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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

The end of one year and the beginning of the next

Katelyn Phelan

(Jan, 2011) Itís strange what a difference a year can make. One year ago I was focused on my upcoming study abroad trip to Florence, Italy. I was excited, sure, but I was also nervous. I like traveling and learning and seeing new things, but I was worried because generally at the end of my two- week vacation Iím ready to come home. This Italy trip was 90 days of "vacation," not 14. I was nervous I would be homesick.

Nevertheless I left for my adventure on January 24, 2010. I certainly missed home and my friends and family, but I also had amazing opportunities to see and do a whole host of things. I explored Florence thoroughly and traveled to so many cities: Rome, Pisa, Venice, Assisi, and others. I also went to Greece for spring break, and traveled there aloneónegotiating Italian trains, hostels, airplanes, and Greek airports, metros, and cities. In my travels for this trip I also had to deal with the Italian police. A drunk man wandered onto the train without a ticket and was eventually forced to leave. The police asked me about the man and asked for my passport for documentation. Our conversation was held in rapid Italian, and though I understood most of what they said, they caught on pretty quickly that I was not fluent in the language. Encounters like these, though nerve-wracking at times, did teach me a lot about dealing with people and also about myself. The trip as a whole was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I learned about history, art, and culture firsthand. The trip also gave me a huge lesson in patience.

You may remember the volcano in Iceland that paralyzed European air travel for many days? Well that volcano erupted April 15, 2010óthe night before I was scheduled to leave for the US. Needless to say, the plane did not leave, and I remained in Italy for the next 11 days. Though many people asked what I had to be upset over, it was an obvious emotion for me and for many Mount students. I had been in Italy for three amazing months, but I was ready for the trip to be over. I wanted to see my family, friends, and dogs. I wanted to eat a big hamburger. Eventually the dust and ash settled and I, along with the other Mount students, returned home.

When I got home I was facing a seriously depleted bank account and needed a job desperately. Though I applied to as many places as I could think of, I had the most difficult time finding anything. I eventually gathered several jobs: working at the Writing Center tutoring Mount students, working as a hostess at Olive Garden, and contributing articles to the Emmitsburg News-Journal. I finally added the perfect jobódesigning and painting a childrenís clothing store in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. I designed a wall mural, chose the colors, and painted the entire store myself. I chose an outdoor themeówith rolling hills, blue skies, a tree house, a dog, cats, and birds. Iíve continued to help with running the store when Iím home on break. I love hearing kids who come into the store exclaim, "look, a doggie!" This job was a fantastic experience, because I was able to design and paint on a scale Iíve never attempted before. Also, I was painting in a different way with a different purpose than I normally do. I was creating a cheerful place for kids to play. I believe I was successful in my venture, and I loved doing it. This project was also the launch of a little business for me. Iíve already had some people request I paint nurseries and sports murals for them.

The end of this job brought the end of the summer and so the start of school. Since I had been in Italy during the spring, I was ready to be with my friends and to be back at the Mount. I was also ready to start classes again. Even though I was excited, it was also bittersweet. The start of this year was the beginning of my senior year, and that meant moving closer to making real decisions about my life. For the most part I put those decisions on hold as I focused on my classes, reading, and papers.

Generally if I donít want to think about something, it is very easy for me to allow myself to be swept up in other thoughts or actions. This was the case this semester. Since I didnít have all the answers for the future, it was much easier to focus on what I had to doómy schoolwork. I began work on my year-long honors project which focuses on the divided self of Raskolnikov, a character from Dostoevskyís Crime and Punishment. The semester was very rewarding; I had the chance to delve more deeply into subjects I was already familiar with and also to be exposed to totally new areas of study. For example, one of my courses, "Stories of Islam" focused on literature of Islamic areas, including the Middle East, India, and Africa. But now the semester is over, and, like most semesters, Iím glad to have a little break before the next one starts.

And, just like last year, Iím nervous about the things to come. The start of the spring 2011 semester means I have only one more semester at the Mount. Iíll no longer live at my school or have the opportunity to learn in the ways I do right now. My choices are no longer "what course should I take," but "what exactly am I going to do when I graduate?" Iím planning on teaching English at the secondary level, but as of this moment I am not certified to do so. Iím looking at a few Masters programs which would certify me, but there are still many details to be worked out. For example, which program suits my needs best? Which is the most affordable? At one time, I was able to consider these questions, acknowledge that I needed to decide eventually, and then move on to thinking of something else. Now I am forced to decide what exactly I am going to do. Though it seems like a daunting task now, Iím sure Iíll look back on this nervousness in another year, like Iíve done with my Italy semester abroad trip, and be happy with the choices Iíve made, the things Iíve learned, and the blessings Iíve received.

Read other articles by Katelyn Phelan