A Junior Year Reflection: Gratitude for the Unique Notre Dame Dorm Experience

Author: Emily Shelburne

As a junior getting ready to study abroad in the spring, I’ve been so excited by the idea of leaving South Bend to start my next grand adventure. So much of my life has been focused on the future as I figure out summer internships, and sign for my senior year housing. It wasn’t until 2am when I found myself writing a paper on the fourth-floor lounge or the “vator” of Pasquerilla West (Pdub) that I had time to pause. My airpods had just died, and I was forced to listen to the sounds of the lounge as I powered through the remaining pages. Initially I was dreading not having my curated study playlist but within 3 minutes I wished I had taken my airpods out sooner. Also in the vator working on things was a group of 9 or 10 first year girls talking and prepping for upcoming exams. While I listened to them help each other study and recap the weekend I was instantly hit with a wave of nostalgia. My first year was also filled with many late night group study sessions where productivity might not have been at an all time high, but laughter was abundant. I was hit with the sudden realization that after I returned from abroad I would no longer have this time in the vator.

In my excitement for my upcoming semester and apartment hunting I had briefly forgotten all that I would be leaving behind. As I continued typing my paper and half listening to the group, I realized how much I would have missed out on had I not lived in the dorms. I immediately began to make a short list:

  • Close proximity to dining hall, student center, classes, library and other study spaces

  • Dorm events such as hall programming and section socials with lots of free food

  • The chapel in every dorm and numerous opportunities to engage my faith

  • A giant communal closet so anytime I needed to borrow something I had 200+ closets and options for every occasion

  • Intergenerational community with the ARs, Rector, both underclassmen and upperclassmen, and in Pdub’s case a sister-in-residence

  • Unlimited advice and experiences from a range of perspectives a couple steps away

  • Course recommendations and professor introductions from upperclassmen

Two Notre Dame students pose in front of the Basilica.

As I made my list I was taken back to all the time my friends and I spent doing the same thing, debriefing, working, and making surprising new friends. Some of my favorite memories, deepest conversations, and surprising friendships have been forged from random conversations in the hall, or a “Hey” that turned into a 45 minute conversation.

Because of the vator’s central location, if you take the elevator or simply leave your room you walk through the vator. This puts you in contact with everyone and anyone who's in the dorm. The steady flow of people may have made getting work done a little more challenging, but the conversations always made it worth it. Upperclassmen talking about their research, people asking for fashion advice, and even friend groups watching from the window as they sent a friend off on a first date were all normal parts of life within the dorm. Without living on campus for three years, I would not have the strong friendships with people both in my class and others younger and older.

A central part of my Notre Dame experience has been my dorm community. I have made major life decisions, sought advice from RAs and ARs about relationships and career opportunities, and accidentally stayed up until 4am getting to know people. The walls of my dorm know my greatest secrets, have seen some of my best days, my biggest cries, and are home to my greatest friends. A couple weeks ago I went to a friend, who is now an RA, for advice after my study abroad program was canceled. Over the next week she sat with me numerous times and let me talk out all the options, listened, and gave advice based on her own experiences abroad. Our friendship began my first year of college, when she was in the vator and joined a random conversation my friends and I were having. My friendships have extended beyond the walls of the dorm as I’ve gone to concerts and spent numerous breaks at the homes of friends who I became close with because of a random conversation in the hall. Notre Dame’s policy of living on campus for three years, unlike many other colleges which allow sophomores to move off campus, is a major reason for many of my core memories.

A group of Notre Dame students pose with letters

As I finished up my paper I suddenly found myself feeling really old, but excited for the underclassmen and all the memories they were starting to make. It's crazy to think that something I initially dreaded as an incoming first year, living on campus for 3 years, has become one of the most transformational parts of my college experience. I’m so thankful for the time I’ve had to develop strong friendships, the hours of meaningful conversations, and joy that the Pdub community has brought to my life. Living on campus and within my dorm community has drastically shaped my college experience for the better. Though I’m still excited to move off-campus senior year, I’m truly going to miss the community found in Pdub as I go abroad and then return off-campus as a senior next fall.