Author: Kelly Pacifico

Kelly Pacifico, Notre Dame Class of 2018

People say that from the first moment you step foot on Notre Dame’s campus, you feel a comforting warmth and heartfelt sense of community. This is the defining moment students speak of, the moment that they indubitably knew they wanted to go to Notre Dame. While I felt this same allure and sensation, the true moment when I decided Notre Dame was the place for me was different. At the end of my two weeks at the Summer Scholars pre-college program, as I was walking towards a cab and away from the Golden Dome, it was in that moment that I knew I had left my heart at Notre Dame. 


My first summer in the Summer Scholars program kindled a passion for Notre Dame. Having grown up in a family of Domers, I spent every football Saturday afternoon cheering on the Fighting Irish while wearing blue and gold. However, it wasn’t until I completed my first summer in the Literature Track that I began dreaming about becoming an actual student here. I would enter class, find the second row seat that I selected to become my home for the next two weeks, and, each day, hear different remarkable stories and thoughts from my professor and classmates. We were encouraged to speak our mind, read foreign novels, expand our horizons, and write our hearts out on paper. My professor challenged me, yet supported and guided me to find a new purpose behind my academics; both the class and my professor helped foster a deeper appreciation for my education.

I spent the entirety of my next year of high school itching to get back onto Notre Dame’s beautiful green campus. Finally junior year came to a close, and I fortunately found myself back at Summer Scholars in the Global Health track. I found this class to be equally enriching and valuable because it helped me determine my prospective major. I was considering an engineering path but was always interested in medicine. After hearing my professor and many other guest speakers tell fascinating stories about their service work and involvement in curative organizations, like WHO (World Health Organization), I realized I could coalesce my interests. I decided that I wanted to incorporate global health and bioengineering into my future studies. The Summer Scholars course inspired me to study something that I love and gave me a spirited drive to pursue my goals. Furthermore, it demonstrated that Notre Dame encourages its students to share their talents to make the world a better place.

Amid my studies, I found time to explore campus and meet many new people. One of my favorite aspects of Notre Dame is that every person that I meet is unique. They each have a story, list of accomplishments, and interesting talents. Both at Summer Scholars and now as a freshman, extraordinarily bright students and staff surround me. There is a special connection and mutual respect that allows us to share our thoughts and help one another. We also grow and learn from one another. Notre Dame is a community where everyone supports and encourages each other; Notre Dame is first and foremost a family.

Some of my best friends, whom I now spend time with on a daily basis, were people that I met at Summer Scholars. We bonded over the sense of comfort and belonging that Notre Dame provides to students and over our shared interest in the importance of our faith. What makes Notre Dame so special is that Catholicism is present everywhere. Our Summer Scholars experience started with Mass in the Basilica and ended with a service at the Grotto. I was constantly drawn to the Grotto. It is a serene location where all of my daily stresses and thoughts are quieted and where I can focus on peaceful reflection and prayer. During the just two short weeks at Summer Scholars, I spent many hours gazing up at Mary and the flickering candles while sitting next to fellow scholars on the benches. I have been lucky to have made such remarkable friendships and irreplaceable memories during my time at in the program and also now as a student. While I am both blessed and fortunate to have four years of undergraduate memories still in the making, my summers under the Golden Dome will always be the reason why I truly “love Thee Notre Dame.”