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Four Years at the Mount

Reflections on the School Year

May 2014

Something about the Mount

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

I keep asking myself and everyone around me how this year flew by so quickly. I still canít figure it out myself to be honest. Sure, Iím still only finished with one of four years, but the time thatís passed now seems so much more meaningful than it did after my freshman year in high school. Finishing freshman year here means one step closer to becoming a sophomore, which is one step closer to being a junior and then a senior and then, a college graduate. This, by extension, means that I am one step closer to being an adult, a fact that is not even fathomable at this point.

I ask myself how this year flew by so quickly and how it is that I am already a quarter of the way through my time here at the Mount, and it doesnít make sense to me. It doesnít make sense until I run around the trail behind the ARCC or walk to the basement of the library. It doesnít make sense until I get my Banana Berry Splash smoothie at the cafť or walk to PT at 6 oíclock in the morning. It doesnít make any sense at all until I stand in the grill line in Patriot, and they know exactly how I like my sandwich Ė and then it makes sense. Iíve made a home here; Iíve found my place. Iíve learned where itís most peaceful to run and where to relax. Iíve replaced my study spot at home with one in the library. Iíve adjusted and adapted in a way that I didnít realize was happening along the way. Looking back, itís much easier to see how it all happened, and how it is actually possible that a year has come and gone already.

Not to be too clichť, but it actually feels like just yesterday I was moving all my stuff into my room, sitting on my bed and thinking, "What next?" Then I started classes and learned Ė after far too many incredibly late nights Ė how to study and when to study. I walked outside my room and met some of the best people. I started playing field hockey and learned what itís like to have fun playing a sport. I had to work harder than ever on papers for an English class where a 94 wasnít an A; I kept all of those papers. I did all of these things that stand out to me, and even more that seemed routine at the time but upon reflection were actually pretty special. I met my future roommates and went out to get ice cream with my friends. I cheered for my best friend in his first season of college basketball. I learned that nobody is going to tell me when to be home, and that I really can eat macaroni all the time no matter what. I had to write in a journal every day for my Veritas Symposium and discovered that everything becomes a little more important when you put it in writing. Iíve done so many things here at the Mount that I couldnít see myself getting to do anywhere else, and I discovered a place at Mount St. Maryís in which I fit perfectly.

The first semester seemed to take a little longer than the second because this semester has been a whirlwind. I joined Army ROTC and after what seemed like an hour Ė but was actually a few months Ė I will be swearing in and accepting a contract at the end of April. I travelled to Robert Morris and had the time of my life watching the Mount win the NEC championship in menís basketball. I did Relay for Life and had the most incredible experience before having to work all day with zero hours of sleep. I got my very first speeding ticket and cried way too much about it. The Grotto held certain serenity for me that I couldnít find anywhere else, and I discovered that I indeed do have enough Mount Flex Dollars to get a smoothie every day. There is so much that went on in my individual experience of freshman year, itís almost impossible trying to fathom how amazing all the other freshmen experiences were. I donít think I could have had quite the same experience anywhere else, so after all the stress and confusion at the beginning of the year over not knowing where I should be, I do think that I found my place at the Mount. Now, Iím sad to see the year end.

As much as I hate to leave this year behind, I am excited to move in a little early this coming August as a Peer Mentor and help incoming freshman have as great and unique an experience as I did. I also canít wait to get back to the smoothies, but that is another story entirely. I know that when I come back in August I will feel like Iím returning to my second home. Iíve been told that before the Mount created their four pillars Ė Faith, Discovery, Leadership, and Community Ė many would say, "Thereís just something about the Mount." There is just something about the Mount and something about the experience Iíve had that I canít put into words. Itís special and itís different than any other college experience Iíve heard about. I truly was immersed in a community that led me to faith, leadership, and discovery, but there is so much more that I will never be able to define with a single word. There is just something about the Mount, and Iím truly glad that I am here.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary

Beyond the Dormer

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

I moved in this year before everyone else since I was leading a Mountward Bound trip for the incoming freshmen. I picked up my keys at the public safety building and drove over to the Terrace, the oldest building on the campus. Entering through the front door I was immediately confused. The layout was a lot more difficult than my old residence hall, Pangborn, had been. I finally figured out where I was going and made it to my room. On the wooden door were shapes with my roommateís name and mine. I fumbled with the keys and was then finally able to unlock the door. I swung it open and looked at the room that I would live in during my sophomore year of college. My first thought: dormers.

When choosing to live on the fourth floor of the building I didnít give a single thought to the fact that it would mean having my window being a dormer. It was a complete shock when I opened my door to see slanted ceilings and at first I was very disappointed. I had been planning to loft my bed but that idea was clearly no longer an option. I moved some of my stuff up into the room and began rearranging the furniture. The setup that the previous occupants had was very interesting. The first thing I noticed was that they had their two armoires in front of the window. While this made sense because it was hard to fit them anywhere else, it also made it completely impossible to see out the only window. Breaking out into a sweat, I pushed them aside and was amazed to find that I could fit my slightly raised bed in front of the window with about an inch of room to spare. This did, however, mean that I would have the slants of the ceiling protruding on either side of me. I decided it was something I could handle.

I finished moving in the rest of my stuff and started to organize everything and settle into my new home. The last thing I did was make my Twin XL bed. I put down the egg carton foam pad and stretched on my sheets before spreading my blue and white comforter on top. Lastly I put pillowcases onto my pillows and fluffed them up a bit before jumping up into my bed and lying down for a much needed break. I rested for a few minutes before realizing that the blind to the window was still down. I reached over toward the window and pulled the blind down then let it go as it wound itself up. I was speechless.

Outside my window I could see for miles. The mountains in the distance made a perfect backdrop for those little farmhouses and the couple of red barns. Closer by I could see the solar farm and to the left was the ARCC. East campus was divided from the main campus by the highway. On west campus I could see the academic center, the auditorium, Patriot Hall, the library, as well as Delaplaine Fine Arts Center. The rest of Terrace unfolded to my left and to my right was the bell tower of the chapel. All I could do was think of St. Elizabeth Ann Setonís quote from a plaque at the Grotto that reads, "We are halfway up in the sky; the height of our situation is incredible." She could not have been more accurate.

Every morning I wake up to the sunrise shinning in through the crack underneath the blind. I lift the blind up and often put it behind my head, trying to limit the amount of light that gets into the room so as not to wake my sleeping roommate. I watch as the sun breaks the horizon behind the mountains and sends a straight ray of sunlight across the sky. I watch as it rises so quickly that within moments, all that had still been in the darkness of night becomes fully illuminated. Throughout the day I can see people go about their daily routines, rushing to get lunch and make it to class. I can hear the bell tower ring only feet away from me, signaling noon mass. In the evenings I hear the groups of people leaving from dinner and can see people migrate towards the library to get their homework done for the days ahead while I sit in bed using the windowsill as a desk to complete the work that I have. The sun sets, and slowly the sky turns dark as the lights down University Way come on.

Through my window I could watch the trees up close and in the distance change into their fall colors of orange and red and then fall to the ground as winter rolled in. I watched the snow accumulating on the campus and on the surrounding area as it fell softly and often. There were days when I woke up and could no longer see out my window because the snow had built up so high on the roof, but when it began to melt I had the most spectacular view once again. I watched as the workmen repaired the bell tower from the fire that happened over the summer, and I remember hearing it ring from my room for the first time. When the endless winter finally seemed to be ending I was delighted by the sound of birds chirping on the roof and even had a few land close enough that I could have reached out and touched them. From my window I saw as the gardeners put pansies in the flowerpots and cleaned up the garden beds, and I still continue to be speechless at the beauty of the view.

From my window Iíve watched grey storm clouds roll in and take over the sky followed by heavy downpours of rain. From my window Iíve seen the sun magically appear and form a rainbow more perfect than I could have ever imagined. They stretch across the whole sky in an arch that seems to reach the heavens, and I can see it all. In the darkness of night I have seen full moons glowing with orange tints. I have seen more stars than I could ever count. The view from this window is without a doubt painted by the hand of God.

My sophomore year is ending and so is my time living in this dorm room. In a strange way the view I have had this year has made all of the difference. It makes me feel as if I am part of something so much larger than myself. It constantly reminds me of the astonishing beauty in the world and in all of the things that surround us. The view from my window has kept me sane through the hectic parts of the year as I watch the traffic continuously on the highway and realize that I too must keep traveling on down the road in front of me. They say all good things must come to an end, but I will forever remember the sights I have seen. While it saddens me that I will have to give up the view from my window, it excites me that another pair of people will continually move in every year after me and have the opportunity to witness the sheer beauty that lies beyond the dormer.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen

A Sign of the Times

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

Itís been an amazing three years so far here at Mount St. Maryís. Maybe itís the fact that Iíve been busy with a million different things or working hard on my schoolwork and extra-curricular activities, but it still seems like it was only just yesterday when I began my adventure to the mountain beyond the horizon. While itís been a wonderful run, and I still have one more year left to squeeze all of the adventure I can out of the Mount, itís hard to look at the end of my junior year without a twinge of fear in my heart. You see, Iíve based my entire life around this campus. I know its ins and outs, its hidden secret places, and its funny little flaws. After three years I still consider Pangborn Hall my home away from home, and Iíve grown accustomed to interacting with my peers and the faculty here. The beauty of a place like this one is how much it can start to feel less like a school and more like a home. One of the amazing things about the Mount (and something that it shares with Emmitsburg) is that in a lot of ways, both places are small, tightly knit communities that depend and thrive on one another.

Now, with my journey almost at an end and on the cusp of another adventure, I wanted to think back on what brought me to Mount St. Maryís in the first place, what that taught me about the person that I wanted to become, and the people I wanted (and still want) to surround myself with.

Admittedly, Mount St. Maryís University was not my first choice for a college. I had grown up only 40 minutes away in Abbottstown, Pennsylvania, a small town most famous for the two family-owned restaurants that dominated our local economy. I had gone to Catholic elementary and high schools, spending most of my formative years learning the finer points of the Catholic faith alongside science, philosophy, and literature. I had even flirted with existence at the Mount in the form of weekend religious retreats like Mount 2000. However, no matter how much I liked the campus and no matter how much I enjoyed the years I spent in private school, I was convinced that my future belonged as far away from this area as humanly possible. It was familiar to me, and thus the antithesis of the things that I wanted to do with my life. I had great ambitions that I thought could only be satisfied if I went as far away as I could while still getting the kind of education that I wanted. To that end, I found myself on a sojourn to Bronxville, New York, and a college called Sarah Lawrence.

While most people are familiar with Sarah Lawrence because of its appearance in the popular Shakespearean adaptation Ten Things I Hate about You, I was familiar with the school because of my love for the famous poet Thomas Lux, one of the collegeís prestigious alumni. As soon as I found out where he went I couldnít apply fast enough. I read all their emails, pored over every letter they sent me, and when I realized how expensive the school was going to be, my heart physically sank a little bit. To me, Sarah Lawrence represented everything that I wanted. It was thrust in the beating heart of New York City, which came with untold chances to explore a wild urban biosphere so different from my little country town. The curriculum was infused with a love for the bizarre; everything from the student-run productions to the way that class was taught had this alien air to it that I found both intimidating and yet undeniably attractive.

When I thought that I would not be able to attend I was crushed. However, almost in the same moment as I thought I was defeated, I got a letter from admissions saying that 90 percent of my tuition had been paid for. It was official; I was going to be a Griffin.

Or so it would have been, had I not decided to go on an overnight visit to Sarah Lawrence. It was an event that I thought would herald my arrival. I would get the chance to sit in on actual classes, interact with the people I would go to school with, and finally experience something outside of the small town that I thought I wanted to leave. I was nervous but excited when we arrived on a Friday afternoon, my bags packed and my eyes wide. Then, a funny thing happened. It just didnít fit.

It wasnít that I didnít love the campus (it was gorgeous), that the classes werenít up to par (they were brilliant), or that the students werenít welcoming (the student body was incredible); there was just something off about the way I felt. I couldnít explain it if my proverbial life depended on it. Even though everything was going my way, it was just plain off. By the time the weekend was over, I felt even more dejected than when I thought I couldnít attend at all.

This is the part of the story where fate turns out to be a pretty funny thing. Originally, the Mount was supposed to be my last choice. There was absolutely no part of me that wanted to attend Mount St. Maryís University, so when I went for an orientation weekend at the Mount, I was hesitant. If my top pick had fallen through then would I ever really find a place where I wanted to belong? Thankfully, I could not have been more wrong if I had tried. Over the course of a few days I found that I loved everything about the campus. I made a fast group of friends that roamed around the Mount with me until the wee hours of the morning, and I realized that the last place I wanted to be was in fact the only place I could see myself.

Over the past three years Iíve had the chance to prove to myself that I made the right decision a million times over. Iíve found mentors and friends, love and heartbreak, and so many new opportunities that I would need to take the entire newspaper to describe them to you. Despite it all, the fact that I wound up in the strangest of places serves to illustrate the biggest lesson that I learned in the last three years: never expect anything. Sure, you may think that you know exactly where youíre headed right now, but the truth of the matter is that on any given day you could wind up in some strange city, surrounded by people you donít know, doing something you never thought you could: and youíll love every second of it. So, hereís to three years of never knowing where I was going, and six semesters of just pretending like I had a clue about what my next move was. And hereís to many more years of that. Whether youíre leaving as a senior, starting your sophomore year, or thinking about exploring the lovely world around us, enjoy the fact that you have no idea where youíre going. As a wise man once said, the path of least resistance never leads beyond your doorstep. Iím Kyle Ott. Wonít you sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott

Home away from home

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

I was wearing a Froot Loops t-shirt and denim shorts. I smiled proudly while posing in front of the large stone Mount St. Maryís University sign, my short hair just brushing my chin. It was move-in day August 2010, and I was beyond excited to start college. I wish I had known then just how quickly four years could fly by. I am now less than 11 days away from graduation and staring grad school in the face. Where did the time go?

For four years the Mount has been my home. I have lived and learned here, building friendships, exploring new interests, and contributing to the campus community. All four of those years I have been blessed to meet incredible people who I am fortunate enough to call my friends.

My first friend at the Mount was a girl named Olivia Gorman, Livie for short. We happened to meet briefly at Accepted Studentsí Day, a campus event that allows accepted students to explore what the university has to offer. At one point during my visit, I became separated from my parents. Forgetful me had left my cell phone at home, and I wanted to meet my parents for lunch before we left. Enter Olivia. She walks up to me in a pair of Chucks and a shirt sporting anime characters that I recognized and offers me her cell phone. Apparently I looked as lost as I felt. On move-in day I discovered that Olivia lived only three dorms down. I walked in, sat on her floor, and started chatting about the karate class we were both taking. The rest is history.

I remember when I first started writing for the campus paper, The Mountain Echo. It was my spring semester of freshman year, and I had no idea what to expect. My high school had never had a newspaper or magazine for students to produce. My only experience was working on the yearbook. I walked to the basement of the Academic Center where I found six upperclassmen who were surprised to see me. Apparently writers didnít usually come to the meetings, only editors. I sat down anyway.

At the same time, Olivia was having a bad experience with a teacher.

"I just donít know what he wants. He hates everything I write, and I donít want to fail this class. Am I as terrible of a writer as he says?"

"No," I told her and encouraged her to come to my next Echo meeting. I thought it might boost her spirits if other students and proficient writers gave her some positive critiques.

Sophomore year we continued to work for the Echo. We were heavily involved writers, showing up to every meeting, taking any assignment they had. I attended campus events, interviewed fellow students and even the executive vice president of the university. Then one day, Olivia came back to our dorm with news.

"They asked me to be an editor! Thereís another spot open. You should ask about it."

I was proud of her but not all that convinced that I wanted an editing job as well. I asked Managing Editor Alyssa Huntley about the position anyway. The job? Assigning stories, editing articles, and laying out my section for print every Tuesday. The payment? A free meal and experience for my resume. When do I start?

Every Tuesday night since then, Olivia and I scurried down to the Echo office. We were roommates that year, so it was nice that I could come back from work at one in the morning and not have to worry about waking her up because she was right there with me.

Halfway through sophomore year I found a brochure on Oliviaís desk with bold blue text telling me "How to become a Resident Assistant." I read about the application and interview process, the responsibilities and benefits of being an RA. It sounded like a good idea, and I wasnít sure why it had taken Olivia applying to provoke me to do it. Some small innate competitiveness I assume, but I was genuinely interested. Several months later, Olivia and I were sitting in our room doing homework when an email came through.

"Congratulations, we are happy to offer you a tentative Resident Assistant position for the 2012-13 academic year."

Junior year I not only had a new job as an RA but was also promoted to managing editor of the Echo and was offered my position with this paper. As RAs, Olivia and I had single dorms, which meant we couldnít be roommates anymore. It was also the first year I didnít have any classes with Olivia, but she was still my right hand. She helped me manage the Echo staff and taste-tested my experimental cooking as I broke in my new apartment kitchen. We enjoyed long nights on RA duty together watching Doctor Who marathons and eating ice cream till 2am.

Senior year was crazy. Olivia was placed in housing far away from mine, our schedules did not sync at all, and I really bonded with my new RA staff members. We barely saw each other at all during our fall semester except for those Tuesday night Echo sessions. Then we had a bit of a dťj' vu moment. Olivia worked for the campus literary magazine Lighted Corners. When LC called for submissions, I submitted several poems and digital photographs, and I prayed something would be accepted. Another email came.

"We thank you for your submissions to Lighted Corners, but we regret to inform you that we cannot accept any of your poems at this time."

I was a little upset. I thought ending the year being a published author would be exciting, but Olivia found a way for my name to be in the latest edition of LC anyway.

"We have no idea how to work Adobe InDesign. Could you help us?"

Some intense reformatting of the magazine and several weeks later my name was published as the Lighted Corners Associate Editor. It wasnít a byline, but I was still happy. More importantly I realized that just because my talents are different from what I want them to be doesnít mean Iím talentless. It was the same lesson I had taught Olivia freshman year by involving her in the Echo. Funny how we had come full circle.

When I received my first acceptance letter to graduate school, Olivia was with me. We were in the theater prop room pulling some costumes out of storage for an upcoming play when I squealed.

"Ohmygosh! I got in! I got in!"

We jumped and screamed and laughed like five year olds, and as we hugged I realized just how much I was going to miss her.

Now weíre plotting our grad school paths, talking about financial aid, housing and campus visits. Sheís going north for school but hasnít settled on which program to accept, while Iím headed south to the University of Virginia for 7 semesters of studying speech-language pathology. Itís silly, perhaps, but I feel a bit like a freshman again, standing in the hallway without a cellphone, not knowing my way around campus and all the unfamiliar faces. I can only hope thereís another Olivia coming along to offer me her friendship.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones

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