Journey to the Last First Day

Author: Hailey Oppenlander


I’ve lived through 18 years of getting ready for the first day of school.

And yet, entering 16th grade, I still got the first-day-of-school jitters, tossing and turning in my bed the night before my senior year officially began.

I still can’t believe that I’m typing the words “senior year.” My time at Notre Dame feels like it should be endless — though the conclusion is near, my heart just won’t accept it. The other day, I heard a professor talking about a potential new course offering and got excited, then realized I won’t be here to take it. When I start a sentence with, “During my freshman year. . . ,” I realize that only a small cohort of people were here for those days. When I pass the Dome, my awe is now tinged with a bit of sadness that I won’t be able to admire it forever. 

It’s easy to focus on the “lasts” looming ahead, but before I get too emo thinking about all the things that will soon come to an end, I’ll focus on the new experiences that I’m excited for this year:

My first class of this semester was my thesis writing course for American studies. I entered very afraid, acutely aware of the fact that my summer break was perhaps too much of a break, but I left excited to go on this journey with the nine other thesis writers in the department. We immediately started a group chat called “Thesis Survival Squad,” and we have big dreams of touring South Bend’s coffee shops together as we write our theses. (New blog series idea?) 

I’m also living in a new dorm this year: I moved to Pasquerilla West, affectionately known as PDub. Even though it’s pretty unusual to change dorms for senior year, I’m so happy I did! I’m rooming with my bestie (we even went to high school together!) and we live just down the hall from some of our closest friends. I love PDub’s dorm spirit already, and I’ve met so many new people who I can’t wait to get to know over the course of the year.

I’ve been a part of Unchained Melodies (an a cappella group on campus) since my freshman year, and this year I was elected president. This group has brought me so much joy over my time here, and I’m so excited to get back to performing with everyone. I know how much I felt welcomed by the seniors of the group when I was a freshman, and I hope to do the same for our newest members.

Even though the end of my time at Notre Dame is near, I can’t wait for these new journeys that my senior year presents!