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The Notre Dame experience

David Barrett -- Notre Bum | Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Tom Petty is blaring from the speakers of my Toyota Camry as I drive along the flat Indiana landscape. Farms are everywhere but yet I don’t see many farmers tending to their fields. The heat must have drove them indoors. The heat of August is never more prevalent than it is right now. The sun is beating down on the countryside and I see waves of heat rising off the pavement in front of me. I give silent thanks for the quality air conditioner that Toyota has provided and turn up the radio as I begin to sing to “Free Falling.”It’s not long before the fields of corn and tobacco turn into gray city buildings and busy intersections. The more I drive the taller the buildings get and the Mom and Pop shops give way to shopping malls and fast food restaurants. South Bend hasn’t changed much in the three months that I’ve been away. It’s still the same. But even if it had, I don’t think I’d notice. It’s not why I’m here. I have bigger fish to fry.I see St. Joseph High School in front of me on the left and begin to get excited. I’m almost there. Taking a right at the stoplight, I drive alongside the golf course and look ahead to see the Dome and the Basilica rise above the trees. The sky is vibrantly blue against the deep green of the trees. The sun has yet to let up its intensity giving the Golden Dome a brilliance that makes it seem as though two suns are in the sky. Everything that had been drab and gray is now green and lush. Past the smiling and warm security guard, I pass through campus slowly, taking everything in as if it was all new to me. The grass is so healthy it could almost pass off as being blue and everyone that I see is smiling. Yes, I smile and think to myself, Notre Dame has never looked so good.This is the beginning of my fourth year at Notre Dame. Four years is a lifetime to some, but nothing of the sort to me, especially here. I look back at myself and the kid that came here three years ago and I see a little sprout that had no clue about what he wanted or who he wanted to be. I knew Notre Dame was great, but when I walked on campus 40 pounds lighter and scared half to death, I had no idea that within a month or so, I would neglect to call Kentucky home and beg to get back to campus every time I was away.Now, I look at myself and realize that besides the 40 pounds, nothing’s changed much. I’m still scared but not because of the anxiety I had about making friends or because in a year I’ll be thrown into a job market that has seen better days. I’m scared because I don’t want to leave. I’m not ready to leave. I’m not ready for it to be over. Please don’t make me leave.You know, I envy you freshmen, not because of the science, math and foreign language requirements that I barely made it through, but I envy you because you have four whole years left in the greatest place I’ve ever known. You have four and in some cases five years at Notre Dame, a place where you can break the mold that you’ve been dying to get out of since freshmen year of high school. You can invent or reinvent yourself under the Dome and the world you’ve always planned to conquer is at your fingertips. Here, the world is yours for the taking.Notre Dame is a place where people say “God bless you” and mean it. It’s a place where it doesn’t matter if you’ve ever met a person before, but because you’re a Domer you consider him or her family. It’s a place where you can go to a foreign country and alumni will take it upon themselves to look you up and take you out to a five-course dinner. It’s a place where people who usually don’t see the better part of anything before noon wake up early to get ready for football games. It’s a place where people go out of their way to help you even if you’ve done nothing to warrant such kindness. So, in effect, why would I want to leave?But for us seniors, all is not lost. If you think about it, we have a quarter of our entire Notre Dame experience left to do with as we please. So let’s make it a good one because we’re going to remember it for the rest of our lives.

David Barrett is a senior econimcs and philosophy major. His column appears every other Wednesday. 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.