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Four Years at the Mount

Junior year

How to Gain the Most from College

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

(6/2013) Looking back on my junior year, Iím overwhelmed by everything that has changed in my life with in the last ten months. I have discovered my lifeís work in helping others and have chosen a career in speech pathology. As a result, I will have to attend at least three more years of higher education after my senior year at the Mount. I have been given the opportunity to become a certified therapeutic horseback riding instructor, an exciting venture I am pursuing over the summer months. I am in the process of taking over the senior writing and editing position with the Emmitsburg News-Journal, which means taking over the very large shoes of my predecessor Samantha Strub. I have had the blessing to work with and befriend some of the most incredible people I have ever met, only to see them graduate on Motherís Day and scatter back to their homes throughout the States. Changes have been coming quickly and in rapid succession, which is both exciting and terrifying, and I know that this is only the beginning for me. This cluster of experiences has taught me some lessons which I would like to share with Mount underclassmen, though Iím sure all of these tips can be applied to anyoneís life.

First, take some time every day for others. Often the advice is to take time every day for yourself. That is also good advice and will help you stay sane despite a busy schedule. However, it is equally important to take time every day to benefit someone elseís day. In the long run, it will also benefit yours. This does not have to be a complicated act. Iíve done everything from taking out the trash for my mom to staying up all night because a friend was upset and needed someone to talk to. It could be the smallest act of kindness, even an anonymous one, but if you are not performing daily in a way that helps others, then your existence is incomplete. There is a self-fulfillment in helping others. You gain appreciation for your own abilities and respect for the limitations of the human condition. If you seek out those who are best served by your individual talents and abilities, I can guarantee you that giving back to them will give you a lightness of heart you did not know you could have.

Second, say no. I mean this in the most general way possible. Does your boss want you to take on an extra project when you arenít done the current one? Say no. Does a friend want you to attend a party scene that makes you very uncomfortable? Say no. If an activity is going to stress you out or overextend you, itís alright to say no. Both of these examples are actual scenarios Iíve experienced this year. The first, I was offered a tutoring position for my German class. A wonderful opportunity, but I was already working three jobs, studying as a full-time student, and volunteering on a weekly basis. It was simply asking too much of myself to add one more activity to my list. I said no. My professor was slightly disappointed, but understood and was able to find someone else who was available. Itís important to remember that, while you may be capable of something, it does not make you the sole proprietor of that talent. There are others available who will be able to pick up where you left off should the need arise, so take a deep breath and say it with me: No. Itís liberating, isnít it?

Third, prioritize. A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of walking one of the Gettysburg battlefields with a couple of friends. I had had countless trips to Gettysburg when I was little, but since Iíve lived at the Mount, I have never had the chance to visit. Iím simply too busy. Knowing this, one of my friends reminded me, ďDonít let school get in the way of your education,Ē and Iím not sure he has ever been more right about something in his life. There is so much to be learned outside of the classroom, but I was too busy hiding behind a pile of books to realize it. I donít just mean more ďacademicĒ type things to learn either. If youíre too busy studying, youíll miss out on learning new things, like how to fly fish, or the name of your best friendís favorite movie, or the color of a Japanese maple as it starts to bloom, or the sound of woodpecker chasing its prey, or the softness of a Cypress treeís bark, or the taste of fresh honey, or the smell of the local bakery. All of the senses must be used to complete the human experience. Every time you prioritize your work over your life, chances are youíve missed out on learning something. Take a break today. Go for a walk. Talk to a friend. Just because you can do that last report today, doesnít mean it canít wait until tomorrow. Some things are more important.

Fourth, try new things, even if they scare you. Scratch that. Especially try new things, if they scare you. Few things are more terrifying than the unknown, and as creatures of habit, we tend to turn to the familiar before trying anything new. Break that cycle. Now Iím not saying you need to go out this weekend and bungee jump from a bridge, but that karaoke bar youíre friend keeps trying to drag you to? Go, and try it. The worst that can happen is youíll make a fool out of yourself and have a good laugh about it later Ė isnít that the point? Iíve been able to do several new things this year including going to my first concert and dancing with a stranger. If either of those makes you squeamish, I suggest you try them as they are a lot of fun. If this is a big leap for you, start small. Try a new dish (Sushi, anyone?) or start a new hobby like crocheting. It doesnít have to be death defying; it just has to challenge you as a person. Remember, if it makes it easier, you can always drag a friend along for the ride.

Fifth, hang out with new people. All of my life Iíve been pretty introverted. I never went out much in high school and had a minimal social life. The same was true at the beginning of this school year. I talked to the same people I made friends with in freshmen year, and thereís nothing wrong with that, unless they are the only people youíre talking to. Within the past three months, I decided I was bored with it. I loved my friends and still spoke with them, but instead of hanging out with only them, I reached out to new people. Mostly these people were other resident assistants who I hadnít seen since training. They were names and faces I already knew, but I didnít know the personalities that went with them. I ended up spending all night star gazing with four people I had never hung out with before; now weíre making plans to hang out this summer. I also found a fantastic friend in one of the Mountís seminarians. We still talk nearly every day even though he is now over one thousand miles away being ordained. Involving new people in your life will not only provide you with new, fresh perspectives, but it will help you learn more about yourself. This year, because of the new people I have met, I have learned so much more about my faith, I have explored new music, and I have visited new places. Iím not saying to abandon your old friends, but try adding some new ones. You may be surprised by the result.

Finally, be open to change and Godís hand in your life. When I got home this summer and started unpacking piles of books from my suitcase, I realized just how prepared I was to go into the field of journalism. I have collected countless extracurricular texts on how to be a better writer, how to interview, and even how to write shorthand. I was so blinded by my own goals that I almost didnít see God guiding me down a completely different road towards speech pathology. Some may say that Iíve now wasted four yearsí worth of tuition going to a school without the right bachelorís degree. I disagree. The Mount has helped me grow and become a better person; it has taught me so much more about myself than I think any other school could have. In fact, I would even argue that if I had not gone to the Mount, I would not have come to the realization that I need to pursue speech pathology. That is not to say that God might not have tried to tell me sooner, and I just missed the signs. Either way, Iíve seen the signs this time, and I am ready to take the exit onto His highway for my life. Even if you, reader, do not believe in God, there is something to be said for changing your lifeís course if it is what will make you happy. Though I was fully submerged in the idea of journalism as a career, I knew I was not always going to be happy doing it. If thatís how you feel about something in your life right now, itís up to you to change it. Iím not saying you will be happy all the time, but if there something that will make you generally happier, why not do that instead?

I realize some of these tips probably seem a little idealized, but I do not think they are impractical. You are only going to get out of life what you put into it, but if you put in this much effort on a daily basis, just imagine the daily rewards. I am not promising you it will always be easy. Life never is, but if you can apply even one of these principles on as little as a weekly basis, I will promise that youíll find your college (or life) career more enjoyable. Who knows, you may even learn something along the way. 

Read other articles by Nicole Jones