Monday, April 20, 2015

What If...?

Hello everyone!  With another weekend gone and graduation just around the corner, I've been thinking a lot about leaving Saint Mike's (as nervewracking as it is to say that).  I've also been reflecting on why I chose to come to SMC, and how different the past four years would've been if I hadn't come here.  It's impossible to imagine all the things that could've been different.  I'm sure I would've done just fine had I picked somewhere else.  But I think the fact that I was so easily able to come up with a list of experiences that Saint Mike's and the surrounding Vermont community has provided me is a testament to how important my decision was, and how it will continue to impact me even after I leave campus next month.

I can't rank my experiences in order of importance, because I think they each serve a different purpose depending on the time and place.  But here are a few of the thoughts that come to mind when I ask myself "What if I didn't chose to go to Saint Mikes?":

1. I wouldn't have met some of who I consider to be the greatest people on earth.  Before coming to SMC, I was beyond nervous about making friends, especially because I was very comfortable with my friends at home.  But living here for four years has allowed me to meet some people who I know I will be friends with for life.  Last weekend, I attended my best friend Cait's induction ceremony into Beta Beta Beta (the National Biology Honor Society) and the professor who spoke talked about how he has been involved with many institutions, but he talks to his SMC friends the most.  I know I talk about them a lot, but I seriously love the friends I've made here.  Each of them has impacted me in a unique way and I couldn't be more grateful.
My roommates and me on the first day of class last semester
Amelia, me, and Cait
2. I probably wouldn't have discovered how much I love to sing.  My first attempt at getting more involved with Mass at SMC was actually through piano.  My style didn't really mesh with what would've been expected of me, so Jerome, the director, asked me to sing a few notes instead.  I was very nervous...before that, I had never really had experience with singing beyond elementary school chorus or in the car.  I distinctly remember calling my mom on the way home from the chapel that day to tell her that I had somehow managed to become part of the Liturgical Choir.  Being in choir has probably been the highlight of my entire Saint Mike's experience and one of the things I have no doubt I will miss the most once I graduate.
2.5 - I wouldn't know nearly as many "kid jokes," as I like to call them.  It has become a tradition that I tell a kid joke at the beginning of every choir practice (Ex: What size does a clairvoyant wear? A medium).  Needless to say, I now know quite a few of these (which is very helpful when I babysit)!


The Fab 5, as we like to call ourselves. I love these crazy choir kiddos.
3. I might not have gone to Ireland.  When I decided to go abroad, my friends, family, and everyone in the Office of Study Abroad (shout out to you Peggy) as well as the people who work with API (the program I went through), were really supportive and helped to make my experience as amazing as it was.  I can't wait to get back to Galway someday!


4. I wouldn't have added a Sociology minor or become a Chemistry tutor.  To be honest, I didn't even know what sociology was when I first got to Saint Mike's.  But thanks to the liberal studies curriculum, as I talked about in one of my recent posts, and the recommendation of one of my friends, I decided to take a Sociology course and loved it enough to minor in it.  Also thanks to the liberal studies curriculum, I got to take General Chemistry I (which doesn't have anything really to do with my major or minor) and become a tutor the following semester.  It was a great way for me to pursue my interest in chemistry without having to commit to majoring in it.

5. I wouldn't have gotten to see Macklemore, Christina Perri, or Parachute in concert.  Macklemore came for our spring concert my sophomore year, and it was awesome.  I talk about it on each of my tours.  Christina Perri and Parachute, some of my favorite acts, have both been to Higher Ground (a small venue a few minutes from campus in South Burlington) in the past few years.  Also, when I was a sophomore, my friends and I decided to take a trip to Montreal for the weekend, one of the reasons being to see Christina Perri and Jason Mraz.  I had a great time on that trip; it showed my friends and I that we were becoming mature and responsible enough to take care of ourselves for a weekend (always knowing that we had people back at Saint Mike's if we needed anything while we were away).

6. I wouldn't have had my year-long internship as part of my Practicum class.  For this entire academic year, I have been interning in an alternative therapeutic classroom at Winooski High School.  While it has been stressful at times, overall it has been a wonderful learning experience and I will certainly miss my students once I say goodbye to them next week.

I know this is getting long, so here are some a few more quick thoughts I had:

7. I probably wouldn't have gone skiing as much (thank you SMC for the $65 Smuggs pass!).



8. I wouldn't have tried painting (thank you to my creative friends for inspiring me).

9. I wouldn't be as happy and wouldn't understand the true meaning of the word "community."  I could go on forever here, but I'll just say that I really consider Saint Mike's to be a second home.  I love the people and my life here.  Even though I get stressed (more often than I'd like to admit), I wouldn't trade my experience here for anything.

10. I wouldn't have an appreciation for the saying "Home is where the heart is."  Even though I won't ever be an undergrad at Saint Mike's again, I know that I can always return and be welcomed with open arms, and that is the best feeling in the world.
A greeting you may or may not hear quite often from the residents of TH214. :)
 Thanks for bearing with me through that list!  I hope this helps any prospective students trying to make their decision about where to spend the next four years of your lives.  Whatever you choose, I wish you the best!

~Merrill

PS Quick birthday shout out to my best friend Caitlin.  You rock dude.
PPS Can't say I've been listening to any song or artist in particular lately - mostly a lot of country because the warm weather recently is getting me in the mood for summer!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Choosing to be Happy

Happy belated Easter!  Even though I've had a four day weekend (thank you Saint Mike's!), if I'm being honest, I could definitely use a bit more time off to catch up on all my work.  As the semester starts to wind down, I have major assignments to complete and/or exams to study for in all my classes.  I'm not going to lie - this is a bit overwhelming, especially when I consider the fact that in just over a month I'll be graduating.

If you've read just about any of my posts, you can probably tell that I really love Saint Mike's.  I've taken some fantastic classes during my time here and had some priceless experiences (with my friends, as part of the Liturgical Choir, studying in Ireland, etc.).  So thinking about leaving this place I have come to call my home is a bit scary.  I will no longer be living with my best friends, nor will they be a two minute walk from my house.  I won't get to celebrate Mass in the Chapel every Sunday night with my favorite crazy people.  Soon I'll have to say goodbye to the students I've been working with at my internship every week since the end of August.

Despite all of this, I have a choice to make.  I can choose to dwell on the fact that many of the things I love about Saint Mike's will soon be merely memories of "the best four years" of my life, as they say, or I can choose to be grateful for the friends I've made, the experiences I've had, the lessons I've learned, and how much I've grown.  All of these aspects contribute to why I truly believe my time at Saint Mike's is priceless (though I know it does have a price...thanks mom and dad for helping me out with that :)).  Maybe more importantly, I can choose to just smile and be happy, especially despite all my stress and work, I have friends who can make me laugh.

Whether or not I'm excited about graduation depends on the day, and sometimes even the moment.  I'm not excited to leave behind some of the experiences I've gotten used to having on a daily basis, but I am excited to put the skills and lessons I've learned both academically and about myself to good use.  I'm not exactly sure where I will end up, but I do know that I want to be a counselor.  Being a psychology major has helped me to solidify that decision, and now I need to decide what age group I want to work with (I'm currently debating between kids and married couples).

I've tried to include songs that I've been listening to at the end of most of my posts, so I want to end by sharing a song with you that I've known for a few years, but that I feel really applies to me right now.  It's called "93 Million Miles" by Jason Mraz.  The point of the song is basically to express that no matter where you are or where you go, you can always go back home.  For me, "home" no longer refers to just my house in New Hampshire.  It means Saint Mike's, it means Galway (Ireland), it means the Maine coast, and it's a feeling I get when I hang out with my best friends and my mom.  I have no doubt that in a few years, I will have places to add to this list of where and what I consider home.



Okay, time to remind myself that I still have a few more weeks and quite a lot of work to do before graduation, so I'm off to try and be productive!

Thanks for reading, as always! Feel free to email me with any questions or find me on Twitter. Looking forward to the Accepted Students Day this coming Saturday!
~Merrill

PS In addition to the Jason Mraz song, I've been spending a lot of time listening to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I just finished it last night - it was crazy but so good!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Getting the Creative Juices Flowing

Hello everyone and happy hump day!  For those of you on spring break, hope you're enjoying some much needed rest and relaxation!  I have been home in New Hampshire since Friday.  While I love being home (both because I like hanging out with my family and because it gives me a chance to take a step back and remember what I love about Saint Mike's), I'm excited to go back this weekend.

While my roommates have all been pretty busy lately (Lauren has her documentary that she's working on with our friend Sheila due April 1, Alex just finished her business plan, and Cait just had to give a presentation on her thesis), last weekend and this past week we found some time to relax in a way that was new for all of us: by painting.

On Saturday (during the weekend before break), Cait, Lauren, and I went out to A.C. Moore and picked out some canvases and paint supplies.  That night, we had a few of our friends come over and paint with us.  I ended up with some abstract art because I'm not the best with actual pictures:



 I've never really thought of myself as an artist (and I still don't really), but painting was surprisingly fun and relaxing.  We all commented on how quiet we were because we were so focused on each of our projects!  Even still, it was great to try something new and have my friends there to enjoy it with me.  Here's Lauren's fantastic elephant:




The day before break started (last Thursday) was Cait's thesis presentation.  Once we were both out of class, we decided we wanted to paint again, so we hopped in the car and picked up some more canvases.  Cait painted the whale tails for her uncle, which are on  the side on the highway (and always a signal for me that I'm close to home!):



I forgot to take a picture of my second project, but I painted this quote I recently found: "Take pride in what you have accomplished and faith in how far you can go." (There seems to be some speculation on who originally said it.)  Regardless, I thought it was quite fitting as I enter the final stretch of my senior year at Saint Mike's (yikes!).

Since we still have a lot of paint left, I definitely see myself picking up some more canvas before the semester is over.  I'm so happy that my roommates encouraged me to do this because it probably wouldn't have crossed my mind otherwise!

Time for me to get back to some homework!  To all the recently accepted students, congratulations!  Looking forward to seeing many of you next weekend at the Open House!

Thanks for reading!
~Merrill

PS I've been listening to a lot of random music lately, but a lot of my listening time has been devoted to the audio version of the book Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I really like it so far!

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Beauty of a Liberal Arts School

Happy Friday everyone!  Can't believe another week has already flown by and that next week is spring break.  Even though I have a decent amount of work to do, I'm looking forward to seeing my family and my goat Jack. :)

As I'm sure you know, Saint Mike's is a liberal arts school.  This means that, as part of the curriculum, students are required to take classes in a variety of subject areas outside their major(s).  This is especially helpful for people who come in not knowing what they want to major in - it allows them to explore the many options Saint Mike's has to offer.  I came to Saint Mike's already knowing that I wanted to be a psych major, but because of the liberal arts requirements (LSRs), I decided to add a sociology minor.  Without the option to take Intro to Sociology or the encouragement of my peers, I might not have had the opportunity to even discover what sociology really is, and now I absolutely love it.

Another great thing about taking classes in different subjects is that they have this weird way of relating to each other.  I have found this to be the case during just about every semester I've spent here at SMC.  Here's an example.  You wouldn't think that Psychology of Marriage and Relationships would have anything to do with Demography and Public Health, right?  Wrong.  In my Demography class, we just finished up a unit on mortality.  One of the things we noted was that married men live longer than single men.  In my Marriage and Relationships class (aka the best class ever), when we were discussing gender differences, we talked about how men reap more benefits from being married, including living longer, healthier lives (I'm paraphrasing a bit here).  Interesting, right?  Even if it's just minor details from different classes that connect to each other, it always reminds me that what I'm learning in each of my classes contributes to my overall "collection" of knowledge, rather than just being important in that one class.

Another great thing about Saint Mike's is that I have friends within my major, but many of my closest friends aren't psych majors.  This means that I get to hear about what they're doing in their classes - ones that I might not have the opportunity to take.  All of the students here are extremely passionate about what they're majoring in, which makes listening to them talk about their learning that much more exciting.  Even though I'm sure I'll be able to speak to this more a few years after graduation, I truly feel like I'm getting a well-rounded education here at Saint Mike's, and I couldn't be more thankful.

Here are some pictures of the snowy campus I don't think I've shared with you all yet (and that I have the privilege to see on my walk to class each day):

I was standing right in front of the library when I took this one.
Here you can see Hoehl (the Admissions building).
Have a great weekend everyone!  And to those of you participating in the overnight program on Sunday, have fun!

~Merrill

PS If you haven't heard, Saint Mike's now has a student run Instagram (knightlifevt), and I'm in charge of it this week, so feel free to check it out!
PPS This week I've been listening a mismatch of tunes, but this morning I was all about the band The Cab, specifically their album Symphony Soldier. (Thank you to my best friend Paige for introducing me to them!)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For

Hello everyone and welcome to the weekend! As always, I'm excited to have a few days off to relax and catch up on work.  I'm also looking forward to this coming week for many reasons (one being the parent Knight Chat on Monday night).  Next week is winter break for Winooski High School, where I intern in an alternative classroom.  Though I really enjoy working there, I'm excited to have a few extra hours to myself next week!

Anyway, you may be wondering about the title of this post.  As you may have noticed at the bottom of one of my previous posts, I really love Sam Hunt (not to be confused with Sam Smith, though he's great too).  Naturally, when I found out he was coming to Higher Ground, a small but awesome venue just a few minutes from Saint Mike's, I simply had to go.  His show was scheduled for the day before Valentine's Day.  My friends Hanna (who I intern with) and Emma (my roommate for two and a half years) love Sam Hunt as well, so I thought it would be really fun to go as a Valentine's Day treat to ourselves.

Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned, as I know all too well.  I was a little too slow in buying my tickets, and by the time I got around to it (only a few days after they had gone on sale), they were sold out.  Needless to say, I was pretty bummed.  Despite various efforts to get tickets, it didn't work out.

Here's where the title comes in.  Instead of going to see Sam Hunt last Friday, I ended up going to Starbucks - and getting a delicious chai tea latte - with Emma and our friends Sarah and Cara.  We probably spent about two hours there just chatting and having a great time.  When I arrived back at my townhouse, my roommates were waiting for me to tell me they were having a "Merrill Appreciation Day" party since we never had a birthday party for me (yes, we are in college and still have birthday parties, complete with cake, candles, and presents, for each other).  Emma and the girls had been in on the surprise and had purposefully kept me out for a while.  Even though I later put the pieces together and figured out that I'd had many hints throughout the day, I was completely surprised.  More than that, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my friends.  They got me my favorite snacks and dessert, and invited some of my favorite Saint Mike's people to come hang out.  I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually happy I wasn't able to get Sam Hunt tickets.  I'm sure he will go on tour again!



I'm not blogging about this to brag about how awesome my friends are (ok, maybe I'm doing that a little bit).  What I really want to get across is that this isn't an uncommon occurrence at Saint Mike's.  My friends and I had a surprise party for one of my roommates Caitlin during our first year, and just a few weeks ago we had a surprise birthday party for our housemate Lauren.  I have met some truly incredible people during my four years here, and I am so grateful for them.  They have made my Saint Mike's experience exponentially better.  (Shout out specifically to my roommates Lauren, Alex, and Caitlin as well as Emma.  Love you all!)


Had to include this because it's super cute!
To all of the recently accepted students - congratulations!!  I hope that, if you decide to make Saint Mike's your second home, you will treasure your time here as much as I have.  It is truly a wonderful place and I can't imagine myself anywhere else.

Have a great weekend, and remember, just because things might not turn out as planned doesn't mean they won't be ok (or more than ok) anyway! :)

Thanks for reading!
Merrill

PS This week I've been listening to a ton of different music, including Sam Hunt (obviously), Christina Perri, Paramore, and some film scores (thank you Caitlin for influencing my Pandora choices).

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Lit Choir Trip 2015

Hello everyone and Happy Saturday! Not that I don't love every weekend here at Saint Mike's, but I am particularly loving this one because it's going to last three days (we don't have classes on Monday).  I started off my weekend by going grocery shopping yesterday with one of my housemates Cait (which, believe it or not, is something I actually love doing).  Then last night, a friend of Cait's who she met when she was studying in Ecuador last spring came to visit.  It was great to meet him and be able to hear him talk about some of the awesome things he and Cait did on the Galapagos together.

This morning, Cait and I got up bright and early to go to Smugglers' Notch.  (As Saint Mike's students, we get a season pass to Smuggs for only $65, which is less than the cost of a one-day lift ticket!)  We were worried it might be a bit crowded, but we got there early enough that it wasn't bad at all.  We had a great time and returned home with enough time to hang out and get some work done this afternoon.

Taking a break before our last run!
Though my weekend is going well so far (except for the fact that everyone in my house misses our roommate/fellow blogger Lauren, who is home for the weekend), I wanted to write about how much fun I had last weekend on the annual Liturgical Choir trip.

As I have mentioned before, singing in the Liturgical Choir is by far my favorite thing to do on campus.  The songs as well as the people in the group bring me such joy.  For the past few years, the choir has gone on an annual trip.  Traditionally, we leave on a Thursday night so we can sing at two high schools on Friday to wrap up Catholic Schools Week (which also usually happens to end with the Super Bowl...yay Patriots!).  We get to hang out on Friday night, then sing at a few Masses on Saturday and Sunday before heading back to school.

This year's trip was a bit different.  We were supposed to leave for New Hampshire (my home state) on Thursday night.  Due to snow in the forecast, we were worried that the high schools we had planned to sing at wouldn't have school on Friday.  Since our first Mass on Saturday didn't start until 4, we decided to leave early Saturday morning.

The trip was also different for me because our first stop was actually at my home parish.  I have to say, it was a bit disorienting having my two worlds collide.  Still, it was a lot of fun and I was happy to be able to share what I am a part of at Saint Mike's with some people from back home.  My mom, dad, brother, as well as the girls I babysit for and their parents came to our Mass on Saturday afternoon.  One of my good friends Rebecca came to one of Masses we performed at on Sunday.  I was so happy to see them!  

Grace and Genevieve, the girls I babysit for

As much as I love singing in the choir, my favorite part of the (shortened) trip was being able to spend time with some awesome people, including my mom, Jerome (the choir director), Marianne (an SMC alum who I adore), and of course all the choir and ensemble members.

Marianne, Jerome, my mom, and me
Me, Sarah, and Emma in my church!
Getting to be with these people, even if only for two days, reminded me how grateful I am to consider them part of my Saint Michael's family.  Being part of the choir is so special to me, and as much as I don't want to leave the consistency of seeing them each week, I know that I will always be welcomed back (thank you Marianne for being an example of that for me!).

To all of the students who've decided to make Saint Michael's their new home (I've been able to talk to a few of you on Twitter...love that!), congratulations!  I hope you can all find something on campus that makes you feel as welcome and happy as being part of the choir makes me. :)

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, and stay warm!

Merrill

Monday, January 26, 2015

MLK Jr. Day - More Than Just a Day

Hello all and Happy Monday!  As I'm sure you know, last Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  In honor of this day, Saint Michel's (particularly the MLK Jr. Society) put together a host of events for students to attend throughout the week.  I attended the Convocation on Monday, with keynote speaker Kevin Powell as well as many other speakers from Saint Michael's and the surrounding area. Though it took a large junk of time out of my busy day, I'm so happy I went.


society racism groups media hip hop
Kevin Powell speaking in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel last Monday
For most of my life, I've thought of MLK Jr. Day as just another opportunity to miss a day of school. However, this year in particular, I viewed the day a bit differently. In light of many things, including the Convocation on Monday, my Race and Ethnic relations class last semester (arguably the most influential class I've taken at Saint Mike's), the many events that have raised our attention to the racial injustices in our society, coupled with my recent viewing of the movie Selma, I find that I have had a lot to think about throughout the past week.

First and foremost, as my Demography and Public Health Professor pointed out on the first day of class, I am lucky to be alive.  More than that, I am extremely fortunate to have been born into a family that has enabled me to earn a high school (and soon college) degree.  In two of my sociology classes, we have read an article by Peggy McIntosh about white privilege.  Each time I read it, I gained a greater appreciation for all that is granted to me in my everyday life.


I don't want this post to sound preachy, but I do want to take a moment to be grateful for my life, as well as acknowledge the fact that not everyone has the same privileges I do.  Another one of my professors last week urged my class to go see the movie Selma in order to gain a better appreciation for the struggles that African Americans went through in order to obtain the right to vote.  As I said to my roommates (who went to see the movie with me), I don't get angry very often, but during the movie, I was quite mad at what I was seeing.  As I write this post, I'm having a hard time articulating my thoughts into words.  But I think what I'm trying to say is that it is that people were, and still are, judged and looked down upon because of their race of ethnicity.  It is unacceptable.  And it's not just in the media.  Just this morning, my Psych of Health and Wellness class had a discussion about an article we read pertaining to the the fact that race and ethnicity both have an effect on interactions, treatment plans, as well as outcomes of those seeking medical help.  I understand that it might be easy to group people together and make assumptions based on their looks - some would even argue that grouping people is a natural human tendency.  However, just because people may have similar looks doesn't mean they're the same.  As one of my good friends and mentors says, we are all strategically different, and that's a good thing.


A few days ago, I was having a conversation about people from South America.  One of the people I was talking to was trying to make a distinction between two South American countries, while another spoke of the countries as though they were one entity.  Though I'm sure no harm or offense was intended, it struck a chord with me.  Last semester in my Human Geography class, Professor Kujawa brought to our attention the fact that so many people speak of the entire content of Africa as though it is one country, when in fact there are at least forty seven separate countries (depending on whether or not you count the islands).  People do the same thing with other people.  Not all non-whites are the same.  Not all Asians are the same.  Not all Europeans are the same.  And everyone deserves to know that they are valuable and important.


While the speeches I heard on Monday were important, inspiring, and heartbreaking all at the same time, I left the Convocation still unsure of exactly what I'm supposed to do about the current state of our country as a soon-to-be college college graduate.  The best I can think of so far is to continue the conversation, with my friends, parents, peers, and you.  I also feel want to point out that for many years it has been my gut reaction to tune out whenever people use the word "history."  Now, however, I am slowly coming to understand that maybe learning about history isn't so bad after all.  As my Practicum professor said last week, we cannot afford to pass up the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.  We cannot just sit back and assume that others will take care of our problems for us, whether they have to do with racism, inequality, or something as simple as procrastinating on homework.



for the better

I have to admit that I had every intention of posting this on Friday as a conclusion to MLK Jr. week.  However, life got in the way, and here it is, already the end of the weekend and the start of another week.  After a moment of reprimanding myself for not posting this sooner, I realized that it's actually kind of perfect that I waited.  To me at least, it shows that conversation about these issues (and many more that I didn't discuss here) shouldn't be reserved to one week of the year.  The effects of people's actions have constant effects.  I hope that everyone continues to be inspired, in one way or another, to pay more attention to individual differences and to see the beauty in them.  We have a lot to learn from each other.

As always, thanks for reading, and have a great week!
Merrill

PS I've been on a Script kick for the past week...no song in particular because they're all great! :)