July 22, 2022 might as well be a national holiday. It was the day Gateway students and transfers received their housing assignments. Perhaps more importantly, it was the day Gateways finally got the gift of a cookie-cutter response to the age-old Notre Dame question: “What dorm are you in?”
When I started my freshman year as a Holy Cross-Notre Dame Gateway student, I found this dorm question particularly daunting; a seemingly simple question for the average Notre Dame student felt like an embarrassing admittance for me. It felt like telling people over and over again, “Notre Dame didn’t want me, I wasn’t enough.” But I grew to realize no one was thinking that. Being a Gateway is not about the crushing rejection; being a Gateway is about the beautiful opportunity.
Being a Gateway is about going to Siegfried (Siggy) Dining Hall at Holy Cross right before closing time. You get some ice cream and adorn your dessert with a seemingly endless array of toppings before biking to Hesburgh Library to cram for a Notre Dame exam. Being a Gateway is about rolling out of bed two minutes before your Holy Cross class and arriving on time; it’s also about leaving half an hour before Moreau and never being on time. Being a Gateway is about looking at the Holy Cross arch with the same fondness and affection as the golden dome. Being a Gateway is about feeling like you belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Like many Gateways, the year felt like a tug-of-war: I felt stretched between worlds, the small tight-knit community at Holy Cross and the broad network at Notre Dame. I’ve realized, however, that “everyone Gateways differently.” In other words, we all found our own unique way to balance two emails, two ID cards, two campuses and two distinct facets of our identities. Some Gateways fostered friendships exclusively within the cohort, while others connected more with Holy Cross or Notre Dame students. Some preferred the Pfeil Center to work out, while others preferred the Smith Center or the Rock. Gateway gave us the luxury of choice. We could choose where we wanted to exercise, study, eat and socialize. But, at the end of every chaotic day, we all returned to the illuminated St. Joe’s chapel, the small classes and the quaint dining hall. We all returned to our Twin XL beds in Anselm, Basil, James, North, Pulte and South.
Of course, there were times when I missed Holy Cross events to study at LaFun and there were weeks when I hardly ate meals at Siggy. Now that I’m at Notre Dame full-time, I look back on these moments when I chose Notre Dame over Holy Cross with a twinge of regret. I miss the coziness of the tiny Holy Cross dining hall. I miss the kitchen staff knowing my name. I miss eating lunch alongside professors and peers alike. I miss watching pickup basketball games in the Pfeil Center while running around the indoor track. I miss the three a.m. strolls to the Student Union in my pajamas to get Reese’s peanut butter cups; I miss always being a two minute walk from friends. I miss so much of the Holy Cross experience.
I admit, starting sophomore year with a concise answer to the “dorm question,” instead of a long-winded explanation of the Gateway program sometimes feels like a departure from my identity, but I’m learning to embrace the easy answer. I’m also learning that just because I don’t live at Holy Cross anymore doesn’t make me any less of a Gateway. I can still return to Siggy for meals with friends, work out in the Pfeil and pull ridiculous hours studying in the Vincent atrium. I can still wear my North Hall sweatshirt and take my Notre Dame friends on “field trips” to my forever home, Holy Cross.
With time, some Gateways might shed their old identity, but we will forever be bonded by Holy Hikes and housing crises and awkward moments swiping into North Dining Hall. We will forever be bonded by our commitment to fulfill the promise to attend Notre Dame.
To the current Gateway 10.0s: Embrace every aspect of your experience this year. Embrace your professors; embrace the Saints; embrace the mundane moments that will someday be extraordinary. There will be times when you feel like an outsider on Notre Dame’s campus, like anything but the “shiny, special thing.” I assure you, you are just as capable and spectacular as any Notre Dame student. Take your time and fall in love with where and who you are right now. Fall in love with your next door neighbor who isn’t a Gateway, but might just become your best friend. This is your year. You don’t have to do it my way, but do it right.