Dear Mount Mary Freshmen,
You’re probably very excited and nervous about this new chapter of your life. I was once in your shoes. You don’t quite know what to expect from college, but this new taste of freedom and independence is something you’ve looked forward to for years. Congratulations on beginning this wonderful new journey!
I remember the first few days of my freshman year. It was a shock to be away from home and to not know what the next four years would hold. I thought making friends would be a challenge too difficult to face (I am very much an introvert.) I thought the whole college experience would be too difficult to endure. I didn’t know a single soul on campus besides my roommate (who I had connected with over the summer), and I was at a loss for determining the way in which I would go about trying and accepting new experiences.
Who was I as a college student? As a Mount Mary student? What was my place here?
These fears rang in my mind on move-in day. I began to unload the four boxes I had brought with me to the dorms as my roommate prepared to leave for the rest of the day. The following day would be orientation, and she would not be spending the night until classes began.
The loneliness manifested in my tummy and I felt sick. Soon my mom would leave and I would be alone in the school with no friends. I needed to make one fast.
The woman in the dorm next door had been moving in her belongings at the same time I was, and I had noticed my family talking to hers. Before I knew what I was doing, I found myself in the hallway talking with her and her mom. She and I found out we had a class together, and we agreed to do something together sometime!
In this time of new beginnings, I found myself fearing the change. But change isn’t always something to fear. Sometimes change just means that you’re moving up in the world. It was scary moving from elementary school to middle school, it’s scary moving from high school to college and now I find myself in the midst of another lifestyle change as I look for my first professional job. Moving forward will happen again and again in your life, as you move from different levels of schooling to higher ones, and as we move from one job to another.
On the topic of finding my place in the school, I quickly realized that I was still the same person that I had always been. I still liked to write, and I quickly joined Arches, Mount Mary’s student publication. I still liked to read, and I was happy to check out Mount Mary’s library right away. I still liked to wear the same outfit consisting of a graphic T-shirt and leggings or jeans. Even though my new friend and I went shopping and I bought some new clothes, I still favored the style I was used to.
At Mount Mary, I was still the same person I had always been, but I was growing. I found myself breaking out of my shell and talking to strangers. I was surprised to find out that most of them were very welcoming. I grew in my writing skills and watched myself become more accepting of the editing process. I learned how to take criticism, how to work as a team and how to trust myself a little bit more than I used to.
I thank my time at Mount Mary for helping me discover pieces of myself, along with the beginnings of feeling like a capable and confident person. When I had self-doubt about my work, my professors and co-workers in the Student Success Center always reminded me that I am talented and that I need to trust myself more. When I began doing so, I felt a lot more free. In the past four years, I felt like a tree that slowly and surely grew taller, day by day or week by week.
The truth is that some things in life we will never be ready for. We just have to do them anyway. Most of the time these things can be scary, but they turn out to be very worthwhile. Embrace the newness of this change in your life and don’t be afraid to have new experiences.
As I once again embrace a new journey in my life in the form of my first professional job search, I remember my beginning at Mount Mary. I remember how nervous I was and how I became a pro after taking a little time to adjust. I will continue to do great things in life, and so will you.
To you, the new generation of Mount Mary University, I pass the torch. I share my hope and my highest expectations that you will find a loving community here. I wish you the best of luck in your achievements and your challenges; I know there will be plenty of both. To you I pass down a piece of a home that I have come to know, and with it the community that built me. Good luck on the start of this new life chapter!
Class of 2020
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Julia Wachuta graduated in May 2020 with a B.A. in English, with a specialty in writing for new media and minors in business and Spanish. She enjoys many forms of writing, including articles, poetry, short stories and blog posts. During her time at Mount Mary, she was active in Arches and served for a time as managing editor of the publication. When she is not writing, Julia also likes to read, draw and cuddle with her four cats.
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As I prepare myself to graduate from Mount Mary University, I look back on all of the positive experiences that this school has given me with gratitude and a little sadness. The past four years have been such a journey of growth for me. My classes and work experiences have helped me to develop my skills in my field and also to gain confidence in my work.
Before I set foot on the Mount Mary campus as a freshman, the thought of college chilled me with fear. A voice of doubt spoke clearly in my mind, expressing every unanswered question I had. What if I wasn’t college material? What if the classes were too hard? What if I missed home too much? What if I graduated from this school the same person I was before? Everything about college gave me anxiety, and I was not confident about being there.
I quickly found out that most of my fears were pointless, and the classes were not too hard. The supportive professors and my new friends made being at Mount Mary enjoyable. Slowly, I saw myself begin to grow and change as my journey continued.
Freshman Year: The Year of New Experiences
My freshman year was a time of new beginnings. I had not chosen a major yet, but I knew how much I loved to write. I joined the staff of Arches Magazine right away and wrote a blog during the first semester. Arches marked the beginning of my growth in my soon-to-be writing field; I learned that the editing process was a good thing rather than an insult.
Freshman year was a year filled with new friends as well. I introduced myself to the women who lived in the dorms next to mine, and I talked to new people in my classes. I had never had a group of friends before! It felt so special to be a part of something. We ate lunch and dinner together in the dining hall every day, and we even had a secret Santa gift exchange during our first December at Mount Mary.
Sophomore Year: The Year of My Writing Major
My sophomore year was even better than my freshman year. In the first semester, I got to share a dorm with one of my new best friends. (She moved out in the second semester.) I had declared my English writing for new media major, and I felt 20 pounds lighter with the weight of that decision off my chest. I was enrolled in fun writing classes, and my love for writing began to grow. New ideas for stories, articles, poems and blogs bubbled around inside of my mind. In my Intro to Writing for New Media class, my cat blog, Cat Connections, was born.
Also during my sophomore year, I started working in multiple positions in the Student Success Center. I created posts for the Learning Services and Advising Facebook accounts. I would walk into the Student Success Center each shift with a feeling of positivity. The environment was warm and welcoming. The staff members cared about me, and I would always tell them whenever I had good news to share. I thought that these jobs would pair nicely with my writing major because they had to do with media.
This was the year when I felt like I belonged here. I belonged in college. Mount Mary was my second home. I was a writer and I was meant to take these classes and write these stories. It was clear that I had chosen a major that I loved, and that I would enjoy the second half of my journey at Mount Mary University.
Junior Year: The Year of Personal Growth
In my junior year, I was met with some challenges. My house flooded and my Mom and I found ourselves living in a hotel for 8 months. My dorm became a sanctuary, a place of consistency for me. I would prop my pillows up, wrap myself with my quilt, do as much homework as I needed to in a night and then play puzzle games on my Nintendo 3DS. My dorm felt far more familiar than the hotel. I lived there during the weekdays and invited my friends over for homework and game nights.
Junior year was also the year of some of my favorite classes. I was blessed to be a part of the special topics in literature Harry Potter class. I attempted to read the whole series during winter break to prepare for the class, but I only made it to book five. To my horror, book seven was spoiled for me during the first day of class! Overall, It made my heart happy to be with people with the same interests as me to celebrate a much-loved book series.
This was the year that I found myself. I had to lose a piece of who I was to figure out what kind of person I wanted to be. I found solace in art and creative hobbies. I poured my soul into my cat blog that I revived in my Advanced Writing for New Media class, going as far as to create digitally-drawn comics for posts. When I struggled, my professors were there to support me at every turn, and I once again felt the confirmation that I was right where I needed to be.
Senior Year: The Year of Confidence
After three years of writing, growing and breaking out of my comfort zone, I took part in two internships. The first involved making a book of Sister Jean Hasenburg’s poetry. Sister Jean was looking for a Mount Mary student to create a poetry book for her as an internship, and the opportunity sounded like a lot of fun! I met Sister Jean in Elm Grove back in July of 2019, and she gave me a binder of her poetry to work with. I used Blurb, a self-publishing company, to create her book. It was a heartwarming feeling to make Sister Jean’s lifelong dream come true!
The second internship was a social media internship in the Student Success Center. I created a Facebook and Instagram page for the department and posted tips, events, information and some fun things (like pets!) In this internship, I saw my confidence improve start to finish. At the beginning, I felt like I needed approval for everything I posted. At the end, I trusted myself enough to make unsupervised decisions without anxiety. My leap in self-confidence made me feel hopeful about my upcoming job search.
Mount Mary University, you’ve given me four years filled with friends, amazing classes, friendly teachers and lovely coworkers. You’ve given me a home away from home. I will miss walking your halls and sitting in your classrooms. I will miss so much about you. Your community has helped me become the person I am today, and I am eternally grateful.
You’ve given me new friends and new opportunities to make connections. You’ve taught me that growth is an ongoing experience, and that change is not to always be feared. You’ve challenged me so that I could learn new things and figure out how to succeed and carry on despite life’s obstacles. You’ve given me the confidence to go out into the world and give it my best shot. I love the person that you made me. Thank you for everything.
1. Student worker positions
Having a student work position can get you experience to put on a resume, as well as earn you a little money. The more professional the job, the better the experience will look on your resume. There is usually a variety of different positions for different kinds of people. Mount Mary students can look for available student work positions on MyMountMary.
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to make a difference in the world while putting work experience on your resume. It not only gives you work experience, but shows that you are a thoughtful person. Finding somewhere to volunteer that fits your major is rewarding in several ways. It helps those in need, but it also benefits you. Putting a volunteering position on your resume will give a good impression to possible employers.
3. Look for internships early
Even if you might not need an internship until your senior year, looking for internships early will show you what’s out there and what kind of experience you might want to gain. The internship itself is good experience and if you can get one early, that’s another year or two of work experience for you, something that professional jobs look for.
4. Join campus organizations
Campus clubs/organizations can provide students with opportunities to participate in events that they can list on their resumes. Mount Mary has organizations like Arches Magazine, Shalom Club, International Club, Art Therapy Association, Student Government Association, American Association of University Women and so much more. There’s something for everyone. Look at the list on Mount Mary’s website for a full list of possible clubs to join.
5. Participate in conferences or competitions
Whether it’s through a class, an organization or something you discovered on your own, attending conferences and competitions can be a beneficial experience. Conferences will teach you information important to your major, and competitions lead to possible awards that will look excellent on your resume. For example, Mount Mary’s Arches Magazine offers multiple opportunities for conferences and awards; one even includes a trip to Minneapolis!
1. The Cyber Café's Smoothies
I go to the Cyber Café when I want a treat but don’t want to leave campus. They have this mixed berry smoothie that makes my taste buds smile. What really makes it beyond great is when the lady that works there asks me if I want whipped cream on top. Is that even a question? Of course I do!
She tops it with a grand helping of the fluffy cream, and I use my straw like a spoon to scoop it up. I need a few bites of just whipped cream before it mixes with the deliciously chilled mix of berries. The smoothie cools me off on hotter days and brightens my mood whenever the straw hits my mouth. Sure, it may be just ice and mixed berry flavoring, but wow, it’s still so good.
A mixed berry smoothie with a pile of whipped cream on top from Mount Mary’s Cyber Café is good for the soul.
RATING – Tastiness: 4/5 stars Would order again: 5/5 stars
2. The Benches by the Peace Pole
What could be so great about some benches? You’re probably thinking. Let me tell you.
It’s not really the benches by the Peace Pole that are great by themselves. It’s not even the spot in general, although it is a really nice spot. It’s all about what you can do there.
There’s a pretty unique pole there with the word “peace” on it in several languages. I don’t know why it was put there, but I enjoy the message it sends. Sitting on the adjacent benches, I enjoy peaceful days with my friends, captivating books and yummy lunches. I would recommend to anyone looking for some peace to do the same.
3. Therapy Dogs
Every semester before midterms and final exams, Mount Mary invites the therapy dogs from Health Heelers to campus for students to pet. It’s supposed to be a stress reliever, and to some degree, it is. Either way, it’s an opportunity to pet cute fuzzy dogs. Who could say no?
There’s a cute basset hound named Toto that visits sometimes. The poor baby is blind, but that doesn’t stop Toto from being sweet. Toto’s paws are cute, and I’m obsessed with them.
Sometimes a Golden Retriever comes. Sometimes there’s a little dog that only likes to be pet by certain people. Often there is a dog named Hawkeye who is super friendly. One of the dogs, I don’t remember which one, licked my hand so much last semester that it was thoroughly coated in saliva. I certainly forgot about exams during that experience.
To everyone’s wonder, they brought a miniature pony last time they came. I was not on campus that morning and was heartbroken that I missed it. View photos from the special day on Facebook here.
I love that Mount Mary cares about our stress. I love fluffy puppies. I would’ve loved to meet the pony.
New students: don’t miss Health Heelers. You’ll regret it later.
4. Late Night Breakfast
The Monday of finals week, you can go to Mount Mary’s dining hall at 9 p.m. for a late night breakfast, completely free of charge. You don’t even need to use your meal plan. It’s a campus event, not a meal. They have eggs, sausage, bacon, waffles, tater tots and more.
The food is not the only fun part. Once you’re finished eating, there are tables set up around the sides of the dining hall where different departments host craft events. There have been tables with bracelet making, nail painting, watercolors, fabric, pin making, stress-ball making, DIY play-dough, and more! Last semester, I had fun at the watercolor station painting a portrait of my cat. My friends thought it was a really good painting. I was proud of the way that I used dark blues and purples for shadows.
Late night breakfast is meant to be a stress-relieving break from studying for exams, and that it certainly is. I can easily lose track of time going from table to table, focusing my full attention on craft after craft.
To anyone debating about whether or not they should go to late night breakfast: if you don’t go, you’re missing out.
Even before I ever chose Mount Mary, it was never up for question whether I wanted large class sizes or small. Whatever school I went to, it had better have small class sizes.
I never understood the appeal of large classes. Do you really want to be in a crowded room with a person reading from a PowerPoint that never bothers to know who you are the entire semester? I couldn’t live with the fact that the professor grading me wouldn’t know who I was. I want the person teaching me to build a relationship with me. I want them to know my name and know my strengths and weaknesses and to even know that I’m a crazy cat lady. I want them to care. I value professors who write my name on the board along with ‘happy birthday,’ just like my Spanish teacher did my freshman year. I would not replace that kind of caring for a different, bigger school. There’s simply no appeal to me.
I have come to feel at home at Mount Mary due to the community of small classes. We get to know each other and our professors. We learn from each other and from our discussions, discussions that would not take place in the same form in a bigger school. Many professors here know me by name, and I was pleased to find out that they still remember me semesters later. I would not trade that kind of community for anything.
Sometimes being a small university is a little overwhelming. Being a part of Mount Mary’s Arches Magazine means that students usually have several roles. It gets time consuming. However, it means that I learn how to do more things and that I have more practice than someone who only ever has one role. I would not trade that experience for anything.
Lastly, I have come to find that friends are made easier here. People talk to each other and help each other. I have made several friends by working with them in our small classes. I have more friends at Mount Mary than I’ve ever had in my life. I would not trade those friendships for anything.
I would not switch schools willingly. I would hate to go to a bigger university. Some of my friends told me that they would rather be a part of a big community, and that is why they chose their school. But I’m a part of something better. I am a part of a community that is large because people are connected, not simply because they exist. And I would not trade it away for anything.
1. If you have a meal plan, use it.
Groceries are expensive. So is going out to eat all the time. Unfortunately, your meal plan cost you quite a bit of money, too. At Mount Mary, if you are a resident, you have to have one. The school cares about your wellbeing and doesn’t want you to go hungry. With a buffet-style dining hall and meals pre-paid, it would be ridiculous not to use it when you can. Sometimes students get busy and have to miss a meal. If you can get the food you already paid for, it would be a wise decision.
2. Use your student ID to get discounts.
Some businesses, usually local ones, offer a student discount of around ten percent. I’ve used mine in local stores downtown, and it’s saved me money. I’ve even had cashiers smile at me and say that they attended Mount Mary as well! Carry your student ID with you at all times. You never know when it will give you the opportunity to save a dollar or two. Even if it only saves you a few cents, that’s a few more cents you have to spend elsewhere.
If you and your friend both need something from the store, go together. Why should the two of you spend double the gas money when you can share a car? Just remember that you should take turns driving throughout the semester so it’s fair.
4. Take advantage of the school’s gym.
It may not be everything you’ve wanted and more, but if your school has a free workout room (like Mount Mary does), you might want to use it instead of paying for a monthly membership elsewhere. It will save you a significant amount by the time you graduate.
5. Save your coupons.
Even if you have a meal plan, you probably want some kind of other food. If you have a coupon for something, don’t throw it away if you might use it. Also note that some stores now have online coupons that you can collect with your store rewards account. Mount Mary students can also save money on food by checking the bookstore for sales on food and drinks.
6. Participate in events with prizes.
If your school is hosting an event or contest with useful prizes, don’t miss out. At Mount Mary, students have the chance to earn good prizes by doing things such as participating in bingo, entering the poetry contest, hosting an incoming freshman and participating in other campus events. Sometimes it’s a good way to get free food, whether by gift card or by coming to the event.
7. Keep a bank in your dorm.
If you keep a bank in your dorm, your spare change will have a place to live. I put one in my dorm last semester and managed to save close to $10. You can save some kind of money with a bank. It might not be very much, but money is money. Over a period of time, you’ll have enough to buy something. If you’re still not sold on the idea, a bank can be a pretty dorm decoration.
8. Invest time in activities that you only have to spend money on once or not at all.
Going to the mall is fun. So is going out to eat, or mini golfing, or seeing a movie, or anything that involves spending your hard-earned money. Keep in mind that activities that you spend money on do exist. Buy a board game. Maybe get a deck of cards. Adult coloring books are fun as well. If you like to read, go to your local or school library and get free reading material. Your fun time doesn’t have to break the bank all the time. For me, just being around my friends is a good time.
9. Apply for scholarships.
There are many scholarships to be obtained, whether they are through the school or not. Mount Mary offers a helpful amount of money through academic scholarships, decided through your GPA and ACT score. Other aid is also available. If that’s not enough, there are websites that you can create accounts on to find scholarships, such as fastweb.com or chegg.com.
At first, I saw Mount Mary as this big scary place that was ripping me away from home. Sure, it would be a new chapter of my life full of opportunities and learning, but I felt safer in my bed holding my cat in my room that had been my room for years. I didn’t want to move into a strange room with a strange bed with a strange roommate without a cat to be seen. I was excited for this new adventure, but part of me wanted to give it all up just to be home again. Of course, that really wasn’t an option.
To cope, I began to make up a list of the reasons why living in a dorm was fun. Surely, it wasn’t all bad. Here is some of that list.
- Mom’s not here to tell me to do the dishes or clean my room
- I live a short hallway walk away from a bunch of new friends
- I don’t have to drive to class
- It’s an opportunity to have a second bedroom to decorate
- I can stay up late and it’s acceptable
- Food is cooked for me in the dining hall
- And it’s buffet style
- I can stock my own fridge and buy a whole cake if I want to and my mom won’t know
- I’ll be living with a friend. That’s kind of fun
- It’s an excuse to buy more fluffy pillows and a cool rug
- I’ll take the garbage out when I want, not when my mom tells me to
- I get to decorate my own bathroom
- Mom can’t tell me not to wear the same pants two days in a row
It is a kind of freedom. Living around a bunch of women who are also getting a new taste of freedom leaves room for something important: adventure. It’s an adventure.
Mount Mary gave me a great education, fulfilling opportunities and a wonderful community of people I care about that care about me too. I’ll go home sometimes. I miss home sometimes. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the ride while I’m here.
1. At an all-women's school, it's easier to make friends.
I was shocked to discover exactly how welcoming the community is. It's easier to talk to and connect with students that you don't know here than it is elsewhere. Personally, I've walked up to women that I don't know and sat with them and started a conversation, and most of the time it's turned out just fine. I have more friends here at Mount Mary than I have ever had in my life. I wish I knew before I came here that the community was this inviting.
2. No men, no problem.
I thought I was going to be thoroughly disappointed not to meet any men here. As it turns out, I don't care. Many women here come in having boyfriends or they find other ways to meet them. Besides, people don’t come here to meet men. I'm here to get my degree. The friends you make here can give you fun times, and introduce you to new people, too. I wish I knew before coming here that the ‘all-women' aspect would not matter.
3. It's designed just for you.
Mount Mary exists to create bold women and educate women for their future career. There is a more focused commitment here than just to say that the university wants to better its students. Mount Mary knows that women have struggled in the past and wants to create an environment where we can thrive. This women's university was built for women and cares about women. I feel like the staff here care about me, and care about others, not just about their students as a collective. Knowing this, I would have felt disadvantaged to choose a different school.
1. The work is not super hard, it's just all homework.
When I was still in high school, I was horrified by the idea of college. I thought the work would be so hard that I couldn't do it. As it turns out, the difficulty level is caused by the fact that a lot of work outside of discussion is done on your own time. It's not rocket science to do. College is about managing your time. If you need help, the people in MMU's student success center would be happy to assist you.
2. Yes, you can go to sleep at night and still get work done.
I thought that I would have to pull all-nighters all the time every week to be able to survive in college. If you do enough homework during the day, you can still get some sleep. You might not get 8 or 9 hours every night, but you don't have to stay awake 24/7. Mount Mary staff told me a good way to get enough sleep is to schedule classes either predominantly earlier or later. That way I would have a bigger window of free time for homework or whatever else I need to do so it gets done and I can go to sleep. It seems to have worked well so far.
3. I can't believe how close I am to my college friends.
Your high school friends will always be there for you, but look forward to making new friendships in college that will last a lifetime. After only two years at Mount Mary, I feel so close to my college circle. Mount Mary's social environment is so inviting.
4. You don't have to have a major right away.
Your degree is hopefully going to last you your working career, so it is important to put some thought into your major. The first year of college can be an exploring period – Mount Mary even offers a new Compass Year program for undecided students. Take some classes and ask some questions. My first semester, I took Mount Mary's Major and Career Exploration class. It helped me figure out what I wanted to make into a career. It's not bad if you haven't had a lifelong passion from childhood; it just means you need to try things. Finding something you love is important.
5. Managing your own schedule can leave you free time.
College doesn't leave a lot of time for hobbies. Students have to go to class, do the homework, and many people probably have a job, too. Fortunately, you have the power to choose your schedule. If you don't want morning classes, you can avoid as many as possible, though one might be required. If you don't want class in the evenings, don't schedule it. When you have control over your time, you can get your school and work responsibilities accomplished and still have time to read or watch a show.