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Four Years at the Mount

To close out the school year, FYATM writers reflect on their time at the Mount so far, and the victories, challenges and growth that have come with it. As finals week and summer break approach, they look towards what comes next.

Reflections on the closing of the year

May 2017

Life of a Freshie

Angela Tongohan
MSM Class of 2020

Wow. Itís almost the end of my freshman year at the Mount, and boy, was it an adventure. So much has happened within the span of a few months. I met people I could now call my close friends, maybe some I could call my best friends. I experienced my first taste of freedom, without the chains of parents or authority figures. I made my own decisions, and I had to live with my own consequences. Itís been a great first year, and I canít wait for the journey to come.

But as I sit here, reliving my first year in college, I realize the things that I need to do to make myself even better. As a freshman, I still have the excuse of being young, lost, and oblivious. We are given breathing space, a time to adjust to a life so different from living at home. While some students thrive on their own and are able to succeed now that they have only themselves to worry about, other students wither away and crumble, lost in the unfamiliar. I am one of those students.

I didnít do as well as I would have liked to my first year here. It was a tornado of problems: homesickness, actual illnesses, the surrounding pressure to be social. Somewhere between my yearning to be accepted and my 9 a.m. class, I was distracted and lost my way.

Next year, I wonít have the luxury of being a novice. I will be expected to know my way around campus. I wonít have any more excuses. Seniors tell me that it only gets harder. That blew my mind. How could it only get harder when it already was so difficult?

But after a good few weeks of sulking, I realized that this was my chance. I needed to thrive. Next year, I would have to do better. I know what to expect, and I know how to prepare myself. Next year, I will do better.

Now, I know I sound super depressing right now, but freshman year was also a great deal of fun.

They werenít kidding when they said that during college you will have a whole lot of chances to try new things.

My first semester consisted of service trips. I began the school year on the Serve Mountward Bound trip. Ever since I was old enough to understand there were people in need, Iíve always wanted to help them. The Office of Social Justice gave me that opportunity. I cleaned up abandoned yards in Baltimore, prepared supplies for incoming refugees, and learned how to use a weed whacker.

My second semester, I found myself more overwhelmed by school work, but I still hoped to be able to join the trips. College, though, is not only about service trips and helping those in need, although those things are all very self-fulfilling. They also give us the chance to go on trips that are solely meant to be exciting and fun.

Iíve gone on a go-karting trip in Baltimore, and was pleasantly surprised that the go-karts went surprisingly fast. I joined the New York trip, because I couldnít pass off a day in New York for only 25 dollars. And Iíve joined a series of free bowling, mini golfing, and karaoke nights. All the while, I have met great people and enjoyed living life as a student at the Mount.

I like how we have three months of summer between every school year. My roommates believe the summer is like some kind of time machine. Everything dumb or embarrassing that was done freshman year would be magically erased, and our August of sophomore year would be a new slate.

In the future, I feel like my problems now will sound so miniscule. Although, they do seem quite overwhelming at the moment. Next year, I have to start thinking about internships and extra-curriculars, things that would make me a well-rounded student, and prepare me for my career goals.

I will have to declare my major, or double major, if I decide I am still up for the challenge. The only thing I donít have to decide is whether or not to take a semester abroad, because it unfortunately is not offered to those in my major.

I realize that from here on out, my decisions will have more and more meaning. After college, I will need to find a job of some kind. Even if I do decide to go to medical school or grad school, I will probably have some bills to pay.

Things are becoming so real. I feel so close to having to become a functioning adult in society. Itís scary. I know based off talking to friends that are seniors or juniors that is only gets scarier. The real world is creeping up on me, and itís hard to imagine how I would be when Iím not guarded within the walls of our campus.

But I guess that all comes as part of the journey. I need this experience, and possibly on the day of my senior graduation, I will say to myself "Oh, thatís why that all happened!" But, of course, as my inexperienced freshman eyes see, the real world is still far away, and I need to enjoy the present moment.

Read other articles by Angela Tongohan

My sophomore reflection

Michael Kenney Jr.
MSM Class of 2019

May 12, 2017--My dad carries out the last few boxes, and I sling my backpack over my shoulder. Itís clichť, but true, that this year has flown by. As I head out the door, I notice a picture taped to the corner of my mirror. Itís a picture of my parents and me on move-in day. I looked tan, well rested, and--though only taken a few months ago--a lot younger. It makes me realize the obvious: my physical disposition says something about my mood and experiences. I glance in the mirror scope my current disposition. I wonder how my experiences have literally shaped me, how my mood has manifested itself over the course of this past year. If I could reflect on this past year by looking in the mirror, what would I see?

I suppose I should begin with my head. I worked really hard in school both semesters, and I also discovered three gray hairs last month. Coincidence? I think not. The library was my hermitage this past year. I overloaded with seven courses during the fall semester and six in the spring because I wanted to expose myself to a wide range of subjects. From foreign language, literature, and history to science, philosophy, and ROTC courses, each subject area deepened my understanding of and appreciation for the world around me. My professors have helped create some of my fondest memories. Whether meeting over a cup of coffee in the cafe or a completely red-inked paper draft in their offices, my professors have challenged me this year. Yet, like walking encyclopedias, they have made the course material enjoyable and alive: I felt as though I walked alongside characters like Sissy Jupe and William Darcy. I empathized with Primo Levi and imagined the millions of unspoken Holocaust narratives. I studied so intensively that I dreamt in Italian. I brought contemporary values into conversation with the timeless Platonic and Aristotelian works. I debated the efficacy of Brexit and digital humanities. I think about all the knowledge locked beneath my scalp, under my brown (and potentially graying) bushel of hair. Of course, my academic immersion this year was rigorous, but it was fun and rewarding ten times over.

I look down and, not unrelated to my two gray hairs, there are bags under my eyes. Howíd they get there? I earned them by late night paper writing, early morning swim practice, and a fair share of all-nighters. Yet, they donít solely represent "all work and no play." They remind me of the cafe karaoke and spontaneous game nights, conversations that twist the clock from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. in the blink of an eye, and nights my friends and I visited in Eucharistic Adoration together. One particular night in February comes to mind. While inclement weather halted school for the day, I spent practically all day studying in the library, and I began walking towards my dorm at about 12:30 a.m. I admired the snowmen scattered around campus, and I decided I wanted to make one in a prominent place on campus. I called one of my friends, and together, we formed a huddle of snowmen about a yard ahead of the doors of Bradley Hall, the main administrative building. We slapped chunks of snow into the bulky sides of the snowmen. We laughed and laughed and laughed at how ridiculous we must have seemed. We joked under the unsound logic that "maybe, if we build a snowman in front of Bradley, the faculty will enjoy it so much that they wonít hold classes the tomorrow." On my way to class the next morning, I noticed the snowman had been gently decapitated. The more I think about my experiences, the more I believe that I do not really have bags, just tinted grins beneath my eyelids.

I focus now on the rest of my body. My hands have callouses. They must be from our swim teamís weight lifting regimen. I had a blast swimming on the inaugural menís swim team, in large part because of my teammates. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other. For almost nine months, we trained ten times per week together, stayed on campus over breaks, travelled long bus rides, met for study sessions, and endured seemingly impossible workouts. I think about the week we spent training in Key Largo, our team dinners, and our bible studies. I think about the mornings we stood at the edge of the pool, bracing ourselves for an unforgivingly cold wake-up call, and the afternoons we read our coachesí lactate-threshold set and thought, "Thereís no way weíre making through that alive." But we did. We became faster, stronger, and better friends throughout the entire season.

I take a step back from the mirror. My backpack slouches from my shoulder to ground. I remember my three silver hairs. I recognize the grins under my eyes. I rub my calloused fingers together. Each feature allows an insight into my past experience, but my smile speaks the loudest and seems to summarize my year. It captures the other physical features like the ironic words in Kurt Vonnegutís Slaughterhouse-Five: "Everything was perfect and nothing hurt." With that, I walk out to my car and wonder what next year will look likeÖ

Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.

In retrospect...

Sarah Muir
Class of 2018

In retrospect, the past year has been a bit of a crazy one, but I suppose I was warned that junior year has a tendency to be hectic and unforgiving. Still, I find myself overjoyed and entirely content with what the past year has brought. Besides the overall health and happiness, my extraordinary sister was happily married this past June to a wonderful gentleman who I am thrilled to call my brother in law, my studies have gone well and with the closing of this last semester in my junior year I find I am able to cross off a few things on my bucket list.

While I am writing this, I am thousands of miles above the surface of the Atlantic, returning home from a three-and-a-half-month journey to London where I was studying abroad. I have always known I have wanted to travel and the program that the Mount offers is what drew me here in the first place. My experiences with the people on the trip and in London will be with me forever, and I find myself both happy to return and desolate at leaving the now-familiar streets.

Having never traveled outside the United States before, I found myself, as per usual, of two minds: one part nervous apprehension and one part (a larger portion) elated at the prospect. The months leading up to my departure were filled with me fielding questions, comments, and advice (all helpful, pointless, and repetitive). Finally on the plane heading towards Heathrow, it struck me that I would be traveling further from home than I had ever been before, far from friends and family and all things familiar. In a few hours, I would be in a different country, with a different culture, and with different people. Being an introvert in such a situation was daunting, but I could not find it in myself to be afraid. We touched down and vacated the plane and I took a deep breath, the air was different, a kind of cold damp that was welcoming after the stuffy coach cabin. There were street lights and stoplights and shops and cars (though all were driving on the wrong side of the road). I found that even in a strange place there are signs of familiar comfort.

I lived in North London, in a decent sized room I shared with a roommate (who was a blessing as far as roommates are concerned). It was comfortable and the woman who owned the house was amiable to us. The directions to school were fairly straightforward: get on the Bus until Highgate station, then the Northern Line to Goodge Street, then a left and a right and there you go, simple as that. I got lost my first week of classes and seemed to find every street except for the one I needed. Luckily, a few helpful pedestrians and one policeman later, I found my way. After that, it became easier.

Should you travel to London, know that the public transportation is unparalleled in its efficiency and is probably one of the things Iíll miss the most (odd, I know), pubs have a great atmosphere and even greater comfort food, go to the markets (Borough, Leadenhall, Camden, Brick Lane etc.), Harrods and Fortum & Masons are the best place to play The Price is Right, museums are free, the parks are lovely and tickets for theaters are cheap. There is a lot more than what my word count allows, but thereís the long and the short of it.

I went to Scotland in February, and found it to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Freezing cold, wet, and muddy, but beautiful all the same. The journey through the Highlands was a welcome break from the busy restlessness of the city. We arrived in Edinburgh and from there made our way up to Calendar, the gateway to the Highlands, from there to Loch Ness (no sightings to report), and eventually the Isle of Skye. Along the way, I gave carrots to some of the most tame wild deer I have ever met, washed my face in the river of eternal beauty (and almost fell in), and made a wish at nearly every fairy pool we visited. I loved every second of my time in Scotland from the clear rivers to the hairy cows (Scottish pronunciation: harry coos) to the beautiful mountains and overall feeling of magic and legends that seem to seep out of the stones.

So I have been to London, seen the Globe (though I wasnít able to experience a performance this time around) and the view from the London Eye, I saw Stonehenge, Shakespeareís birthplace and White Cliffs of Dover, indulged in an honest to goodness high tea, saw Buckingham palace and Westminster. I have been to the Highlands, seen the Three Sisters of Glencoe, Loch Ness, the stunning coast of the Isle of Skye.

What is more is I have discovered that the world is smaller than you think and too big to be believed. I have found that I am both rubbish at directions and perfectly capable in finding my way and that being lost is the best way to find some things. In retrospect, I have grown more in the last year than I realized and looking ahead I have a lot more growing up to do, many more places to see and people to meet and, of course, some mistakes to make. I am looking forward to it.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir

My four years at the Mount

Leanne Leary
MSM Class of 2017

Iím looking at the world now as I looked at college exactly four years ago.

Hello again, my name is Leeanne, and for the final time Iím writing in the Four Years at the Mount column as an undergraduate student. Iím not sure if four or forty people have read my column each month for the last four years, but if youíre joining me now on the final leg of this journey, hi, my name is Leeanne. Iím graduating college this month.

Four years ago, I wrote my first article for the Emmitsburg News-Journal. It was the October 2013 edition, and I introduced myself as a college freshman from Pennsylvania. I planned on majoring in some combination of communications and fine arts/graphic design. My goal was to work in some capacity in the media world upon graduating, and I thought 22 years old and senior year seemed a lifetime away.

In preparing myself for this final article, I read all of my freshman year articles. I have almost no words in the wake of that, but here are the limited few: I was so young. Everything that I love, cherish, and plan to do now, I didnít even know existed then. I wrote an article on my very first mission trip to Haiti, a place that now holds much of my heart. I wrote an article on this (weird) ROTC program I was joining Ė what the heck was the Army? Iím now commissioning as an Officer into that same Army two days before graduation. I wrote about finding friends, before I even met the people who are now family. Everything that is now important, simply didnít exist.

I entered the world of the Mount, the world of Emmitsburg, and the world of Maryland with a different life. I, fortunately, havenít lost any of the things I love, but they have evolved and become my life now. Part of that is utterly exciting, part is terrifying. Does that happen forever? In four years, will I look back and reflect on a different life? Will 26 still feel an age split between some binary of extremely young and very adult?

Iím looking at the world now exactly as I looked at college four years ago.

I donít know that I can do this justice, but I know the first step is to say thank you. Thank you to those of you who read my articles and travelled through this weird journey of growth ruled by spontaneity. Thank you to the people who entered my life and became my friends. These people proved everything Iíve ever heard about friendship told, true. Thank you to my mentors, advisors, and professors. I certainly didnít always enjoy doing the work, but I am still in awe constantly at how much knowledge you have, and how willing you were to invest in my life. Thank you to my peers who made me work harder, my teammates who let me laugh at myself, my family who let me disappear for months at a time and supported every choice I made, and everyone who simply cared about this four year journey.

When I came to college I had my entire life planned. I knew what I wanted to do, where I wanted to live, when I wanted to do it, and who I wanted to do it with. If college has done anything perfectly for me, it has completely eradicated each and every one of these certainties. I believe, though, it has done so perfectly and systematically. While being a part of any system makes me slightly uncomfortable, Iím convinced these four years are designed perfectly to first make us question everything, including ourselves. Once weíve done that, we become open to new worlds. Then, we learn. Through classes, through research, through capstone projects, through real-world experiences, through homilies, through trips, and talks, and adoration, and speeches, and guests Ė we learn. We learn that, jokes on us, we donít know much. We learn, though, how to think for ourselves. We learn how to doubt ourselves. We learn resilience, grit, empowerment, and more. We learn how to make life-altering mistakes, and how to come back from them. We learn how to love, how to be a friend, and how to manage. All of this is handed to us in this strange encapsulate miniature adult world where we get to learn and be free under careful guidance and while simultaneously not being too free. And it is wonderful.

Iím looking at the world now as I looked at college exactly four years ago: intrigued, concerned, and excited.

Iím entering the world now entirely different than I entered college exactly four years ago, all thanks to college.

Weird? Very weird.

Iím leaving the Mount with a degree in English literature and secondary education. Iím not entirely sure where Iíll end up, but for the next few months Iíll be in Ft. Lee, Virginia for my Quartermaster Officer Basic Course. Iíll keep you updated with a few graduate articles, donít worry.

So, here is my final undergrad article, my final hello, and my goodbye. Thank you for reading, and thank you for putting up with me, my changing majors, random trips, evident moods, and endless rants. This column has given me the chance to speak every month, make connections, and work under the supervision of four genius mentors and writers.

Iím leaving my Four Years at the Mount, but, as clichť and tired as this may sound, am taking all of it with me. Thank you, again and endlessly.

Read other articles by Leanne Leary

Read Past Editions of Four Years at the Mount