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Fifth-year seniors search for campus community after classmates graduate

Tara Hunt | Sunday, February 19, 2012

For fifth-year accountant student Mike Quinn, the phrase “home under the dome” has lost a bit of its meaning.

“The campus of Notre Dame was home as an undergraduate,” he said. “Now, our home base is Mendoza. If you want to go somewhere else on campus it feels very disconnected.”

Quinn is one of many students who decide to attend the University an extra year to complete degrees in specialized fields. But Quinn said he encountered disconnect in his fifth year.

“I felt jealous that [my friends] got to go be on their own feet and I was stuck with the same college routine,” he said. “They have their responsibility at work whereas someone like me who’s staying in graduate school, we still have to go to class, do homework and group projects and have exams to worry about. It’s like a whole new step of life.”

Quinn said he rarely moves beyond DeBartolo Quad for classes and feels removed from the days of dorm life and spending time in LaFortune or the dining hall, not to mention the shift in his social life, he said.

“The people I knew who were staying the fifth year were the people who you’d give the head nod to or chitchatted with after class, but not necessarily great, true friends,” he said.

John Villecco, a fifth-year senior completing a double major in anthropology and PLS, agreed.

“Most people at the end of last year had regrets about having to leave,” he said. “But it’s been really interesting to see them go off and have them live their lives, and I still have this safety net while I can observe them from afar. I’ve been able to spend more time reflecting on what I want my life to look like.

“[They’ve] been a buffer so that I feel ready to leave now.”

Villecco said the number of people he recognizes on campus has decreased, but it has allowed him to foster more in-depth friendships.

“[The fifth year] allowed me to focus more on a smaller group of friends,” he said.

With a more intimate group of friends, Villecco said his classmates compare schedules more often and have settled into a more consistent routine than he did in his previous years.

It also allows them to veer away from social norms, he said. 

“It’s easier to have a good sense of self,” he said. “You almost feel like you’re not required to abide by as many social rules. I’m separate in a positive way. I’m separate from [social] expectations.”