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So be yourself

David Barrett | Thursday, August 21, 2003

Bienvenue! Willkommen!Many of you haven’t the slightest clue as to what these words mean. Have no fear, you will soon learn. The University requires most of you to take three semesters of foreign language during your tenure here, business and engineering majors being the exception. Those who do have to take the standard three might be fortunate enough to have already earned credit towards them by scoring well on placement tests. Kudos to those fortunate few. Regardless, you will graduate from Notre Dame with a debatable level of proficiency in some unnamed foreign tongue. Bienvenue? Willkommen? Well, I don’t speak French or German. But luckily enough, devoted study to beginning and intermediate level Español has taught me their Spanish equivalent, Bienvenidos. Bienvenidos amigos. Welcome to Notre Dame. If all goes as planned, you will learn many great and not so great, quite pointless in fact, things during your years here. One of them is the absolute butt-pain that is nine credits of language. Clearly, the administration takes seriously its language requirement. In my opinion, this most ghastly initiative is probably in response to the administration’s complete inability to lure true diversity to these lush lawns and hallowed halls. They thus compensate for this lack of diversity by creating their own in turn, substituting the real deal Spanish caballeros with aspiring Spanish speakers like myself. If only they carried it through. On my first day of introductory Spanish, my maestra told me and my fellow classmates that we would learn just three things that semester. First, we would learn how to make a most delicious salsa. Next, we would learn how to dance a most delicious salsa. Finally, we would learn lots and lots of vocabulary such that we might be able to simply sit there and talk about delicious salsa. And did we ever. Whew, we did. So yeah, you’ll learn at least one great thing here. It might be Spanish, might be Latin, or might just be salsa, but it will be great.Another thing you will learn here will carry you far beyond the fine aroma and intoxicating rhythm of delicious salsa. It might take you a few years and might sound a bit cliché, but if you are lucky, you’ll learn how to be yourself. I remember those last few weeks before freshman year. I thought a fresh pair of cargo khakis, or perhaps a pair of faded, ultra-hip flair jeans would assure me unparalleled popularity amongst my freshman peers. I’d be the cool kid with the sweet jeans. You may have already noticed, but trendy clothes aren’t going to set you apart. Your all-American looks and values won’t either. No, here we’re all great looking and God fearing. Take a look around, or at least this way. Right here, yea, what’s happening? Call me sugar. You have to find something else to set you apart. Or better yet, hold onto that something else that always has. Doing your own thing is probably a large part of what got you here. It wasn’t just the 4.0, the 1500, or the legacy, it was the extra-curriculars and the intangibles. Whether it was playing the flute or prancing around in a little tutu, whether you liked it or you hated it. Try not to lose it. Feel free to throw away the flute if you can’t play it like you used to or get rid of the tutu if it just doesn’t fit you anymore. Just make sure you do it because you want to and not simply because everybody else is doing it. Be yourself – you are a lot cooler that way. It took me a long time to finally realize that being “cool” is simply doing your own thing. There’s something cool about that kid who volunteers and volunteers and volunteers. There’s something cool about the kid who writes poetry and the kid who stays up all night playing guitar. There’s even something slightly cool about the kid who plays the flute. I stress slightly. So, from language requirements to salsa to being yourself, you are going to learn a lot about yourself and a lot about your school. It is both easy and fun to nitpick about the school’s few shortcomings, but now is not the time. Now is the time to get psyched about Notre Dame. It is time to skip classes, slam beers and stumble home. It is time to go to the chapel, ace your tests and help the homeless. Not the time to nitpick.I love to nitpick, but Notre Dame is totally awesome. It’s easy to say, tradition, religion and so on. But it is so much more than that. It’s the whole package, language requirements and all. Take any of that away and it’s no longer Notre Dame. You’ll see. You’re going to love it. Just be yourself.

David Barrett is a senior economics and philosophy major. He can be contacted at dbarret1@nd.edu. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.