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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
The Observer

My Notre Dame bucket list

      During the winter break following the first semester of my freshman year, I created a Notre Dame bucket list. Talking with other classmates, this creation is not unusual. A girl in my halls made a check-list of dorms, to make sure she made a friend from every corner of campus. Another boy told me he called up an alumnus cousin and talked about the ND “musts” the summer before he even moved in, because he was so worried about not achieving the entire Notre Dame experience. 

      After I got a taste of all ND had to offer, realizing there was so much I wanted to do I could barely keep track, I opted for the bucket list. Meticulously, I researched Notre Dame traditions, thought about stories I’d heard from upperclassmen in my dorm, and contemplated all that I wanted to experience during my four years under the dome. As I continued through my school years, hearing about friends’ experiences and memories, I added new to-do’s. 

      Now, revisiting the list as I wrap up the first semester of my senior year and head into my last semester ever, I realize my list isn’t just a checklist for what I’ve accomplished during my four years, but also a gauge by which to measure how my idea of “college” has changed during my four years. I’m amazed by how much I’ve checked off without even realizing, but also pleasantly surprised by how much I still have to look forward to. 

To-Do’s I’ve Accomplished:

  1. Do touchdown push ups
  2. See the midnight drummer’s circle and trumpets under the dome
  3. Visit Duck Island
  4. Watch the Keenan Revue
  5. Make it into co-recreational intramural sports team
  6. Play flag football in the stadium
  7. Compete in the Fisher Regatta
  8. Attend and stay until the end of every home game
  9. Participate in the midnight snowball fight after first snowfall
  10. Storm the field after an exciting football game
  11. Jump into the lake
  12. Form a close relationship with at least one professor
  13. Travel to an away football game
  14. Be my hall’s (vice) president
  15. Live with my best friends
Things I Still Want to Do:
  1. Watch the sun rise over St. Joseph’s Lake
  2. Visit every dorm on campus (must go into a person’s room — lobby doesn’t count)
  3. Participate in at least one of each dorm’s signature events
  4. Step foot in every building on campus
  5. Go to the top of the bell tower on the Basilica
  6. Run the Holy Half
  7. Win an interhall championship
  8. Try out the rock climbing wall
  9. Go down in the tunnels
  10. Make a snowman
  11. Convince my friends to enroll in a dance class at Saint Mary’s with me.
  12. Do the Polar Plunge
  13. Attend a March Madness game
  14. Storm the court?
  15. Take a really, really fun class about something random. Just because.
Of course, looking at the list in my notebook, there are items I’m no longer interested in, like becoming a tour guide or fighting in Baraka Bouts (although I did train with the women’s boxing club for one season!). There are challenges that are no longer important to me, like singing on a “big stage” (a bold desire for freshman Julianna, considering she never joined a choir or auditioned for musicals), or seem fun but aren’t a priority, like dancing at “Salsa’s Night” at Legend’s. There were some bucket list items, too, that were a little sad to read, knowing they can never be checked off, whether due to poor planning or unforeseen circumstances, like participating in an (I)SSLP.

       Reading through the list, though, I also realize how many shining highlights of college weren’t on my bucket list. Sure, I didn’t study abroad as I had hoped to, but I did get to win an ice cream eating contest against strangers at 2 a.m. in the basement of LaFun, which I never would have even thought to wish for. My lack of planning may have kept me from getting to play every interhall sport, but it also allowed me to disregard previous obligations to attend Glee Club’s impromptu midnight troubadour concerts by the dome. My dorm may not have won Hall of the Year while I was here (as of now… I believe in you, Genie!!), but I was part of the executive board that created an environment that won PE “most supportive community”.

       Sure, my four years have been filled with touchdown push ups and flag football and so many of the other Notre Dame traditions I heard about during my tour, but the heart and soul of my time rests with the experiences I never could have imagined when making my lists. When I think of the memories I’m most thankful for, I think of me and my roommate sneaking a full sized tree into our room for “ambience". I think of blowing freezing bubbles and eating brownies in blanket forts during an unexpected snow day my freshman year. I think of playing noodle hockey in the basement of Lewis Hall as a residence counselor during Summer Scholars and applying last minute to an Appalachia seminar that introduced me to friends who now feel like family. I think of how a last minute invitation for Sunday night pasta dinner from a girl I barely knew from writing class turned into a weekly tradition that even remote learning during COVID couldn’t stop. I think of racquetball games in the Rock, where not one of my friends knows the rules. And of seeing the Ecumenichal Patriarch Bartholomew in South Bend, Indiana, of all places, after spending many a Sunday School lesson learning about him at my Greek Orthodox church back home. I think of Zumba classes with my little sister, whose presence at Notre Dame is an unexpected highlight in and of itself. And of long walks along St. Joseph river last year during “the pause” that made me realize for the first time how beautiful Northern Indiana is.

        As I look forward to my senior year, I still want to check off as much of my bucket list as I can, but I must confess, I’m most excited for the activities and occasions that a list could never predict. The ridiculous themed parties, the spontaneous drives for Culver’s chocolate custards, the too long talks in the library that inevitably occur when both parties most need to get work done. When I think of the time I have left at Notre Dame, I’m excited for all the things I’ve been looking forward to, but I’m most excited for all the things I’m not.

Julianna Conley is a senior studying sociology and pre-health studies with a minor Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Though she is forever loyal to Pasquerilla East B-team athletics, Julianna now lives off campus. She can be reached for comment at or @JuliannaLConley on Twitter.

Editor's Note: This piece originally abbreviated Saint Mary's. It has been updated to reflect the correct, unabbreviated version. 

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