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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

A warm welcome

Elizabeth Veronis
MSN Class of 2019

(10/2015) Two hours after my parents dropped me off at the Mount for the start of my freshman year, public safety had to rescue me. I had locked myself out of my room in nothing but my towel… but I am getting ahead of myself. Perhaps I should start with a comment my teacher made on my fourth grade report card: "Elizabeth doesn’t always transition well."

While I would love to argue the point, I am afraid that there is more than a kernel of truth in Mrs. McLean’s observation. I have always struggled with change. Not just the big stuff, but the little stuff, too. I was, for example, practically inconsolable when Zayne Malik exited One Direction. And do not get me started on Shonda Rhimes’ decision to kill off McDreamy. Will Grey’s Anatomy ever be the same? Given my history, I was more than a little nervous about how I would handle the transition from high school to college.

I do have some experience in this arena, having watched my two older siblings venture off to their respective universities. I knew some of the pitfalls that awaited me. There were the 2 a.m. donut runs that had temporarily softened my sister’s lean lines. There was the newfound freedom to hit the snooze button instead of hitting the books. My brother and sister had generally resisted this impulse and were, in fact, excellent students. I, on the other hand, had a less impressive track record in the classroom, where I was content with doing just enough to keep my parents off my back and me on the honor roll.

My main claim to fame during high school was the record-setting number of tardy slips I accumulated senior year. Once, when I had run out of all other explanations, I actually told the attendance office that I was late because I was not much of morning person. They failed to appreciate my honesty.

My aversion to school was not due to a lack of intellectual curiosity. I just got squirrely sitting in a chair for six hours a day. Right from the start, my real passion was recess, for it was on the playground where I truly excelled. I was energetic, quick, and happy to make a sport out of almost anything. I tend to blame my father for my competitive spirit, but he could not help himself either. His mother, my dear 82-year-old grandmother, is a former roller derby queen from Jersey. She hides it well, but the steely determination still burns inside.

It burns inside me, too, and I am proud that I will get to compete at the Mount as a member of the varsity tennis team. Tennis is our family sport. My father played at West Virginia University and my brother played for Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. There are few things that have brought us as much joy – and as much pain—as tennis. Like most athletes, I tend to remember the losses more vividly than the wins. But when it all comes together at just the right moment, everything else pales in comparison.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should note that I come from a lively Greek family. We love fiercely, laugh loudly and believe ourselves endlessly entertaining. We can infuriate quickly, but we also forgive easily. I am intensely proud of my Hellenic heritage. This past summer, I was fortunate to spend three weeks in Greece, visiting cultural landmarks and learning more about my Orthodox faith. I also ate a lot of souvlaki and consumed my weight in olive oil, but mostly, I left with a determination to see more of the world and a commitment to study abroad.

Like many people my age, I have virtually no idea what I want to do professionally in the future. When I was applying to college, I told one school I was interested in forestry, another that I was drawn to social justice, and yet another that I really enjoyed history. The last time I watched Scandal, I pictured myself as a political operative. Perhaps I will gain some direction over the next few years.

Truthfully, I am both terrorized and energized by the endless possibilities afforded to me. At the same time, I worry about student loan debt, a scary job market, and the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots. I wish I was better informed on a host of other issues, but I know more about the Kardashians than I do about global warming, ISIS, or the refugee crisis. My indifference may be due, in part, to my disgust with governmental dysfunction. Now that I am finally old enough to vote, I wish there was an emerging leader who gave me hope.

Sometimes, I fear that my generation might be more cynical than optimistic, more anxious than adventurous, and more self-absorbed than empathetic; And yet, many people my own age who seek to make the world a better place often inspire me. I, too, want to do my part and intend to become a contributing member of not just the Mount St. Mary’s community, but of the town of Emmitsburg, as well.

Ultimately, I hope to find my voice as I contribute a monthly column to this publication. That is why I am encouraged by another one of Mrs. McLean’s observations: "Elizabeth seems to be making progress." But, just in case, I am going to keep public safety on speed dial.

Read other articles by Elizabeth Veronis