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Five ways to make Notre Dame your own

Heather VanHoegarden | Saturday, August 20, 2005

I came to Notre Dame for one reason and one reason only – intramural sports.

I know it sounds crazy, but it is 100 percent true.

Three years, countless teams and four intramural championships later, I would have come to Notre Dame for 1,000 other reasons.

The Grotto, Touchdown Jesus, Stonehenge, the Dome, Bookstore Basketball, full-contact interhall football, Notre Dame football, the Basilica. And now, the Guglielmino Athletics Facility, the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, the Jordan Science building.

Notre Dame is full of symbols of tradition, prestige and lore. But we all know that, and so do you.

Maybe that’s why you decided to come here. Or maybe it was the academics. Maybe you were like me and it was intramurals. Or maybe it was like many and it was Notre Dame football.

But regardless of why you are here, you will want reasons to stay here. Notre Dame has to become special – but not like the Dome or the Basilica is special. It has to be special to you. So here are five ways to make Notre Dame your Notre Dame.

u Get involved.

I know – it’s a cliché. But it’s true, getting involved early is important. If you like playing Frisbee, then join the Ultimate Club. If building homes is your thing, then join Habitat for Humanity. If you like to talk, then get your own radio show. If you like math then join the mathletes. Whatever it is that you are passionate about, there is something for you to do – find it.

u Become a Weasel, a Pyro, a Dawg, a Rambler, etc.

I know we’re the Fighting Irish, not the Purple Weasels or the Angry Mob. It doesn’t matter. Dorm identity is huge at Notre Dame. Everything from Sunday night Mass to interhall sports to pep rallies is done with your dorm. When you meet other ND students, the first question is “Where do you live?” And the answer is not, “A suburb of Chicago.” So embrace your mascot, your colors (even if they are ugly), your hallmates – you will develop a bond like no other.

u Take advantage of the 25 “other” varsity sports.

Last fall, the women’s soccer team won the national championship last season on penalty kicks and returns almost all of its key players. And there is the national championship fencing team – two titles in three years. There is also the nationally-ranked women’s basketball team, the outstanding men’s soccer team, the baseball team, the softball team. Every team at Notre Dame is successful. Take advantage of your student ID – most games are free.

u Work hard in class, but not too hard, and get to know those giving you the grades.

Good grades are important but a well-rounded college experience is the most important. A 3.7 GPA is just as good as a 4.0 if you are involved. Just ask any employer – they want you to be well-rounded. Get to know your professors. No, really – do it. They are unbelievable people and most want you to succeed more than anything else. Talk to them after class, during office hours, during class. Just take advantage of the opportunity.

u Join the family – the Notre Dame family.

The minute you step on campus, into your dorm, into Notre Dame Stadium, you become one of “us” – anyone who has gone to Notre Dame or still goes there. It’s a true family like nothing else. So be outgoing. Talk to kids in your dorm, alumni, faculty. When you see someone with a Notre Dame ring, ask him where he lived. Maybe he was a Dawg like you, and one day he will give you a job. That’s how the family works – you both went to Notre Dame and that’s good enough for many. Once you step on campus, there are countless people around the country who will help you out as much as they can.

Find them.

Maybe everything I just wrote you’ve already heard. And if that’s true, great; you’re on your way to having a great time at Notre Dame.

But remember this: Notre Dame is a special place – the academics, athletics, tradition are incredible. But you have the unique opportunity to make it more than that. Make Notre Dame your Notre Dame. Notre Dame means something different to everyone here, including you.

Just like how after three years Notre Dame now means so much more to me than intramural sports.

Heather Van Hoegarden is a senior accounting major with a minor in journalism, ethics and democracy who hails from outside Chicago and whose main goal this year is to win as many intramural championships as possible. She plays volleyball, basketball, football and softball for Pasquerilla West as well as on numerous co-rec teams. Besides that, she loves the campus, the fight song and the alumni network. After graduation she has no idea where she will end up but is not worried as long as there is a Notre Dame Alumni Club that participates in an athletic league. Contact her at hvanhoeg@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.