Journey to the Last First Day

Author: Rory Finn

Rory Headshot

In my supplemental essays for Notre Dame, I wrote about how important it was to me that my university cared about students outside the classroom, but I don’t think I fully realized what that meant until I got here. That’s the kind of statement that every college makes, but few actually can confirm. After three and a half years in this little corner of northwest Indiana, I know that the Notre Dame undergraduate experience delivered on its promise to educate my heart as well as my mind. I am leaving Notre Dame with a more broad, developed view of the world, a greater desire to help others, and the curiosity to ask deep questions about the things that matter. 

But this was not a seamless process. Honestly, when I first learned that all undergraduates were required to take two theology classes and two philosophy classes at Notre Dame, I was far from thrilled. These fields were unfamiliar and intimidating, and I was concerned about their potential negative effects on my GPA. Now, however, I credit those classes with fostering my intellectual curiosity and critical thinking skills, something I do not think I would have derived from my psychology, Chinese, or digital marketing curricula. I’ve taken two extra theology classes beyond the requirements because I’ve enjoyed them so much. One of my best friends is a philosophy major, and now I’m able to more deeply understand her when she talks about her own questions about the topic, and I can discuss areas of debate with family and friends from a more educated perspective as well. 

Another skill I’ve really improved since August of 2018 is public speaking. As a freshman, I was so nervous to speak in English classes and discussion-based courses like seminars. I hardly ever spoke or participated in my classes freshman year. I felt intimidated, unsure about what my professors might think if I said something wrong, and nervous about the quality of my comments versus the comments of others. After four years of seminars and college-level classes, however, I feel much more confident in my speaking abilities. I talk in every class now, regularly contributing to my classes across disciplines, from Educational Psychology, to Consulting, to my Jewish-Christian theology class. This is an ability that has been further developed through my presentation practice with the student business organization Student International Business Council (SIBC), and a valuable skill I can take with me into the workforce. 

In the wake of Taylor Swift’s re-recording of Red, I have spent a lot of time thinking about one line from her song, Nothing New: “How can you know everything at eighteen, but nothing at twenty-two?” I came to college thinking I knew what I wanted to do, thinking I knew exactly what my college experience would be like. I’m proud of the person Notre Dame has helped me become because it has shown me the importance of humility and viewing your life from a bird’s-eye view. Notre Dame has given me a world-class education, and I know this because my experience has instilled the realization that education is a lifelong journey.