Thoughts from a firefly
Kat Regala | Thursday, November 2, 2023
The classic Notre Dame introduction goes as follows: name, major and dorm. For anyone who’s foreign to our campus or who didn’t study here as an undergraduate, the last part of this introduction is indicative of nothing. What is PDub? What does it mean that you lived in Keough? What are the qualities of someone from Farley? Where the heck is far quad?
That is all to say that Notre Dame has a unique dorm culture that becomes a defining factor of your identity and experience on campus. Even when you graduate and are long past your days of living in a small space shared with up to six people, the first thing that fellow domers are inclined to ask as soon as you tell them you went to Notre Dame is, “Which dorm were you in?”
As someone who didn’t grow up in a Notre Dame family and had zero understanding of Notre Dame culture prior to her admission into the university, when I found out that it had a random roommate policy, I was equally horrified and relieved. On one hand, random room assignment could lead to a year of sharing tight quarters with someone who was messy, loud, disagreeable, or worse, had a peanut allergy, preventing me from keeping a jar of peanut butter in the room. On the other hand, I had gotten into universities where you did get to choose your roommate, which promoted a flourishing market on the admitted students Facebook Group where people advertised themselves as the cool, fun, hot roommate that you want.
Midsummer before my freshman year, I got an email that I had been placed into Breen-Phillips Hall and would be living with a girl that, after a quick social media search, was a redhead on the rowing team. Neev, as I now know, was not messy, is a little loud in the best way, always goes with the flow, and loves peanut butter so much that she received a spoon as a birthday gift engraved with “Neev’s Peanut Butter Spoon.”
Living in BP my freshman and sophomore years was perfect in so many ways. I was surrounded by a built-in community, had upperclassmen and hall staff as resources to help me adjust to life in college, lived with one of my best friends, participated in fun events like petting zoos and bookstore basketball, was consistently supplied with free food from Betty’s Chair and (although some people incorrectly disagree) was situated in the best location on campus. There is a reason that Notre Dame’s dorm culture is so beloved by its students and alumni. It makes you a citizen of a microcosm within the macrocosm of campus.
But, where some thrive in a dorm setting, I often struggled. As an introvert, I struggled to feel like I could unwind because I was never alone. As the RAs would patrol the halls jangling their keys, it felt like I was constantly being surveilled. As an early bird, I struggled to fall asleep as I would have to traverse the bustling, bright hallways in order to go to the bathroom or drown out the noise of the surrounding rooms. I was put off by the contrasting cultures cultivated in men’s versus women’s dorms. The traditional dorm life was not the perfect fit for me.
Then, just over a year ago, I received an email that BP residents would be moving to Zahm for a year for renovation. While it was definitely a bummer to move locations and be haunted by the ghosts of Zahm’s past, I knew that I would be studying abroad in the spring and living there for the fall semester would not be a big deal. But then this February, Notre Dame announced that for the first time in its history it would be opening up apartment-style housing for both sexes in its brand new dorm: Undergraduate Community at Fischer (UCF). In its inception, UCF would be open only to sophomores, juniors and seniors, but would feature many of the same elements of traditional dorms: a rector, assistant rectors, resident assistants, SYRs, hall council and dorm events.
A friend and I decided to apply and we got in. Now I live happily in an apartment conveniently located on campus and enjoy having my own room and cooking for myself. Despite the clear upgrade in accommodations, when I tell people where I live, they often quizzically ask why I would abandon Notre Dame tradition and coveted dorm culture.
I get it. Tradition is what makes Notre Dame so special. But, what I love about UCF is not that it is a rejection of Notre Dame’s traditional dorms, but that it is an opportunity for a group of kind, welcoming people who might not have loved every aspect of the traditional dorms to build a new, tight-knit community. The hall staff and the residents are committed to developing UCF and fostering the same type of shared culture so cherished in other dorms.
I am proud to be a UCF firefly and I cannot wait to see how our dorm grows into its place on campus.
Kat Regala is a junior studying the Program of Liberal Studies with minors in Computing and Digital Technology and Science, Technology and Values. She originally hails from Naples, Florida, but loves traveling. When not reading or writing, you can find her drinking coffee, practicing yoga or binge-watching reality television.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.