and plains zebras through the dried Okavango Delta to a watering hole. I hadnít felt that curiosity for a while and it was refreshing. It gave a reminder of why Iím really at the Mount Ė for leadership, community, discovery, and faith.

For the rest of my time here at the Mount I want to make sure Iím achieving these four things to my fullest ability, so in a very Benjamin Franklin-like fashion, I decided to analyze what Iíve done so far to determine where I need improvement.

Leadership. I have a couple positions of leadership on campus. I am both the managing editor of the campus paper, The Mountain Echo, as well as a resident assistant. Just because I hold the positions, however, does not mean that I am a strong leader. I asked myself: How does one become a good leader? I think the first step towards betterment is recognizing oneís own weaknesses, so I have arranged to sit down with my supervisors at both jobs for some constructive criticism.

Community. Anyone who read my last article knows that I was recently offered a volunteer position at the 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program of Carroll County (TRP). This program provides horseback riding lessons for the physically, mentally and emotionally handicapped and has been struggling to maintain reliable volunteers. I volunteered there for four years throughout my high school career, but coming to the Mount forced me to give it up Ė until now. Now, I am training for the position of volunteer riding instructor, a job which requires thorough testing to gain certification.

While TRP is no small task and contributes to my home community, I think of what I have done for my Mount community, and the answer, Iím sad to say, is not much. All of the service trips and opportunities to give back are so prevalent on campus, but Iíve never gone on them. Iím ashamed to say that emails from the Office of Social Justice often go ignored with the claim of, "I donít have enough time," or something similar. How could I have been selfish enough to think that college was all about taking the knowledge for myself and not giving something back in return?

There is a phrase which I carried away from some book whose title I have long forgotten. "Equivalent exchange." It is the idea that in order to obtain, one most give something of equal value. Of course, this is easily explained with the example of purchasing milk. You gain milk by giving the milkís equivalent worth in cash to the grocery store. I realize it may sound a little strange to apply this to life, but why shouldnít I? Of course, Iím not saying that we should only do something nice in expectation of a reward, but wouldnít it be a more generous world if we always gave something in return to those who have benefitted our lives? If our only concern is receiving without giving anything back, then eventually our society will wither like a field that has not been fertilized. If that field does not receive the nitrogen and nutrients it needs, it will not produce crops. Likewise, our society needs generosity in order to function and remain healthy. A world without charity is a world with suffering.

In my case, the Mount has given me an education, friends, opportunities and experiences unavailable anywhere else. Now Iím determined to give back to the community that has given me so much. Iím not quite sure where to start Ė perhaps just signing up for a service trip can be the beginning of a more benevolent me.

Discovery. There is so much to discover at the Mount, and in the three years that Iíve been here, I feel as if Iíve barely scratched the surface. Each class brings a new question or topic to explore. Who was Emily Davidson? Do animals have souls? What are kangaroo words? Could we ever revert to living without robots? These are the questions Iíve faced today alone.

But I learn just as much outside of the classroom and mostly through my friends. I am constantly inspired by them to learn and try new things. My friend Olivia has inspired in me an interest in history, a subject I used to hate. Now, I see past the memorization of dates and see the events, time periods, and people involved. I see a story just waiting for someone to read it.

Another friend of mine, Lisa, is what one might call a "free spirit," and thanks to her, Iíll be going on one of the greatest adventures in my life. Weíll see Chicago, Denver, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Antonio, New Orleans, and Atlanta on a two-week-long transcontinental train trip across the United States.

I think I have Discovery pretty well covered.

Finally, thereís Faith. As a Baptist attending a Catholic university, I honestly didnít think there would be a lot of room for my spiritual growth. I had been raised in a small community of like-minded individuals, and I was afraid of some of the opinions I might face once I left my church. I was so comforted by how many people believed the same things I did at the Mount. It took me a while to learn, but Iíve realized that you donít have to believe the same thing as someone in order to get along with them, but it sure helps! While there are certainly differences, I was amazed at the similarities between Catholicism and Baptism. Itís showed me that no one form of Christianity has all the answers.

While Iíve certainly grown in all four areas Ė leadership, community, discovery, and faith Ė I know I can improve. My goal this semester is to begin my own Four-Pillar Journey and enhance my experiences in these four areas of my life. I have a renewed excitement to see what the Mount can teach me, and I look forward to the well-rounded person I will become.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones

4 monthsÖhere we go

Samantha Strub
Class of 2013

4 months. It is the beginning of the end. Graduation is 4 months away. In four months, the Class of 2013 will walk across the stage and receive our diplomas to culminate four years of hard work. We will complete our undergraduate careers and move on to graduate school or a career. We will become upstanding citizens in the world and make a difference after our years of studying in college.

As this realization sinks in that graduation is four months away, there are a plethora of emotions that circulate through my mind. Iím excited, afraid, nervous and ecstatic all at once. It is unreal that the four years of college are almost over. It seems like just yesterday when I got my acceptance letter in the mail and I started to prepare to move five states away. Applying for jobs was something that seemed so far away, but now it is suddenly upon me. After completing Internship II, compiling my resume, cover letter and reference list has become a reality. Once those were completed, the task at hand became calling schools to see if they had openings. Usually that involved being transferred to the principal, and I then proceeded to introduce myself and explain my reason for calling. It is an incredibly nerve-racking task, but by the end of this job application process I will probably be a pro. It is all a part of the final semester of senior year. Iím thinking about and preparing for a successful future by planning ahead.

While I do have to look ahead to what comes next, I also have to focus on the task at handófinishing my last semester. It is important to remember how much there is to experience in the coming months. I have grown so much over the past few years, but the opportunity that awaits me this semester is something that I must grasp. Seniors, we need to cherish the time we have at the Mount and take advantage of everything this campus has to offer us. Here are some suggestions to the Class of 2013 to make our final semester a memorable one.

Live it up. As the old saying goes, it only comes around once so live it up. You are only in your 20ís once. You only have one last semester of college. You only have one more chance to take the opportunity and run with it. You may never have the chance again. Itís our moment so make it count. Stay up all night (or at least until 5am) hanging out with your friends. Play cards all afternoon. Yell and cheer for your favorite football team while surrounded by your friends. Have a roommate dinner or have a dinner where everyone brings something to pass around and share. Help your friends with a project, homework or editing of a paper. Just do it. Donít put it off for another day or next weekend. Donít tentatively make plans, knowing they will fall through. Do the activities and hang out with the people that are really important to you. Make every memory a lasting one that will stay with you forever. Enjoy every moment.

Make a Senior Bucket List. There have been important moments when you put off doing an activity that you really wanted to do because you had impending responsibilities and duties to perform. Take a few moments before you fall asleep to make a bucket list of all the things that you want to do before you leave our mountain home. That list will entail different things for different people, but have fun with it. Go to college night at Mammaís and Ottís. Go to High Rock. Go to Big Slide. Go to a performance in the Delaplaine Fine Arts Center. Swim in the pool. Go up to the Grotto. Run all the trails on campus. Make a list and then make plans to make it happen.

Dream big. There is the saying that if your dreams donít scare you, then they arenít big enough. Always go after what you want out of life. This includes what you want out of your last semester. Make it everything that you have ever dreamed it should be. Make your last semester at college everything that you have ever dreamed college would be. You know what you wantóget out there and make it happen. Never settle for anything less than what you deserve and always go after your dreams.

Work hard. Donít slack off on your schoolwork just because itís the last semester. Still work hard. Donít forget your grades during the last semester will still affect your GPA. If you blow off your homework and assignments, you will regret it at the end of the semester. It is important to always stay on top of it and continue to stay focused on your studies because in reality, that is why you are here in the first place.

I have a full load this semester, so I will be very busy with my classes. However, Iím very excited because four out of my five classes are English classes. I have never taken that many English classes at one time before. That is scary and exciting at the same time. Itís exciting because these are all classes that I look forward to taking and I want the knowledge of my professors to enhance my own knowledge. Itís scary because I have so much reading to do. I will be reading the whole semester. That is how I will spend my days. Iím especially excited for "Shakespeare" and "Literature and the Environment." I am excited for "Shakespeare" because I have always thought of him as an influential man, and the class will be seeing one of his plays preformed professionally in D.C. at the Folger Theater. "Literature and the Environment" will encourage me to study a type of literature that I have never done before, using a perspective that is not traditional. We will be looking at British and contemporary literature and doing creative writing about nature. It should be a wonderful class.

Have Faith. The typical college senior will spend a lot of time worrying about what is coming next. He or she will constantly be thinking ahead and trying to make sure everything goes according to plan. It is very important to plan and accomplish all of the necessary tasks, but have faith that everything will work out. God has a plan for you, so trust that He will make everything turn out according to His plan. Do your best and let God do the rest.

4 months to go, MSM Class of 2013Öthere is a plethora to look forward to! Letís make it count!

Read other articles by Samantha Strub

Read Past Editions of Four Years at the Mount