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What alumni miss about Notre Dame

Andrew DeBerry | Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Work hard, play hard, pray hard. This is a fitting mantra for students in our community. The years here are intense, and we can find ourselves nearing graduation far too quickly. Wise counsel from alumni can put our experiences here in better perspective. What do alums miss most about this place? What advice can they pass on to students? I asked alumni who graduated one, five and 10 years ago these questions. Their full answers are at www.nd.edu/~adeberry/alumni.html. These are a few of the insights they want to pass on.FriendshipsWe are surrounded here by the most passionate, caring and talented group of peers that we may ever meet. The community spirit is unparalleled. It gives people the constant energy to work, pray, laugh and party. Many friends are together in one small place, and people bump into friends on campus no matter where they go. Several alumni noted that leaving this environment is a change that many don’t anticipate. Alumni miss the open doors in the hallway. They miss their roommates. They miss random college humor, occasional debates and late-night conversations with people their own age. They tell students to firmly hold on to their friends. These friendships may be the most important things we’ll take from college to keep for life.FaithGrads from all years advised against taking the faith community for granted. Tony Hagale ’03, a software engineer, said the thing he missed most was dorm mass, “hands down.” Other alums describe the difficulty of keeping the faith alive beyond campus. David Woo ’03, an English teacher in Hong Kong, says “I miss that faith community as I’m looking for a new Church in this exotic wilderness of Hong Kong – it’s a lot trickier to find people who profess Christ here.” Another alum, Derek Betcher ’99, is interested in religion more than ever now that he and his wife are building a family. He, like other grads, wishes he’d spent more time exploring his faith at Notre Dame because “it is such a fertile place for that kind of learning.”ServiceThe faith cultivated here often fosters an ethic of lifelong service. Tara Holcomb ’99 and Kathy Motyka ’99 both eventually chose teaching professions after service experiences like the Summer Service Project and the Holy Cross Associates. Michael Sweikar ’03, a law student, also recognizes that few schools have so many domestic and international service opportunities like Notre Dame. The ethic formed from his experiences will guide him in his professional career: “Focus on putting God first and always making time to help people and any activity you do will be that much better.” This attitude is the hallmark of the Notre Dame graduate. CareerThe alums suggested studying what one enjoyed while also taking the job search seriously. Some recommend doing graduate school before getting married. Ricky Sadowski ’03 encourages pre-med students in particular to think seriously before committing to medical school: “I’ve seen many people waste a year of their lives and money before dropping out. If you need time to decide, take it, everything will still be there when you get back.”Steph Burum ’03 demonstrated this thought-out search process. By volunteering in South Bend hospitals during college, she realized that she should pursue health administration in law school instead of medical school. While one may find a profession that sounds interesting, the actual work duty may be much different than expected. The alums noted that several “dream jobs” aren’t glamorous at all. Others said they still don’t know what they want to do in the first place. Some have blazed their own trails to find their answers, which has taken them in and out of the corporate, public and non-profit sectors. All alums encouraged students to do the hard work needed to find a job they can be passionate about. Alumni connectionThe Notre Dame family and its global reach can support alumni no matter what their professional path. Local alumni clubs are a great way to develop new friendships and find community, whether one’s interest is in athletics, service, faith or academics. Frank McGehee ’94, the President of the San Jose Alumni Club, wants students to be proud of Notre Dame: “Take care of your fellow Domers and work toward the better good of society.”The alumni tell us over and over about how special this place is. As we make our way towards graduation, the senior class in particular begins to understand their appreciation. At Notre Dame, we party too much, work too late and pray harder than we knew we could. And in the end, all we can say is thank you.

Andrew DeBerry is a fifth-year senior and has found much passion writing columns. He is glad to put his columnist pen into retirement now and encourages underclassmen to consider writing next year. He can be contacted at adeberry@nd.edu.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.