University of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame


The Whole Experience

Being at Notre Dame is not about the degree at the end. If it was, then excitement would rise as graduation draws near, and as a senior, I can tell you that is not the truth. We seniors avoid the topic because thinking about graduation means thinking about saying goodbye to Notre Dame and to the unforgettable times that come with it. My time here as a Domer has been largely a time for personal growth and exploration. Academics are part of it, but there’s so much more. Being a part of FIDES, Four:7, and other Campus Ministry retreats has allowed me to become more grounded in my faith. Being a hall commissioner and an RA has pushed me to be a leader to my peers and to foster a welcoming community spirit. Volunteering as in India, South Bend, and Appalachia has challenged me to be truly thankful for my blessings and to donate more of my time to larger causes.

Freshmen, I urge you to bring yourself out of your comfort zone. Try things that you normally would not be interested in and open yourself to new relationships and memories. Some of my fondest memories at Notre Dame were either unplanned or unwelcome. The summer after my freshman year, I found myself searching for something to do over the summer. All my friends had plans it seemed, and I felt like a lost fish in an ocean of possibilities, unsure of what path to take. After waiting too long to apply for many programs, I finally settled on doing an SSLP in Austin, TX. It was relatively close to home (Dallas) and would give me a chance to work with children and youth. The idea of living with host families made me nervous, but I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be one of my favorite experiences as a Notre Dame student. All the Alumni that I lived with in Austin were very hospitable, personable, and encouraging. My coworkers at Heart House were uplifting, and the children, although restless, were a constant source of happiness. When my birthday rolled around, my host families teamed up to put together the honestly best surprise birthday party I have ever been a part of. It felt like we had known each other for years. That day, I really felt a part of the larger Notre Dame family.

That’s the thing about Notre Dame. We really are one big giant family. I’ve had countless encounters with this ND family in airports, football games, and family vacations. When I studied abroad in London in the Fall of 2012, I can tell you that I saw or encountered someone affiliated with Notre Dame in every European country I visited. I sat next to an Alumnus at a small restaurant in Amsterdam, yelled “Go Irish!” to a fellow fan at the papal audience in the Vatican, waved at a man running in Irish gear in Scotland, and sang the fight song with others on the streets of Dublin. The London Alumni held game watches in pubs and invited students over for dinner. If you are ever feeling lost or just need some advice, reach out to our family. We’re all in this together.