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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

The World vs. Home

Carolyn Shields

(June, 2011) Today I was working at cozy little St. Philomena's in town when my mom dropped off my lunch (sloppy joe in a plastic cup which was as unappetizing as it sounds) and a dark yellow, crumpled envelope. I smiled with joy when I saw the monkey stamp and the word, 'Raddolugama' on the return address. Inside was green paper with neat, block letters written across it, folded with a pink ribbon. You gotta love Sri Lankan pen pals. I found mine one year ago on

I read through Shashini’s letter, laughing at how she watched the Royal Wedding and would have preferred a more fashion-forward dress, and how she aspires to become an air hostess to travel the world. After the killer Globalization and Education course I took this year (the course that several times I left shaking in fear), it just blows my mind thinking how globalized this world really is. I've read articles on second-generation Turkish immigrants in Switzerland which argues that students immigrating from periphey countries aren't just traveling across geographic borders but time borders as well. Oftentimes when immigrants come into a technologically developed country, it is as if they are traveling into the future a hundred years.

So I found it humorous at how my Sri Lankan friend watched the British wedding, and I wondered if we could possibly meet in Europe,a continent home to neither of us, to discuss the wedding when American-me studies abroad in Ireland and Shashini is settled into her career of being an airhostess.

Wow. Globalization is here! Everyone knows the internet and technlogoy in general are shrinking this world. I’ve gotten facebook requests from random Middle Eastern guys (denied!). My cousin just studied in Egypt, and one of my friends from school is from Vietnam. This isn’t the world of our grandparents anymore. This is the New Frontier.

And of course I've been thinking a lot about my future as well. Besides love and money (which go together like fire and rain), what college student doesn't spend most of her time thinking about the future? And I'm not even talking about what I'm going to do with the rest of my life, right now it's more like how am I going to make it through this summer without the Mount to keep me occupied? I'm especially thinking about the upcoming future. These next few years are going to be the best of my life!

All I really know is that in three and a half months I'll be in Ireland. Soon I’ll be visiting all of the shrines I’ve talked about with pilgrims who come into St. Philomena’s, such as the real Grotto of Lourdes in France. In a few months I’ll be catching a ferry over to London for a weekend and hiking in the lowlands of Scotland. And then in the summer of 2012 I have my heart set on doing missionary work in Belize with the Mount.

And for the past two years, I've been considering volunteering in Cambodia after my graduation. Ever since I read 'A Commissioner in Cambodia' in the August 2008 issue of the Emmitsburg News Journal (the article has hung in my room for inspiration ever since), I've had a hard time getting my mind off teaching English in Cambodia, especially to the young girls who fall prey to the malicious sex trade. One third of the prostitutes in Cambodia are exploited children.

In high school I looked into the Peace Corps and talked to a recruiter, but their minimum requirement was two years, plus you could only pick your continent and not your country. In addition to these two factors, the Peace Corps is very individualistic. I was looking to go to Cambodia and stay within a community—preferably Catholic. I heard of Maryknoll, a Catholic missionary group but their required stay was just as long.

Finally, it wasn't until this year that a friend showed me where I discovered the Salesians, a Catholic missionary order stationed in Cambodia and all over the world, with service opportunities ranging from three months and beyond! Perfecto! God's looking out for me!

So globalization. It's a hard concept to really understand, especially when you're a small- town girl like me, who—embarrassingly—confused Thurmont with Taneytown until she was fourteen. I mean, my family has lived in this area for hundreds of years. Am I really called to travel the world like I want to? I'm terrified that when I finally understand what God asks of me, I will be too afraid to accept his mission. Too afraid or too selfish. What if I'm meant to stay in Emmitsburg forever? I'll admit I'm not completely opposed to it, but there's an entire world out there! My parents have given me a taste of it when we traveled to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria for a week, and then when we took a five-week road trip across America.

But Emmitsburg is my home! William Shields helped his brother-in-law found Emmitsburg in the late 1700s. Before that the Shields were exiled from Ireland a few hundred years ago, and since then my family has settled here on Mary’s mountain. So you will understand why I'm so torn between traveling to every corner of this world or forever living on this mountain where that Patriot ancestor of mine is buried. I'll go into my family history for next month's column.

I know God has a beautiful life set out for me. I'm just super anxious to see it. Does it resemble anything like the life I have planned in my head? Is it completely different then the one I’ve been praying for? One thing I know for certain: this summer I'll be behind the counter of little St. Philomena's on Main Street happily waiting for it to start.

Read other articles by Caroline Shields