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Ranking the 10 best things about Notre Dame

| Friday, August 27, 2021

For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to rank something in The Observer. Since the day I discovered in these pages the introspective yet comedic brilliance of master ranker and former Dunne Hall RA Davis Gonsalves, I was inspired to invoke the kind of spicy verbal mudslinging amongst the Notre Dame student body and alumni my predecessor did when he had the guts to rank every hall on campus. It’s been three years since Davis graduated, which means I’m well beyond the one-week timeline previously established by the hot take king himself that would make me a spineless, copycat ranker. Full disclosure however: I could never do it as well as Davis did it, and it’s truly an honor to return him to the spotlight. This column will probably never incite the kind of outrage that he did when he ranked campus outrages, but that’s more than OK with me. I would never be able to clap back at the haters with his brand of simultaneous wit and eloquence.

As a rookie ranker, the best thing I could come up with was to rank the 10 best things about Notre Dame, an admittedly vague topic lacking any sort of rational criteria to use as a basis for debate. Alas, I pictured sparking a debate to the magnitude of the one I did Tuesday night when I asked The Observer production staff which Taylor Swift album I should play (it got heated, but we settled on “Reputation,” even though the only correct answer is “1989”). When I started to write this however, I realized that we have three grade levels on campus that have yet to have a completely normal year in its entirety. It would be pompous and irresponsible of me to rank something related to Notre Dame when 75% of my classmates haven’t seen this place at its best.

In true Davis fashion, my ranking is in no particular order. Who am I to tell you what the best thing about Notre Dame is? Go experience everything it has to offer for yourself! My experiences are just a way to share some wisdom, crack a few jokes and create optimism for everyone about all that you can do now that this place is alive and well once again. Without further ado, here are my 10 best things about Notre Dame …

1. Football weekends

I will never forget the weekend of the Michigan game my freshman year in 2018 because I’ve never felt more electricity in a single place at one time. Season opener. Hated rival. College GameDay. Green out in the stadium. That game and that weekend simply had everything you could hope for. Fingers crossed, but we play three top 15 teams at home this year, and campus is going to be rocking once again. Even if you don’t like football, game day weekends are an experience that you can’t pass up. From tailgating to the midnight drummer circle and every tradition in between, it’s one of the most incredible things you’ll witness in your time here.

2. Dorm signature events

The dorm system at Notre Dame is unique to say the least, and one of the coolest things about it is that every hall gets to put on events throughout the year. You’ll catch this New Yorker in a cowboy hat at the Dunne Funne Runne and stuffing myself with cinnamon rolls at LHOP. While every event helps build the kind of dorm culture that we love at Notre Dame, it’s also really fun to do some things with your hall that you wouldn’t be able to in other places.

3. The Observer

I’ll probably get some heat from my friends for putting this third but just a reminder this is in no particular order. Thank you so much to former sports editor Charlotte Edmonds for keeping me involved after I almost quit after my freshman year. The Observer has become a second home to me on campus and has given me some amazing friendships that I never envisioned but am incredibly grateful for. We’re not only a newspaper, but also a family. Come write for us!

4. The grass

When I decided to come here the grass was a major deciding factor. It’s hard to find a college campus with more green space than Notre Dame. Nothing makes me feel like I’m on a college campus more than watching people play Spikeball or throw frisbees on the four massive quads here.

5. The squirrels

I mean come on, have you ever seen bigger squirrels in your life? I almost tripped over one the other day and he still wasn’t scared of me. People love them so much they’ve got their own Instagram page.

6. The Italian Department

One of the more pleasant surprises I’ve had at Notre Dame was taking an intro Italian class for fun and coming away with a passion for learning the language. It also might be the most fun and caring group of professors I’ve ever seen. Don’t be afraid to try something new because you never know where it’s going to lead. While my study abroad opportunity was cancelled last spring, I’ve heard spending a semester in another country is pretty awesome and learning the language of said country can be a great way to get the most out of the experience.

7. The food

Hot take after last year’s dining hall experience, but the food at Notre Dame is the best of any college I visited. One thing among many that I’m grateful to have back this year is to be eating food off a plate and not out of a black box and that I don’t have to remember to bring utensils with me. There’s also a wide variety of dining options outside of the dining halls in campus, and there are tons of great restaurants in the South Bend-Mishawaka-Granger area if you want to venture off-campus.

8. Bengal/Baraka Bouts

I don’t know of many other colleges with an amateur boxing program for both men and women, and it’s one of the coolest activities to get involved with in my completely unbiased opinion. Boxing is usually considered an individual sport, but getting to train in a team environment and make friends through all the blood and sweat is something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. Donating to Holy Cross schools in Bangladesh and Uganda is paramount to both the men’s and women’s clubs, which have broken fundraising records every year I’ve been at Notre Dame. Cheer on your friends if they’re fighting in the annual tournament, because they’re fighting for something much greater than themselves.

9. It’s far from home

This one obviously is a little more personalized to me, but I really like that Notre Dame is far from my hometown. It’s not only helped me learn how to live on my own, but has also strengthened my relationship with my family. It’s hard to take them for granted when I don’t get to see them every day, and the time that we share together now is very intentional. While Notre Dame can be hard to travel to, having to make the trip can bring some unexpected benefits like road trips with friends or getting to stay with their families if they live relatively close by.

10. Being an RA

I’m only a week into the job, but I can already say it’s been one of the best things about my Notre Dame experience so far. Taking on a leadership role in the place I’ve called home for the past three years has pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it’s also been rewarding to help bring people together to form the friendships that last a lifetime. It’s an honor and a privilege to be someone that residents trust through the ups and the downs. The job will help you grow in ways you never thought possible.

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

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About Colin Capece

Colin is a senior at Notre Dame, majoring in political science and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He hails from the great state of New York and currently serves as an Assistant Managing Editor at The Observer for the 2021-2022 academic year. You can sometimes find him on Twitter at @ColinCapeceND

Contact Colin