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Significance From a Distance

Natalie Torta, C'24

sunset around Mount St. Mary's University

Natalie TortaHey! I’m Natalie and I’m one of the bloggers for My View of MSMU. I'm a freshman double-major in communication and business and I am from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My personal view will probably look a little different from the other writers on this page since I’m studying remotely this semester, but I hope that this perspective will help show the Mount from a new angle.

Two days before I committed to the Mount, I was 100% sure that I was attending Elizabethtown College in the fall. I had gone on multiple visits, a career day with the communications department, and was actively completing the interview process for the honors program. On paper, it was perfect: only 35 minutes away, beautiful campus, and a great communications department with prestigious networking opportunities. Having gone to Catholic school my whole life, I was also excited for the new experience of taking my faith into my own hands at a public university.

Mount St. Mary’s was not even close to on my radar. To me, it was just a landmark on the way to the Outer Banks, where my family travels every summer. I remembered the golden Mary statue jutting out of the hillside, but that’s about it. As decision day drew closer, I became more nervous about committing to ETown. The more I talked about it, the more I felt like I was defending my decision rather than expressing excitement about it. It was the logical choice, sure, but there was nothing special about it that drew me to it specifically.

My junior theology teacher and drumline instructor, Tom Baker, was on the receiving end of much of my indecision. A graduate of the Mount (C’18), he had convinced me to at least apply, if for nothing else than a back-up. He suggested that I take part in the Founders Scholarship Contest, which promised a full-tuition scholarship to the winner of an on-campus essay contest. I agreed, reasoning that if I won, I would have to attend the Mount. If I didn't, then I would go to ETown.

My mom and I drove an hour and a half down to campus early in the morning, sleep deprived, anxious, and desperate. Writing the essay was exhausting and I was ready to sleep the whole ride home after finishing, but we were required to attend a speech given by a previous recipient of the scholarship as a closing activity. Begrudgingly, I sat in the auditorium seat and prepared to zone out through the entirety of the speech.

But that’s not what happened at all. The speaker, Harry Scherer (C’22), began with the Mount’s slogan, “Live Significantly”. Since I did little to no research prior to my visit, I was unfamiliar with the line. Harry explained the Mount’s mission beautifully, how the university’s Catholic identity shone in its dedication to provide students with the ability to discover and live their purpose. The slogan also posed a challenge, almost daring me to accept the task. It was clear to me that I couldn't do that anywhere besides the Mount.

After the presentation, my mom and I took a walk around the campus, exploring the architecture of the buildings, the stone paths behind the seminary, and the Shrine Grotto. The car ride home was full of cautious, but hopeful, talk about a change in direction. When we pulled back into the driveway, it was official: I was going to be a Mountie!

Since that decision, the Mount has yielded unprecedented adventures, both the exhilarating and the challenging kind. In my first few months at the Mount, I found some true friends, developed a love-hate relationship with hiking, rescued a cat, and joined the cheerleading squad. Not too bad! That’s not to say that I didn’t face challenges, though – this semester may prove my most challenging. Distanced learning, though not the ideal mode of the Mount experience, was the best decision for me. The challenge now is executing significant living from an hour and a half away.

I have a framed photo of the Catoctin mountainside on my desk, taken by my roommate and best friend, Claire. I keep it there as a reminder, not only of my mountain home that I miss dearly, nor just of my friends who made the hike to the view worth it. It is my little reminder to integrate some of the Mount into my life now, even a state away. In writing these blog posts, my hope is that it will help me explore all of the small ways in which I can achieve significance right at home. Until then, go Mount!

Natalie Torta, C'24