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The learning experience

Scott Brodfuehrer | Thursday, August 21, 2003

Welcome to college. By now you are supposed to have moved into your dorm and “settled in” (with the exception of that poor guy whose belongings flew off the top of his parents’ minivan on the Ohio Turnpike). Of course, being settled in just means that all of your things are in one room and that you have sheets on your bed. By the end of the year, that room will feel like home and you will have adjusted to all its quirks, whether that be coming to terms with the fact that it is smaller than a prison cell, learning to coexist with the 500 ladybugs that invade it or being able to ignore the bird that repeatedly flies into the window at six every morning.But what is supposed to happen between now and then? Obviously college is a learning experience – otherwise your parents wouldn’t have shelled out more than 30 grand for you to come here. Sure, you will have taken around 30 credits of classes, but a year of college is about much more than learning in the classroom.By the end of the year, I’d wager that most of you have learned other lessons. You will have learned how to live with another person, how to deal with conflict, how to deal with failure for the first time when that first math test gets returned to you, and how much alcohol you can drink before you get sick (sorry hall staff, but it happens).Look at your four years at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s as one big learning experience, in and out of the classroom. And it’s a learning experience that you get to direct. Sure, those that have gone before you have loved Notre Dame football and dorm spirit and alumni all ages – from those who graduated last year to those who are in the plaid pants – would love for you to continue those traditions. But you don’t have to do what they want. Your parents may want you to become a doctor or a lawyer. But you don’t have to do what they want. Your section mates may want you to go out drinking. But you don’t have to do what they want.This is your college experience. Use these four years to find out what you want to do and what you like. Don’t feel that you have to follow the paths that those before you set. The worst thing that could happen in your four years here would be for you to leave with a major that you don’t like and hating the time you spent here (I promise these people will be in the minority). The best case scenario would be for you to have loved your four years here and be excited to enter the work force, but of course sad to leave.So now that I’ve told you to define your own experience, here’s two big ways that those before you have made their experience the best. Study Abroad: There’s so much more in the world than Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s. Studying abroad will give you a small taste of it and expand your horizons in four months more than you can imagine. And you’ll return to campus appreciative of the wonderful opportunities you have.Dorms and Involvement: The dorms at Notre Dame are great. They are unlike ones you would encounter anywhere else in the country with all classes and people who are happy to be there (for the most part). You’ll almost certainly meet a majority of your friends in your dorm and spend a lot of time there. As you will soon learn, for most at Notre Dame (especially guys), dorm pride is big. But there are many other activities on campus that you can get involved in. Seize the opportunity to get participate in them, too – you will meet even more people and hopefully really enjoy them.Best of luck in the next four years. It will be a journey mixed with bumps, bruises, joy and elation. Keep on trucking through it all and cherish every minute. You’ll be a senior before you know it.

Scott Brodfuehrer is the managing editor of The Observer and a senior computer science major. He can be contacted at sbrodfue@nd.edu. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.