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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
The Observer

Highway signs

I never knew I wanted to go to Notre Dame.

It took three years and three visits to South Bend to convince me this was it.

I wasn't swaddled in blue and gold blankets as a child, wasn't taught the Victory March along with my ABCs, wasn't trucked out to the Bend each fall for the first home game of the season.

So if Frosh-O is your official welcome into the Notre Dame family - like it was for me - then this column is for you.

A few weeks into my freshman year, I fell hard for this tradition-steeped school. And I'm sure you will too.

During my overblown search for the "right" school, I became a walking college guidebook. I read various rankings religiously. I had seen the same information sessions so many times that I could anticipate every perfectly posed picture of smiling students, every statistic meant to impress eager applicants, every corny, parent-pleasing joke.

Maybe you were the same way.

And maybe you fought endlessly about the choice with your mother, like I did.

When I wanted to look at California schools and argued that they weren't much farther from Wisconsin than the East Coast schools I was considering, my mom shut me down immediately. "It's symbolically farther," she said.

Boston was the same. "I don't want to drive 20 hours to see my kid!" Duke? My mom thought the dorm tradition of burning benches before basketball games was just too "destructive" - never mind that the students rebuilt them afterward. Even hometown favorite UW-Madison was out of the running. "Mad, you're going to get tear gassed on Halloween!"

The drama culminated in a heated argument when my mom decided Georgetown would somehow corrupt me. The screaming was at that high pitch that only an irate mother can produce. "I don't want you to grow up to be a hard-nosed politician!" The showdown left me fuming, but as I cooled down, I became frustrated. I had been all over the country (OK, excluding California) and still hadn't figured it out.

What really mattered, I realized, was what couldn't be quantified - what I felt. And that had nothing to do with guidebooks. I came to my senses. I stopped arguing for the sake of arguing. And I made my third trip to Notre Dame.

My mom and I drove from Milwaukee to South Bend through stormy weather and horrible Chicago-Indiana traffic. It was miserable. But suddenly the sky opened up, the sun came out, and we got off the freeway and saw the Dome.

I'm not big on signs or superstitions, but my mom still tells that story. You are here for a reason. It's that feeling in your gut when you first stepped onto campus. That overwhelming realization of how lucky you are to be here. That sense of home.

Don't worry if you aren't a legacy. Not everyone is. Don't worry if it took you a while to figure out this was it. Not all of us have known since birth. So what if your roommate's parents are double Domers who spend most of Frosh-O weekend reminiscing about their undergrad days?

You're here. You belong. Go make the most of it.

Maddie Hanna is a junior French major and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy minor from outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin (she'd say Mequon, but that's usually met with blank stares. Then again, some people don't know where Milwaukee is). Despite too many hours spent slaving away at The Observer, she firmly believes she is living The Life. Contact Maddie at

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