University of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame


The Beauty of Our Lady’s Community

After arriving on Notre Dame’s campus in the fall of my freshman year, I learned two things fairly quickly: first, that in the early weeks of the year when the sun is still shining and before the perma-cloud has arrived, our campus is stunningly gorgeous. Second, I learned that Notre Dame people are incredibly friendly. You would be hard-pressed to walk across campus without having someone smile at you, hold the door for you, or ask how you’re doing.

For me, there is one place that epitomizes these two facts of Notre Dame life—the beauty of our campus and the friendliness of our community—and that place is the path around the lakes. Let me try to paint a picture for you. On an early September day, the sky is a brilliant shade of blue with only a few billowy white clouds. Warm sunlight sparkles on the calm lake surface, geese meander across the soft lakeside path, and the trees desperately hold onto their summer green leaves. In one particular spot, there is a 10-yard clearing between the trees. In that spot, the golden light of the sun makes the Dome and the Basilica even more majestic than usual, with their reflections glittering on the water. The beauty is breathtaking.

The physical beauty of the lakes is undeniable, but what makes that beauty our beauty—our Notre Dame beauty—are the people that walk the path of those lakes. Every single time I’ve ever run around the lakes, without fail, the people I pass take the time to smile or say hello as I run by, and I return the smile or hello. It’s in that millisecond-long exchange of smiles, while surrounded by the magnificent beauty of the lakes, that I know why I’m at Notre Dame.

During the first few months of freshman year, I remember being told to take advantage of every opportunity available on campus, because Notre Dame truly has such a wealth of opportunities. There are countless academic lectures, clubs, volunteer organizations, dorm activities, and sporting events, to name a few, in which to take part. Sometimes, though, the thrill of so many new and exciting opportunities makes that quick exchange of smiles around the lake on a gorgeous day seem mundane. It isn’t. Don’t take those moments for granted.

One of the most important, most valuable things to do during freshman year is to create a different kind of opportunity for yourself, an opportunity that allows you to capture one of those seemingly mundane moments to appreciate the beauty of Our Lady’s University and the love of the Notre Dame family. Take a 20-minute study break to walk around the lakes with friends to talk about a book you’ve just read or the SUB movie or the meaning of life. Those will be some of the most memorable conversations of your four years at Notre Dame. Take the extra few minutes to sit outside on a bench with an acquaintance to get to know them better or to ask them how their day is going. That acquaintance might become one of your dearest friends.

Despite learning quickly that our campus is beautiful and that the Notre Dame family is especially friendly, it wasn’t until this year—as a senior—that I’ve come to deeply know these two facts of Notre Dame life. I challenge you, as a first-year student, to allow yourself the opportunity to experience both our campus’s beauty and our community’s love. It will shape your Notre Dame experience in a powerful way. And just think—all it takes is a short walk around the lakes with friends. Who can say no to that?