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No going back

Teresa Fralish | Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I picked an innocent enough looking seat in my first Friday afternoon economics tutorial – not too close to the front and not surrounded by giggly girls.But just before the class began, three football players sauntered in and plopped themselves down in the chairs right behind me. And as I began to look around the class, I discovered that to my surprise – and slight horror – out of a 40-person section, I was surrounded by freshmen. I knew fellow seniors might be scarce in Econ 101, but I assumed I’d find at least some other non-freshman business major filling a requirement.All year long, I’d harbored a secret jealousy of my little freshman brother and the other freshmen I worked with as a peer advisor for First Year of Studies. I told everyone that I would love just one more year at Notre Dame. I filled out applications while pretending I really wasn’t graduating in a few short months. But that Friday afternoon, surrounded by hordes of cookie cutter freshmen business majors – my nostalgia died right then and there.As the TA started class, I thought back on my college years, first remembering that such large, everyone-takes-it classes did actually exist.I stared as the athletes proceeded to talk through everything the TA said, once interrupting to ask why the class didn’t have Powerpoints and then subsequently declaring that it would be “really hard.” I wondered why the grad student didn’t tell them to shut up – until it dawned on me that he’d probably already tried and failed at that last semester.I cringed at the subtle racism of one athlete who, as one girl announced that her name was Alejandra, yelled out “Alle-what?” as if she was speaking gibberish.After the girl explained that she lived in Mexico, the athlete looked perplexed – he apparently couldn’t fathom that actual people came from Mexico or how one might appear at Notre Dame.And as a girl in back row started a loud conversation with another athlete – apparently having missed the third grade lesson about paying attention in class – I buried my head in my desk.Don’t get me wrong, the Class of 2008 definitely deserves more credit than this.Some of the freshmen I’ve advised rank among the most intelligent and thoughtful students I’ve met at Notre Dame, and I’m sure even these obnoxious people will some day mature into confident seniors. But as I counted down the remaining minutes Friday afternoon, I realized that, for as much as I’ll cry when at graduation and miss even the dining hall food and crowded dorm rooms, I wouldn’t trade my closest friends, favorite classes, inspiring professors and Malibu pineapples for bad freshman roommates, Keystone Lights and underclassman naiveté. When I sat down later that afternoon to read an essay by Immanuel Kant for my “Enlightenment and Its Revolutions” class, I said a silent prayer of thanks for making through the past four years. As tempting as one more year of ‘Backer Long Islands and college carefreeness might be – we’ve come too far to go back. When that final May day rolls around, somehow, I’ll be ready to go.