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Thanks for the memories, Notre Dame

Madeline Buckley | Friday, May 20, 2011

The University recently asked me if I learned something in the past four years.

Part of the long list of pre-graduation tasks for seniors included a short survey about the academic experience here at Notre Dame. I rolled my eyes at the pointlessness of trying to sum up fours years of at an academic institution in five or so multiple-choice questions. I indicated that, yes, I did learn something.

After four years and $200,000, I sure hope so. I learned that a coupon for a free bagel is literally and figuratively priceless if it allows me to sit in Einstein’s for hours talking to my friends.

I learned that leaving Finny’s for 10 minutes to use the bathroom at C.J.’s or O’Sullivan’s will save about 40 minutes in a line.

I learned to fix finicky computers at 3 a.m. and to love my beautifully dysfunctional Observer family. I never quite learned how to explain to skeptical people what my major in American Studies is, except that it is in fact the best major at Notre Dame.

I learned that life can be rough at times, but I also learned that chocolate from the Huddle and good friends can make almost anything better. I’m fairly certain I went to more classes than I skipped (just kidding, Mom) and those classes fundamentally changed the way I view the world. I am more analytical and open-minded, thanks to some of the amazing professors I have been lucky enough to experience.

This place made its indelible mark on me, mostly because of the people. Notre Dame students are truly extraordinary. I am constantly humbled by the brilliance of my friends, and when I leave for the real world, I’ll have to remember that I can’t leave my laptop and wallet on a table and know it won’t be stolen.

Soon, I will have to pack up my room, and the best-outfitted kitchen in any college house (did we ever get that garlic mincer?). My mom keeps telling me to get a big trash bag to start throwing away the things I don’t need. I can’t bring myself to do it because I fear an empty room will make it too real.

I don’t want to say goodbye to the best friends that have been my family for these four years.

When I can’t put off bringing the trash bags up to my room any longer, I’ll think about the 10-hour drive to North Carolina, closing down Finny’s and then watching the Royal Wedding (oh wait, I fell asleep) and that first dorm party in Stanford that we all awkwardly attended together. I’ll think of those, and other memories that make me smile. We learned to lean on each other and pick each other up when necessary. We also simultaneously learned to be independent and self-reliant. We navigated college together, and conquered it.

In the sadness and nostalgia of this coming weekend, I’ll have to remember that it’s not really goodbye. The term commencement is interesting because no one seems to think of graduation as a beginning.

But I think the most important lesson I am taking from college is that I can do this. It was the best four years of my life, but I have taken Notre Dame for everything it is worth, and now I am ready to move forward.

So in case the graduation survey results aren’t completely sufficient, I learned everything.

Madeline Buckley is graduating with a degree in American Studies and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She would like to thank her parents for all their love and support, and the gift of a college education. She can be reached at mbuckley@nd.edu

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