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Cheers to the Gateway year

| Monday, April 16, 2018

“What dorm are you in?”

It’s a question that Notre Dame students ask each other frequently — in classes, at parties, in nearly every social introduction. Almost everyone reading this article probably has, at most, a three-word response.

For me, it’s a little different. I didn’t get into Notre Dame. Instead, after a harrowing two months on the waiting list, registration at another university, and plenty of tears, I ended up a member of the Holy Cross-Notre Dame Gateway Program. Basically, that means that my fellow Gateways and I live and take classes at Holy Cross College while also taking one class at Notre Dame per semester. As long as we have a 3.5 GPA, we are guaranteed transfer to Notre Dame as full-time students next year. So, that’s what I tell people when they ask me that question. It’s a mouthful.

Back when I was deciding whether or not to enroll in the program, I talked to some previous Gateway students. Every single one of them said that if given the choice between regular admission to Notre Dame and participating in the Gateway program, they would choose Gateway. I thought that this was a ploy to get my tuition money. As much as I hate to admit it, I had low expectations. When school actually started, not only was I desperately homesick for my friends and family, but I also spent every moment wishing that I went to Notre Dame and dreaded telling anyone otherwise. But about a month into college, something changed. I made some friends, started to figure out my classes, and became involved both at Holy Cross and Notre Dame. Most importantly, I finally realized what an awesome opportunity I had been given. Now, I am proud to say that I too would choose to participate in Gateway every time.

In less than a month, my freshman year will end. I will go home and return three months later both a college sophomore and a fully-fledged Notre Dame student. It’s not that far away, and yet, it feels like an event approaching from the distant future. Soon, I will have a concise, straightforward answer to the question “what dorm are you in?” While I guess my life is about to become easier, I can’t say that what I’m feeling is the elation I expected. Instead, it’s becoming strangely real that Holy Cross and everything it’s become to me won’t be my home next year. No more squeezing twelve chairs at a table meant for eight in Siegfried Dining Hall, no more watching “Riverdale” in the James Hall lounge, no more walking two minutes or less to visit my friends in their respective dorms. I think I’ll even miss the “Holy Hike” — the walk from Holy Cross to Notre Dame along Dorr Road. Granted, it’s not enjoyable when it’s eight degrees and snowing, but it’s unequivocally a part of the Gateway experience.

Yet, my sadness that this year is ending is matched by all the good that has and will result from Gateway. First of all, I’m thankful for this year — the memories, the opportunities — academic and otherwise — and for meeting some of the best friends I’ll ever have. I’m unbelievably grateful to Notre Dame for taking a chance on me, and to Holy Cross for helping me get there. And I’m excited for the future — for more long nights of production in the Observer office, weekend nights with my friends, and, yes, I am excited to eat in the Notre Dame dining halls every day. Most of all, I’m ready to see what this year’s Gateway cohort is going to accomplish. If it’s anything close to what I’ve seen this year, Notre Dame isn’t ready for us.

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

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

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