A Valentine to Notre Dame

Author: Hailey Oppenlander


Dear Notre Dame,

These past four years with you have been the best of my life. 

Though we’ve already spent eight semesters together, the time has gone by so quickly. It feels like not so long ago that I first met you. I was just a high school junior attending a campus tour, feeling so out of my league at this storied institution. It was love at first sight — I couldn’t believe how gorgeous the campus was. The students were so friendly and passionate, the professors so devoted and caring, and the school spirit so palpable and energetic. That tour confirmed what I had suspected all along: that you were the only school for me.

When I got my acceptance letter and we became official, it felt like everything was falling into place. I was soon living out my dreams as a student — signing up for too many clubs, cheering on the Fighting Irish from the student section, and grappling with important readings and questions in my classes. I fell even more in love with Notre Dame’s academic and social atmosphere, emphasizing the importance of community and collaboration. 

And even though we’re now four years in, my heart still flutters every time I pass the Dome or hear the alma mater. (It really never gets old.) Even though so much has changed throughout my time here, you’ve continued to be the place I call home. You’ve made me want to be a better version of myself. I see my peers here studying diligently, caring for each other, and dreaming about building a better world — and it makes me want to do the same. 

Like in any relationship, we’ve been through good times and bad ones, ups and downs. I’ve  chugged coffee and struggled to keep my burning eyes open after too many hours awake, questioned whether I belonged here academically and socially, and been disappointed at the ways that the Notre Dame community isn’t always extended to everyone.

But these aren’t the moments that characterize my relationship with Notre Dame. It’s the little things that will stick with me after I graduate. Doing the cupid shuffle with my friends on South Quad on a random Friday night. Reading a kind note on my essay from a professor. Eating Insomnia Cookies in an empty parking lot. Going to office hours mostly because chemistry is confusing, but also because of the friends I’d made there. Walking through my dorm’s lounge and (semi-accidentally) getting caught up in an hour-long conversation about Spotify Wrapped.

I’ll admit that I’m scared about doing long distance next year. What will it be like without my best friends just down the hall from me? What will it be like without the clubs that have become my family? What will it be like to not casually walk into North Dining Hall for boom boom chicken salad every Tuesday, or browse the endless walls of posters in O’Shag telling me to “Study Irish” and attend a Medieval Institute lecture series, or take pictures of the pink-purple sunsets from across the lakes? 

But I know our relationship isn’t over — it’s just changing. Though I’ll no longer be a student at Notre Dame, I’ll still be part of it, and it is part of me. As graduation draws near, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities I’ve had and the relationships I’ve formed here. To all the people who I’ve laughed with, cried with, studied with, danced with: in as non-cheesy of a way as possible, I love you.

Love thee,