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Look below the surface

Bill Brink | Friday, August 21, 2009

To all you freshmen who grew up reciting Rockne’s speeches, who lay in bed not with visions of sugarplums but of Touchdown Jesus and the Golden Dome, who have 37 family members who went here, who watched “Rudy” so many times you know the order in which the players turned in their jerseys to Dan Devine: Wake up.

Rise and shine, ladies and gentlemen, because life here ain’t like that. You may as well have just hopped off the Mayflower, because you’ve entered a world of conservatism, religion and two months of sub-zero temperatures, a place where alumni treat Barack Obama as though he were Michael Vick. Buckle up.

Airplanes flew over campus this spring towing pictures of aborted fetuses to protest Obama giving the commencement address. Awesome dorm events get cancelled and controversial plays cause uproars. You can’t camp out for basketball games a la Kryzewskville or the police will run you away.

No joy on finishing that movie/homework assignment/date in the dorm of the opposite sex after midnight – the rules governing this are called parietals, a word which will soon have the same annoyance as the words “traffic” or “airport security.”

Boys and girls can’t see each other until tonight. What better way to teach kids away from home for the first time to interact with the opposite sex than to keep them apart? Sex is banned on campus. Not frowned upon. Banned. So is hard alcohol.

Welcome to college!

So why am I still here after three years of this nonsense? Why does anyone con their folks into shelling out $200,000 for tuition and make the trek to South Bend rather than party their way through the cheap local state school?

Chances are you knew some of this coming in. So there must be something that brought you here anyway, no?

You’re here for the intangibles, the things that can’t be quantified by rules or SAT scores or football records. You’re here for the community you’ve joined and the friends and memories you’ll make.

If you’re here, you’re part of a community that transcends all others, that includes some of the finest people in the world (Condoleeza Rice) but also some of the dumbest (Steve Bartman).

This school isn’t about the Dome and TJ, it’s about creating drinking games with your friends that your RA can’t hear. (Hint: stay away from ping pong balls and quarters. Cards and dice are good). It’s about the little things that don’t show up in the brochure or on Saturdays on NBC. Those stick with you longest.

You’ll get so close to your group of friends that you can literally hear them think. I had the same roommate for two years, and if he were suddenly struck mute I could speak for him and no one would ever know.

This skill is only useful every once in a while. What you learn in classes, however, will be useful … every once in a while. Slog your way through the requirements so you can take classes you like. Parents reading this, let your kids major in what they want. Wouldn’t you rather they graduate with a degree in Latin than drop out after three semesters of chemical engineering?

This place has spirituality without parallel. If you’re religious, Notre Dame provides ample opportunity to practice. If you’re not, Notre Dame surrounds you with nice people who don’t care.

Your fellow students don’t become your best friends by accident. You all came here for similar reasons: You chose a school known for its solid academic program and top-tier athletics with a manageable size and close-knit nature. You’re most likely willing to sacrifice some freedoms other schools provide to take part in these things.

It’s worth the sacrifice.

In the scheme of things, the negative aspects of this place stand out to the outside observer. You have the rare chance to see the inside, to experience the joys of this place that lie below the surface. So you’ll leave respectfully at 11:55, you’ll tolerate the insane views of the University’s supporters, you’ll find other ways to prepare for basketball games. Trust me, you’ll live with the restrictions and negatives, even embrace them, because the greatness of Notre Dame will eventually shine through.

The friends and connections you make here last and the community of the place – put it this way, I’ve been here three years and can’t accurately put it into words. I’ve tried to do so in this column, and you still have no idea, do you? Give it some time. By the Michigan State game you’ll know what I mean.

Bill Brink is a senior History major and Journalism minor who hopes you still want to be here after reading this. He can be reached at wbrink@nd.edu

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

necessarily those of The Observer.