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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

Finding balance

Kaitlyn Marks
Class of 2021

(1/2018) Bursting out into the crisp, cold air and bright sunlight after I finished my last final exam of my first semester of college, I felt a whirlwind of emotions; the most prevalent feeling was excitement, blossoming up in a flurry of joy, and second to that was the realization that I had done it. Half of my freshman year gone in an instant, earned through months of hard work and change. As I entered my dorm room, the place I had made into a second home, I looked in the mirror. The person I saw? Someone new; someone who had grown and stretched and changed; someone who had learned more and said yes to opportunities to become more spontaneous. I felt so happy, especially at the realization that even through the challenges, the tears, the homesickness, the fear, and the doubt, I had finished strong and accomplished big things.

Stepping onto the Mountís campus on move-in day this past August, Iíll admit I was terrified. I have always been reluctant to accept change, and fear always accompanies the word "new" for me. I tried to keep myself calm, acknowledging that this was going to be a great year, and reflecting on how quickly I tended to adapt to change once I was in the situation. However, once boxes were unpacked, things were in place, and the dust settled, my family headed home, and I felt more alone than I had ever thought possible.

While that night was difficult, and anxieties worried my mind, the next day brought sunshine and possibility, especially when I had to attend my Honors Freshman Symposium course. Still on uneasy, shaky ground, I began to find my footing surrounded by smart, kind individuals in that class. Moreover, I had the honor of learning, through the semester and day after day from a professor who challenged me, who embraced me for who I was, and who pushed me to become the best version of myself possible. As the semester became more intense, it simultaneously became more enjoyable, and somehow, I felt like I found my balance: I felt like I belonged.

I learned more than just chemistry, psychology, Italian, and how to write about literature in this first semester. Perhaps even more valuable were the lessons I gathered about myself, my place in the world, and my potential. I had the privilege of becoming a writer for this newspaper, which has allowed my confidence to grow and my writing to blossom into new realms. Through supportive professors who provided encouragement after assignments and papers came to fruition, I found myself believing in the unlimited possibility of the future. College provides stepping stones, a path to finding where your dreams lie, and then helps you reach them.

This semester, my goals for the next chapter of college, and the next chapter of my life, shifted. I aim to work hard, and to learn as much as possible. But the most important thing I learned is to say yes. When opportunities arise, no matter how scary they may seem, I want to say yes. In the past semester, I said yes to a leadership program. I applied to volunteer at a summer camp for kids and teenagers with Down Syndrome. I embraced my place here at this newspaper. I tried new things and went beyond the limits of my comfort zone.

I discovered that every challenge, victory, conversation, or event happens for a reason. There is a greater good and purpose over rare, quiet moments at school, and I yearn to fall into an opportunity that unlocks that purpose. Whether I end up a writer, or a therapist, a non-profit worker, I want to embrace all that life has to offer. I have never experienced such freedom or such balance as I developed this semester. With seemingly never-ending to-do lists; strict deadlines; mountains of assignments; attempts to stay healthy, physically and mentally, while also being involved; adjustments to an entire new life; and time spent doing things I enjoy with friends, life is busy.

Coming out of finals week, even that feels like an understatement. However, Iíve found that balance has come easier to me now that I have made it through a semester and come out of it with good grades, good friends, and a more rich, thorough understanding of who I am. Reflecting on my first semester now, I feel immense joy. While there were many challenges this semesterósocially, academically, emotionally, and even morallyóI feel grateful for each one. These challenges have shaped me into a stronger, more confident person. Although I am still shy, I am much more confident and outgoing than I was before. This semester showed me that itís okay to be myself. I do not have to hide, or be someone that I am not. I can be the girl who loves writing, sometimes prefers watching a movie to going out, and misses her family deeply; simultaneously, I am the girl who loves spontaneous trips, loves her school, and celebrates small victories and big accomplishments. Many of my favorite memories are with people who are unabashedly themselves all the time, and I aspire to be like that.

As 2017 comes to a rapid close, I hope I can embrace every lesson I learned this semester and make the rest of this first year as amazing. Iíve learned to be grateful, to give to others; I have felt passions nurtured and I have been encouraged to find and follow my dreams. I am constantly inspired by those around me, and I am grateful to have a family who is so supportive, involved and encouraging, especially in the dark moments when I worry that I am not enough, or that I cannot possibly be successful. Most of all, I am grateful to have found my balance at school; I didnít know, that first day, that I would be so in love with this college, with the people around me, and with the things I am learning. I canít wait for whatís to come.

Read other articles by Kaitlyn Marks