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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

Looking Ahead: I am here now

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

(2/2013) 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