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Little piece of Notre Dame

| Friday, May 13, 2016

Graduating seniors, have you ever read through a list of “things to do before you graduate”? I’m sure many of us just recently reviewed that list and with a stroke of panic realized you may have to fail one of your finals to give yourself another year to check them all off the list.

A year ago I decided to stay a fifth year to pick up another major. With a whirlwind of seemingly lasting relief that I have an additional year to do everything I wanted to, here I sit completely paralyzed by the fact that “we” are graduating. “We” have had our last football game, last winter break, last class, last final exam and we’re entering into our last summer, for those who don’t start work right away.

As much as I try, I can’t avoid the “we,” us, this community, friends, peers and mentors. The fact that I’m staying an additional year will never make up for the fact that the real experience and community is made up of all of you, us. Notre Dame has created an irreplaceable environment for us to learn, grow and make memories these past four years, making this home. For some of us it’s the Dome, the Grotto, our freshman year dorm, the Library, maybe it’s Taco Bell in the basement of LaFortune, or the path around the lakes — we all find a piece of ourselves attached to this place, and that’s why it seems so hard to let go.

Well, everyone, I’m staying another year. I’ll have the Dome, unlimited Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos or a cute mini pizza from Pizza Hut, the lakes to wander around at sunset, the Basilica for morning Mass. I’ll have Notre Dame at my fingertips, but the largest piece of me isn’t attached to here, it’s attached to you.

While you all are quickly approaching the one way door to “adulthood,” a little piece of me is going with you, and a little piece of you is staying here. I want to challenge everyone to put aside the list titled “things to do before I graduate” and start a new one, “things I did before I graduated.” It will be impossible to avoid reference to your friends, peers, mentors, professors, faculty and neighbors. The idea of these people being outside our closest reach is scary, but it can be exciting. There’s an undeniable passion and spirit that sits in each one of us. Whether the passion is for writing, singing, math, medicine, running, art or engineering, we all share something that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

While this may seem like the end of the best four years of our lives, as many people have said before, this is truly just the beginning. That obnoxious Notre Dame connection that everyone talks about works in more ways than job networking. When your Notre Dame sweatshirt draws the attention of an alum in the airport, like many of us probably have experienced before, the simple act of knowing that “they have been there too, they know what it’s like” brings comfort, confidence and the feeling of home. You may not even know their name or what they have been doing the past 15 years since they graduated, but that clearly doesn’t matter. That same piece of Notre Dame that exists in them, also exists in you, and will forever.

We are all so blessed to have been here and we are a blessing to all of the people we meet in the future. That connection you’ve built in the Notre Dame-Saint Mary’s community over the past four years isn’t coming to an end, it’s now an extension to every new adventure, person or experience you encounter.

So whether you know where you’ll be, or have no plans for next year, the biggest adventure of your life has just begun. While all of this has been said many times before, I am proud of all of us for everything we have accomplished, and all that we have yet to achieve. So next time you worry about the things you haven’t done, stop yourself and smile about all that you have done. Smile because you know all of your closest friends from school are out there, probably doing something awesome. Keep them a priority, and come back to Notre Dame when you can to revisit that piece of you that’ll always be here.

Erin Rice is a senior and will be staying a fifth year to get a dual degree for her bachelor of fine arts (BFA) in graphic and industrial design. She’s almost as excited to have another year at Notre Dame as she is about dogs and ice cream. Contact her with any questions regarding the above (especially dogs or studying abroad in London) at erice4@nd.edu

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

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