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Four Years at the Mount

Senior year

Four years in Maryland

Katie Powell
MSM Class of 2015

(5/2016) As my senior year is coming to a close, I am finding it hard to keep up with all of my work. Senioritis is setting in and it is making completing homework and other tasks pretty challenging. I feel like I want outóI donít want to go to classes and live in a residence hall. I donít want to eat dining hall food. I want a job where I earn money, not credits. And yet, amongst all these annoying little things about college life, I donít want to leave this place. The most important and life-changing four years I have ever experienced are about to come to a close and I want to document it for me, and for everyone.

I think the most important people I am talking to are the high school students who donít think they want to go to college. I know financial situations make it hard or impossible, and sometimes living on a college campus isnít ideal for everyoneís needs. However, the experience of living away at college changed my world and I think if you are at all capable of working it out, it is something that you should do.

Do not believe everything that you see on Facebook. I know it seems glamorous to be Kylie Jenner and buy your own house at 18 and own your own business without getting a degree, irreversible under-eye bags, and huge piles of crippling debt. However, college graduates have something that Kylie Jenner does not have, and I do not mean a diploma. It is something you can only get from braving college orientation in a town in which you are completely foreign. Some-thing that you get when you hand in your first brutal mid-term exam. Something that you feel rise inside you after your first all-nighter, as you watch the sun rise outside of the library windows. It is something that is known as grit, a factor that has to do with self-confidence, fortitude, ambition, and persistence. Grit is an important attribute here at the Mount. If you do not arrive with it, your experience here will instill it within you.

Your degree says that you got a Bachelorís or Masterís in some topic or another, but what it does not say is how you got there. When you enter college you are a child. When you are 17 or 18 years old, it feels like you are an adult, and even though you legally are, you have a lot to go through before I, or anyone, will consider you a grown up. The best way to do it is to go away to college. Why do I say that? Because college makes you fight. It makes you push your-self to the limit physically, mentally, and emotionally. It makes you look inside yourself and ask the tough questions: Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Do I have what it takes? College rips you down; it exposes what you are made of. College makes you validate yourself to be successful.

There is a confidence that comes with handing in your first ten-page paper. At the time it is disguised as a lack of sleep and the coffee jitters, but it will fade into a quiet confidence that you are where you are meant to be. You earn a sense of pride during your college years that is unique from any other experience.

"Act like youíve been there" is the advice that my stepfather gave me when I went away to college. He did not tell me what that meant. It is a hard thing to do when you havenít been Ďthere,í and it is especially hard when you donít know where Ďthereí is. College teaches you what that means: it is the ability to be confident where you are. You learn what it means to look a daunting week in the face and think, "I got this," and to apply that to new situations like job interviews and social settings.

I have talked a great deal about the academic vigor that college cultivates, but there are entire sectors of college life that have no influence on oneís GPA. Anyone who has lived away from home for college remembers the first time they did laundry at school. Maybe, like me, you ruined a favorite shirt because you didnít separate your lights and darks, or you put delicates on heavy wash. You probably remember all the junk you ate and soda you drank because your mom was not around to make you eat vegetables. As you go through college you learn how you function best. You figure out how much sleep is best for you, what foods you can eat, how much you need to exercise, and how to do your own laundry and take care of yourself. Without a parent telling you what you need to do, you find out what works best for you. It is invigorating to set your own schedule and know you can take care of yourself.

At the risk of being clichť, having a social life during college truly is an important aspectótake it from the girl who did the exact opposite her freshman year. I spent the entire year sitting in my room, watching Netflix and perfecting my Pinterest page. I had friends because my roommate had friends and because I was on the swim team, but I made little effort to reach out for my own people. I donít know what changed in me, but my third semester at the Mount, I be-came known. I started talking to people in my classes, going to activities with my school, and branching out and working with new groups, and I felt great. I enjoyed class and I did better in school. Forming those friendships makes you a happier person and helps you network. I have friends from across the country and around the world. Even though I never got the chance to study abroad, from my friends I have learned about different cultures and backgrounds. I have been able to recognize in what ways I am privileged, and in what ways I am not. I have learned what it means that we are all fighting our own battles. I understand the way the world works much better than I did in high school. And I now know people from a "small town in Maryland youíve never heard of" better than I could ever have imagined.

I tried to avoid the classic "stay in school" speech; I donít know if I succeeded. What I do know is that my college education was worth more than the credits I earned or the loans I accumulated. The stories I have from the friends I have made will last me a lifetime, and 40 years from now I know that I will still laugh at the time my friend burned popcorn and made the whole hall smell, or when my teammate melted a sweatshirt trying to heat it in the microwave. I will never again shrink my favorite dress in the dryer, but I will probably still burn my dinner to a crisp by forgetting it in the oven. My four years in Maryland have made me who I am. I am so different from who I was when I started here; and yet, I have never felt more myself.

Read other articles by Katie Powell