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Should I stay or should I go?

Joseph McMahon | Sunday, November 16, 2008

As soon as I stepped onto campus for a visit during my senior year of high school, I immediately knew I wanted to attend Notre Dame. The school where my grandfather had graduated from 60 years earlier, this University seemed like a magical place to me – the place where I wanted to spend my next four years. I’ll always remember the first time I saw the Golden Dome, and how I thought it was truly the most beautiful building I had ever seen. But soon I will be leaving.

It now appears I will only actually spend three and a half years at Notre Dame, as I prepare to study abroad next semester in Innsbruck, Austria. The seven weeks I spent in Germany during the summer of 2006 were the best weeks of my life, and I absolutely cannot wait to leave icy South Bend behind in favor of the snowcapped Alps.

However, my decision to study abroad has led me to reflect on my first year and a half at Notre Dame. For the most part, I have loved it. The friends I have made are some of the best people I will ever know, and I will miss them terribly.

But aside from that, I feel that breaking from routine and traveling halfway across the world will help me treasure my time at the University even more.

But even some of the things I love most about Notre Dame, from my classes to my job at The Observer to dorm life, have gotten a little stale. The excitement with which I approached everything and anything that had to do with Notre Dame when I was a freshman has been numbed by malaise.

There are aspects of the University that I absolutely despise. While I watched news coverage of other schools around the nation during election night and saw students dancing in the streets with joy, South and North Quads were filled with eerie silence. After growing up in New York City, the utter lack of diversity (this year’s freshman class was only three percent black) can sometimes make me incredibly uncomfortable. The relationship between the University and the South Bend community has grown so bad that students even make jokes about how local police officers are more concerned about busting parties than protecting their safety.

It’s sad for me to admit, but I have become a little jaded about Notre Dame. Please don’t misunderstand me. Every time I look at the Golden Dome I am still filled with the same sense of awe I felt the first time I laid eyes on it. I still love this school and I am thankful to my parents and incredibly appreciative of this amazing opportunity that has been given to me. I would not trade going here to going to any other university in the world.

However, I feel going abroad will help me appreciate the great things about Notre Dame even more when I return home. For all its faults, I’m sure I will miss this place, but for right now I think it’s time for a break.