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The Notre Dame difference

| Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Over the summer, I trekked downtown to New York City with my friend to visit the school I attended prior to coming here, Stuyvesant High School. It was a very competitive high school, officially known as a specialized high school in New York City and, to many others, a feeder school for the Ivies. The kids were the best and brightest of New York City; some broke chess records, others won Intel Prizes and one was a child prodigy. High stress and merciless is how I would describe it.

Going back, I felt a wave of anxiety, insecurity and despite. I was top of my class in middle school but so was everyone else. By the end of my four years, I didn’t even consider myself mediocre compared to my peers. I had chosen the school for its rigor and the opportunities it promised, but I was nowhere near prepared for what it had in store. People were cutthroat, insincere and superficial; not all, but still many. The high-stake environment led many to cheat, which was soon uncovered as I left for college. The scandal led many to question the integrity of my school, and I personally believed it was for the better. Needless to say, I was happy to put it behind me.

Notre Dame is similar but also so different. We also have a large percentage of students who were the top of their respective high schools. We are comprised of smart, studious and motivated students. However, the difference I found was how we built community. We look out for each other. We help each other in times of need without expecting anything in return. We sincerely care for each other.

Once, I was given this piece of advice: We shouldn’t compete with each other. We should be helping our brothers and sisters, hope they are just as successful as we are, if not more, and actively build the Notre Dame community. Why? Because, when we raise up our peers and help them succeed, they perfect our brand, our Notre Dame brand. When our friends go out into the real world, they project our school’s image to whomever they interact with, and in turn, they see our institution with more respect. This respect is then applied to every one of us, current students, graduates, faculty and any person having ties with Our Lady’s University.

When we help our peers, we help the entire Notre Dame family. That’s why we are such a respected school. Not because we have the smartest students — other schools have high-caliber students too — but because we have a sense of compassion and community. Our alumni network is one of the most prestigious in the world, and that’s because we care for one another. It’s not enough to succeed; we must make our best effort to ensure everyone else succeeds.

It only took me more than half of my time at Notre Dame to realize this, and I hate myself for taking so long. As a Peer Advisor for the First Year of Studies, I will impart this advice to all of my advisees. I hope they don’t have to wait as long as I did to realize this fact.

With the company of my friend, I looked back at Stuyvesant with a wave of ease, happy to have joined a community as remarkable as Notre Dame. When I first arrived on campus my freshman year, I hadn’t realized I had just joined a new family. How I wish I could relive that first moment.

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

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About Wei Lin

Wei Lin currently serves as an Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. He served as the Photo Editor on the 2014-2015 Editorial Board. He is a senior Accountancy, Economics, and Chinese triple major living in Knott Hall. He hails from the borough of Queens in New York City.

Contact Wei