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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

Saying ‘yes’ to the unexpected: Rowing and community at Notre Dame

Our Lady’s University is worldwide known for its incredible alumni network that, no matter where in the world you are, will try to help you find your home under the Dome. As someone who didn't live close to any Notre Dame club, my family and I spent countless hours on phone calls with current students, alumni and Notre Dame families hearing all about the people they met, their favorite moments, special advice and what they thought made this place so special. All of these stories we heard had one thing in common: They all started when the student and their families decided to say yes to a completely new experience. 

With this in mind, I started my college life with the goal of embracing all that Notre Dame could offer, even if it was something I didn’t think I would enjoy or at times that I didn’t exactly feel like exploring new things. As a result, I attended the first meetings of all sorts of clubs on campus, including the Notre Dame biology club, which, let’s be honest, was way out of my comfort zone given that I am an economics and Chinese double major with no talent whatsoever for the biological sciences. However, I kept making myself explore new things, even if they didn’t “connect to me” personally,  because I was still trying to find a spark, that one unexpected thing that would help shape my college experience and give me the community that all the students, parents and alumni talked about. 

Finally, in my search, I found myself becoming a coxswain for the men’s rowing team, which, to clarify, is the person responsible for guiding and steering the boat, maintaining a race strategy and motivating the rowers. So, despite my lack of experience or knowledge about rowing and the role of a coxswain at the time, I decided to take the plunge and give it a shot.

As time passed, the sunrises and sunsets on the water, the chill in the air and the anticipation of another practice became a routine that now defines a big part of my college experience. The early mornings, though challenging, hold a sense of excitement and camaraderie that is hard to find anywhere else. The quiet hum of the boat house, the soft lapping of water against the dock and the conversations among teammates waiting to hit the water create a unique atmosphere that is both serene and electric.

In the boat, there’s a trust that binds us together. I feel the power of our collective determination, the unity in our movements and the shared goal of pushing ourselves to the limit. It’s a feeling of synchronicity and purpose that transcends the physical demands of the sport. During those challenging workouts, we push ourselves to our limits, but we do it together. The sound of oars slicing through the water and the rhythm of our breathing becomes a harmonious melody, and in those moments, we are more than just individuals; we are a cohesive unit striving for excellence.

But what truly makes coxing special is the bond with the rest of the team. We know each other’s strengths, quirks and most embarrassing stories. We celebrated together after a well-fought race and leaned on each other during tough times, and it was in one of these moments, right after the end of the national competition in Tennessee, that I realized I had found the community that all the alumni talked about.

In the end, I realized that what it’s all about is not just saying “yes” to new experiences; it’s about continually saying “yes” and letting those experiences become a part of you. It’s about embracing the unfamiliar, stepping out of your comfort zone and allowing those unexpected sparks to shape your college journey. Through rowing, I discovered that it’s the persistent pursuit of these moments — the willingness to keep saying “yes” — to new challenges, that truly makes the Notre Dame community a home under the Dome.

Lara is a member of the class of 2026 from Taubaté, Brazil with majors in economics and Chinese. When she is not complaining about the weather, you can find her studying in a random room of O’Shaughnessy with her friends or spending all her flex points in Garbanzo. You can contact Lara by email at

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