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Make Notre Dame yours

Mary Kate Malone | Friday, August 24, 2007

Besides a general recollection of being nervous, awkward and homesick, I have a very vivid memory of Freshman Orientation.

We were having small-group chats in the basement of Farley Hall, where nervous freshmen were supposed to share their most embarrassing moments or, if they could be a fruit, which they would choose.

I had never had a beer, a boyfriend or a bunk bed, and day one at Notre Dame had been overwhelming, at best. I was supposed to be loving it here, but I was friendless and unsettled. This was supposed to be the time of my life?

So, instead of adding to our fantastic frosh-o discussion, I pulled my knees to my chest, stared at the ground and silently decided right then I was going home.

I would pack up my things and drive back with my parents when they left the next day.

Maybe college just wasn’t for me.

I think I lost my resolve to leave somewhere between DomerFest and a campus scavenger hunt, and when it came time for goodbyes, I knew I’d have to say them.

My RA nudged me off to play slip and slide Twister with Knott Hall as my parents snuck away in our emptied mini-van on Sunday. I think I cried in a bathroom stall.

If only I had known what awaited me.

But that’s what being a freshman is all about. It’s about not knowing – and finding your way in spite of it.

If you’re like me when I was a freshman, you’re probably reading this while peering over a bowl of Cheerios in North Dining Hall, sitting next to and across from new “friends” who were strangers 12 hours ago.

Granted, most of you stellar-than-ever students are loving it here, but for those of you who are still unsure, have a little faith. I was in your shoes, and I made it through. You will, too. It can be hard at first, and then it’s easier, and easier, and pretty soon, you’ll never want to leave this place.

Maybe it’s Mary. Maybe it’s magic. But Notre Dame does that to you.

My uncle, a 1971 Notre Dame alumnus, might have put it best.

During dinner at my grandmother’s house in South Bend last week, the conversation shifted to the University, as it tends to do in a family that oozes Notre Dame. Uncle Jack sighed, shook his head and said: “Gosh, you know, if I could go back, I would squeeze every last drop out of that campus.” Maybe kids these days are too young to appreciate college, another uncle added. By the time they realize how many opportunities they had, they’re in cap and gown.

Don’t let that be you. Make Notre Dame yours. Whether you’re a fourth-generation Domer or the student who came here on a dream and a prayer from Oregon, you belong here. Find where you fit, and then go leave your mark.

The truth is, I still feel like a freshman. Not in that homesick-awkward-scared sense, but because Notre Dame still feels new.

Three years here and, even though I’ve walked well-worn paths, ate hundreds of dining hall meals, and cheered my heart out at many football games, Notre Dame has never lost its luster.

And that’s how I hope it stays forever. Life is better when it feels like it’s just beginning, and you really are at the starting line.

Mary Kate Malone is a left-handed American Studies major and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy minor from Columbus, Ohio. She urges all freshmen to try North Dining Hall’s fantastic tomato soup. Contact her at mmalone3@nd.edu

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