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Broken Bubble

Joseph McMahon | Monday, September 7, 2009

Since coming to Notre Dame in 2007, I was always content just living inside of the bubble. South Bend, I had always thought, was a somewhat scary place, and an Observer headline announcing the shootings of two students at Club 23 during my freshman orientation weekend seemed to confirm my notions.

As such, I was happy to live inside the bubble. As a freshman, I couldn’t imagine anything better than the sweaty, loud parties that we used to host in our cramped Alumni dorm rooms. Even better was going off campus, where a party was good as long as there were members of the opposite sex present. It was a simple, na’ve time.

However, since returning from Europe, where I spent last semester and also worked this summer, I have been completely and totally underwhelmed. The bubble I thought protected me feels more like a jail cell.

Now please do not misinterpret me – this is not a column about a person who went abroad, came back, and is now resentful that he lives in a society where the legal drinking age is 21. While the rules here certainly do not permit alcohol consumption, everyone knows it occurs here quite frequently.

Rather, what I am more troubled by is the circumstances under which alcohol consumption takes place. While abroad, going out to a bar or a club was more than just about drinking – it was a chance to meet new people, to practice our language skills, and to experience a new culture.

Sometimes at Notre Dame, I truly cannot understand why people bother going out at all. On Saturday night, following the football team’s thumping of Nevada, the halls of Alumni were again filled with blaring music, as girls in high heels and skimpy cocktail dresses wandered the hallways attempting to find a party. Even more comical are the throng out in front of main circle attempting to catch a cab to a party that will either be shortly broken up by the police or run out of alcohol.

Ultimately, I have become disenchanted with the way in which Notre Dame students who are not of the legal age limit socialize. Most people in the administration would criticize the Notre Dame party scene as dangerous and illegal, but I see it as something else altogether – completely pathetic.

However, this is not entirely the fault of Notre Dame students. Operating within the parameters of the bubble, students are forced to cram like sardines into dorm rooms or venture off campus in the hopes of finding a decent party. While abroad, the times I enjoyed most were simply sitting at a table with a few friends and maybe even a couple of professors while we discussed everything from politics to relationships over a beer. It was civilized, and it also helped cut down on dangerous binge drinking (the only time we ever had to take someone to the hospital was to get his tonsils out). I felt as though I had finally outgrown the need for a protective bubble and had truly matured into an adult, only to find myself back on campus, where I am treated not only by the University, but by society in general as a child.