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Thanks, mom – for the rest of my family

Heather Van Hoegarden | Friday, May 19, 2006

My mom made me do it.

My mom forced me to apply to Notre Dame and then when I was accepted, she convinced me it was the right place for me, despite the awkward visit I had as a prospect.

Sure I was a Notre Dame football fan-I wore number 44 in sixth grade basketball because I liked Irish fullback Marc Edwards-but I never thought I would go to school here.

But I did.

And so this weekend things have come full circle. Sometime in the last four years, I fell in love with Notre Dame. I fell in love with the campus, the traditions and the people.

And I will always hold my experiences at Notre Dame close to my heart. Everything from winning a football game in Notre Dame Stadium to working for The Observer to falling in love for the first time to playing every intramural sport I could fit in my schedule-I will treasure them all.

Maybe your experiences are different. Maybe you were friends with the bouncer at Corby’s, maybe you will graduate with honors. Or, maybe you won’t remember anything at all. But the one thing remains-these experiences are Notre Dame experiences.

Not everyone understands us Domers. They don’t understand why we can walk in a room, be introduced to someone who is an alumnus and instantly ask, “Where did you live?” and suddenly have a new friend. Most people don’t understand why single-sex dorms aren’t the worst thing known to man, and why thousands of people apply to a place where boys and girls aren’t allowed in the same room after a certain hour. But that’s what makes this place special-these rules and quirks are all part of being a student of Notre Dame, something an outsider cannot understand.

And never again will we be able to have this Notre Dame experience.

For me, that means no more intramurals, no more Bookstore Basketball, no more writing about Notre Dame football, no more SYRs, no more being in the student section. The late night trips to the Grotto, playing cornhole in my front yard, basketball at Rolfs, all things that are unique to Notre Dame, will never be the same. Because, for all of us graduation means we are no longer students at Our Lady’s University.

Our Notre Dame experience has come to a conclusion. This week has been a celebration-“last call,” as everyone says. For the last time we do the things we love about Notre Dame. We’ll say our goodbyes and go to a place where most will not fully understand our college experience.

For me, the past four years have been everything I’ve ever wanted and more. If you would have told me this is what Notre Dame was, I wouldn’t have believed it. I didn’t believe my mom at first when she told me Notre Dame was the place for me. After all, why would I want to go to the place my mom wanted me to apply?

Maybe you knew all about this place and so it fulfilled a dream. Maybe you are the first in your family to go to college and before you, a University the caliber of Notre Dame was an illusion. Or maybe you just stumbled in as a confused freshman like myself thinking solely about intramurals and accidentally fell in love with everything Notre Dame.

But no matter why you or I came to Notre Dame, we all leave having completed our Notre Dame experience.

And so a new experience begins. We have jobs or graduate school plans. Some of us will move far away to return home. But no matter what our future holds, during this new experience, we will encounter an even bigger community of Domers for the rest of our lives.

We may leave the Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus and the Basilica in South Bend, but Notre Dame never leaves us.

We’re family. No matter what year you graduated or what dorm you lived in, once we leave Notre Dame we have thousands of relatives waiting to help us.

Maybe that’s why my mom was so right when she told me that Notre Dame was the best place for me. Thanks to her, I now have an even bigger family. I just hope she’s not jealous.

Heather Van Hoegarden is graduating with a degree in Accounting and a minor in journalism. She will be working for Deloitte and Touche next year in Chicago, where she will live in Wrigleyville, blocks from her other favorite team. She would like to thank her parents for enabling her to attend Notre Dame and her sister for tolerating the Notre Dame fight song the last four years. She would also like to thank her dad for making it possible for her to play cornhole all year-senior year wouldn’t have been the same without the boards.