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Blaze your own trail

| Friday, August 18, 2017

Welcome home.

Those are the words that greeted each and every one of you when you got your admitted students packet. It’s the sentiment that many of you felt when — and maybe even the reason why — you decided Notre Dame was the school you would spend your next four years at.

And now that you’re here, the question becomes “what makes this place my home?”

That can be a difficult question to answer at first. You might experience the pressure that comes with being a college student: family, friends and your parent’s friend whom you don’t really know but always seem to want to pass on wisdom to you anyways have undoubtedly told you, in some form or another, that college is the “best four years of your life.” With that comes the stress of just trying to fit in, maybe even coercing ourselves to be the people we think others want us to be.

As students at Notre Dame, you are already high achievers. You’ve pushed yourself both in and outside of the classroom to earn your spot here. But with that drive comes other pressures: the pressure to prove you belong here with other high-achieving students; the pressure to pick the right major that sets you on the right career path.

The pressure to follow the formula — work hard in class, play hard outside of it, get an internship, turn that into an offer and begin a career worthy of your degree here.

I certainly dealt with those pressures my first and second years here and I think the one piece of advice I wish I would have known then that I know now is this: There is no formula and the best thing you can do is just be yourself.

I know, it’s just another one of the cliches that will be thrown at you as you come to campus. But it’s true — there’s no blueprint for a good college experience, let alone one to make the most of your time at a place as special as Notre Dame. Someone else’s experience might help shape your own, but it won’t be exactly the same. As you move into your dorms, some of you will find the friends you’ll have for the rest of your lives. But some of you will take time — weeks, months, a year or two even — to really find your niche on this campus, and you shouldn’t get dismayed if you find that to be the case.

There are too many opportunities to try and communities waiting for you to be someone you aren’t. They might not always be easy to find and you might not find them right away, but they are there waiting for you. So have an open mind and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone — if only once — to give those opportunities a chance, even when it might not be what the college formula calls for or what everyone else is doing. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Because even if you’re hesitant now, that opportunity might just be the activity or group that defines your experience here.

It might just be the trail that makes these next four years the “best four years of your life.”

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

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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