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The (dis)honest guide on how to fit in at Notre Dame

| Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Your life’s biggest questions, all answered here. Finally, the complete and unedited completely absurd hand guide on how to survive and fit into Notre Dame. (In other words, a case study into the Notre Dame student stereotype that doesn’t accurately paint a picture of any individual here. Do not try this at your dorms.)

Let me briefly entertain a scenario of the average Notre Dame freshman at this point (please note the handbook applies to all interested parties, however). The fourth week of class is underway and classes are beginning to pick up their pace. You have found the friend group you get lunch with on Thursdays and dinner with on Fridays. Emails from the eight different clubs you signed up for during Activities Night are stacking up against one another, but you find the one or two that you actually go to are enjoyable. College is well underway, and you have survived thus far.

But have you?

There’s the sneaking suspicion that the foundation wasn’t laid right, that at any point a cornerstone could rudely stick out and collapse the whole Jenga tower of your psyche in a loud heap. You try to tuck this gut feeling away, but it grows stronger. A group of people walks by and you force a greeting to them. Well, you tried. Nothing came out of your mouth and now they are all staring at you in shock. And then it hits you. This feeling you have? You feel like you don’t fit in.

And I’m here to tell you that you are absolutely right. I’m sorry for being frank (insert lie right here or before), but four years will go by and you won’t be considered a domer by any of us. All of that hall gear you bought or wished you had bought over the opening weeks? It doesn’t define you and it can’t, because you don’t fit in here at this college in the slightest.

I can imagine what you are feeling at this point. Something between extreme bitterness, wrath and a breezy, nonchalant attitude that nothing I have to say concerns you. But please, come to, for all of this is unfounded. After hours of a journey bordering on metaphysical transcendence — otherwise known as an upper floor of Hesburgh Library — I stumbled upon the great truths which I am about to share with you. They are the “Eight Commands” every freshman must follow to become like the Notre Dame stereotype. This is what you wanted, after all. A step-by-step guide to become the perfect idealized Shamrock. Just please don’t call me the next Moses or anything.

The freshman’s guide to fitting in and surviving Notre Dame in several easy steps:

  1. Never ever tell anyone if you have financial aid.
  2. “Yes, I am white,” you will learn to say back testily. Never mind that you are Native American, or Jewish, or biracial and proud of it. Slip your latkes beneath the table when your friends pass by and dye your hair red when you get back to your dorm. You aren’t just European. Your ancestors conquered the Scottish Highlands (by the way, I am both Native American and Jewish).
  3. You have seen “Rudy” and it is absolutely your favorite movie.
  4. Tell everyone that you vacationed beneath the Antarctic for fall break. That’s right. Beneath the Antarctic. Your father is a descendant of a long lost irrelevant European explorer who he inherited metric tons of scuba diving experimental equipment from and you felt like a change. Beware saying that you went back “home” for danger of feeling left out from your peers who went to the Sahara or above the Antarctic. You went beneath. Can’t beat that.
  5. It’s the fourth week of class and, for some reason, you still have to go around in a circle and announce a fun fact about yourself to the entire class or club. A few brief seconds of brainstorming and it comes to you. It might be interesting, you tell yourself, to mention that you are the first in your family to go to college. Carefully listen to the three classmates who give their fact before you and amend your answer to this: Both parents are alums and I binge watched the television show Friends the last week of summer.
  6. There is an entire playlist of songs you need to learn so you aren’t standing with your hands at your sides when the music blasts in the stadium during football games. It is a list of cultured, diverse hits from celebrated artists across the globe. It is as follows: “Every Time We Touch” by Cascada, “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers and “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi.
  7. There are only two religions on campus. The first one is Catholicism. The second one is football.
  8. Last and surely not least, never ever walk up the steps of the main building. Graduating on time hangs in the balance.

So there you have it. Rinse, cycle and repeat as needed and I can assure you that you will be the exact carbon copy of the Notre Dame student stereotype. Never mind you that there is exactly zero percent of us who actually fits or even comes close to this “ideal.” Never mind that everyone puts on a different social mask depending on who they are talking to, be it various friend groups to professors to rectors and rectresses. Never mind you that every single one of us is discerning how we fit in and will continue to do so above and beyond graduation. Never mind that is impossible to fit into the idea of a group image and, even if it was, it wouldn’t be the desirable choice for you. Crumple up this idea and walk away. Or alternatively, watch “Rudy” and be comfortable in who you are. That’s one of the reasons why you are here at Notre Dame, after all.

You belong.

Gabriel Niforatos is a sophomore who has diverse interests ranging from political science to music. When he’s not at school, he is busy hiking and running in the New Mexico mountain range. His email is [email protected]

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

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