This past year, I began a journey a year away from Notre Dame’s campus. During the fall semester, I am studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, and in the spring I am completing a semester in Washington D.C. through Notre Dame’s Washington Program. While I could write an entire blog on why I made the incredibly difficult decision to study away from Notre Dame for the year, I want to dedicate this blog to the five things I have come to miss most about campus in my time away. For current students, I hope this blog gives a greater appreciation for the beauty of some more mundane aspects of the Notre Dame experience. But more importantly, for prospective students, many of the things I miss most about Notre Dame are particular to the incredibly tight-knit community built and fostered on Notre Dame’s campus. I hope this blog can demonstrate the love for the community you feel even a couple thousand miles and six time zones away.
1. Late Night Walks back to Fisher Hall
An unrated ritual that I experienced on campus was walking back to Fisher Hall–my residence hall on campus– late at night (often later than I’d like to admit). I would walk back from the library, with the sprinklers on God's quad wetting the pavement, a lit-up Dome would fall into view, and the large Fisher “F” would be ready to welcome me home for a night’s rest. After a busy day of work, this walk home would end up being one of the most peaceful parts of my day. During the day on campus, I would be so narrowly focused on what class I had to go to next, what assignment I had to submit, or what meeting I had to rush to I wouldn’t take in the beauty of Notre Dame’s campus. My walks home at night always gave me some time to reflect on how grateful I was to be ND and how incredibly comforting the campus would make me feel. My best friend Ryan would often join me on these walks (usually once we realized we had just talked for 4 hours and got 0 work done in the library), and we would stand at the intersection between South and God quad and chat for an extensive period of time just right there in the open. These conversations would edge the line between hilarious and profound but encapsulate such a fantastic era of my life.
2. Fisher Hall
Notre Dame Residence Halls are one of its most defining characteristics. Unlike many other schools, from your freshman year, you are placed in a housing situation that has upperclassmen three or four years your senior living right next to or down the hall from you. Over time, these upperclassmen have not only become incredible friends but also incredible mentors to me. There is such beauty in relationships that are both friendships and mentorships. I have found equal beauty in turning around the favor and engaging with underclassmen to improve their experiences on campus. Regardless of your dorm, I highly recommend Notre Dame students take advantage of and soak in the beauty of these friendships, mentorships, and peers.
3. Class friends, really good ones.
One of the best parts about Notre Dame is the strong friendships you form from simply being in a class with someone else. These friendships come with no expectations: you might not go out with these friends on a Friday night or even grab food with them regularly in the dining hall, but you have the unique experience of maybe sitting next to them in a class, completing group projects with them late at night in the library, or spending long hours in office hours looking to get some extra help from the TAs. The laughs and memories from these conversations are some of my favorites at Notre Dame. While I have been able to experience similar emotions studying abroad, the “on-campus” aspect of having class friendships and I really look forward to reconnecting with this special and unique type of friendship when I return to campus in my senior year.
4. The Dining Hall
While the dining hall might not be exactly what you think of when you think of the best aspects of Notre Dame and college life, when I have started to cook for myself three meals a day–sometimes I really do miss the buffet-style dining hall, where I wouldn’t have to ride my bike to the nearest grocery store just to pick up some extra food. The dining hall gives you the sweet bliss of being able to pick up your food at ease and even more, not having to do the dishes! Even more, especially as you move into your sophomore year, it is enjoyable to see all sorts of people in the dining hall. Walking through saying hi to class friends, dorm friends, or club friends can sometimes just be precisely what you need to brighten up your day.
How could I speak of a fall semester abroad without missing the incredible environment that Notre Dame football brings to campus each year? Having alumni and parents descend into town every other weekend in the fall creates an atmosphere of excitement that is almost unmatched. I fondly remember walking to class on Friday mornings seeing alumni and parents taking photos next to the Dome and just being excited to be part of such a great and unique community. Gamedays are such a uniquely amazing Notre Dame experience, and I can’t wait to get back to tailgates and touch-down pushups in 2024.