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Walking away

Laura McCrystal | Friday, May 20, 2011

On Sunday I will walk with the Class of 2011 and become a Notre Dame graduate.

The use of the verb “to walk” in association with graduation ceremonies seems especially appropriate for four years of college.

I fell in love with Notre Dame when I first walked around campus as a high school student.

Freshman year, I was constantly in awe of campus’ beauty. As I learned the fastest paths from Pasquerilla East Hall to everywhere else on campus, I remember hoping I wouldn’t take the beauty of Notre Dame for granted by the time I walked across campus as a senior.

I met a classmate who became a sister to me during a walk to breakfast on the first day of Frosh-O. I met roommates who I walked everywhere with — to North Dining Hall, the library and LaFortune, but also along the edge of the Grand Canyon and up and down the beach in Hilton Head.

I rushed around campus trying not to spill my coffee and still make it to class on time. Sometimes I succeeded.

I learned that after spending hours in the basement of South Dining Hall producing The Observer, there was no guessing what the weather would be when I left to walk home in the middle of the night.

I enjoyed studying in LaFortune because when I needed a break I could walk around and talk to people I knew.

While friends wanted to avoid the dining hall at its most crowded times, I loved walking around, getting my food and trying to keep my tray balanced amidst hundreds of hungry students.

Then there was the time I started to walk into the boys’ bathroom in DeBartolo at class change time. The person who made the location the men’s and ladies’ rooms opposite on the first floor from the second and third floors has an excellent sense of humor.

I spent a semester in Angers, France walking down narrow streets to class and up and down the spiral staircase in my host family’s home. I walked around European cities until my feet ached.

I walked between tailgates on football Saturdays. I stormed the field after Notre Dame beat Utah and I lingered there with my friends for as long as possible before walking out of the stadium through the tunnel.

But before saying goodbye to Notre Dame football as a student, I walked around New York City and into Yankee Stadium. A week after that, I skipped and jumped out of the Coliseum singing the fight song after a win against USC.

This spring, as I realized my days as a college student were slipping away, I did not want to be that senior who took Notre Dame for granted. So I began to take the scenic route to class and made a point of visiting the grotto each day. I even got somewhat strange glances from passersby as I walked around campus alone with a smile on my face. They must have been underclassmen.

In the years to come, I’ll join the throngs of alumni who descend upon campus on football weekends and show their children the places where they used to sleep, eat, study and play.

But it’s not just the beauty of campus itself that makes it home. One Sunday in August 2007, I sat in the JACC with my parents. My father, who had played devil’s advocate throughout my college search process, turned to me and said, “You’re right, Laura. You belong here.” Later that afternoon, my parents said goodbye to me in the middle of South Quad and walked away.

This Sunday, I will walk onto campus as a student and leave as a graduate. I do not know where I will walk next. But I will never forget the places I walked in the past four years. I will never forget the things I thought about and the people I talked to along the way.

It is time to walk away, but I will never stop belonging here.

Laura McCrystal is graduating with a degree in American Studies, French and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She would like to thank her parents for agreeing that Notre Dame was the right place for her. And many thanks to the roommates, friends, Observer staffers and professors who made the last four years unforgettable. Laura can be reached at lmccryst@nd.edu

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