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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer


Embracing the unexpected

If you told me in August that I would not be pursuing a doctoral degree right out of college, I think I would have thrown up. For many months, I dedicated hours of my time on crafting the perfect personal statement which encapsulated my passion for neuroscience and showcased all of my abilities and qualifications. Pursuing a doctorate was all I dreamed of for years, but I ended up turning down an offer of admission. 

Even before I put my deposit down for the University of Notre Dame, I knew I would have to get comfortable with change. Originally, I had absolutely no intention of coming here for school. I wanted to be unique, and my alumni parents and now-alumna sister affirmed that Notre Dame was not the school for me — until I got in. 

To this day, I cannot tell you what made me rethink my original position; I wish more than anything that I could remember. This was my first lesson in a long line of lessons concerning my ability to confront the unexpected. 

I’ve learned and relearned over my four years at Notre Dame that even the things that seem permanent can change within a week or two — I know every student who had to confront school during the pandemic understands this. Regardless, this necessity to shift gears manifests in all aspects of your life, for better or for worse.

I didn’t know I’d move dorms after my first year. I didn’t know I’d add a minor halfway through my senior year and drop the one I’d had since I was a sophomore. I didn’t know how my friend group would change both so much and so little within the span of four years. I didn’t know how such small things in life could make such a big difference, and I didn’t know how some big changes could mean so little to me.

For the sake of page space (and good journalism), I won’t write my whole laundry list of the unexpected that I’ve encountered during my undergraduate career. I’m sure I’m not alone in this experience, even though it can be an incredibly isolating one. One of the best things I’ve encountered at Notre Dame, however, is the wonderful people who have made these transitions smoother and stuck with me though times were terrifying and uncertain.

To my family: Thank you for being supportive of me through all of my crazy ventures in the past four years. You’ve stuck with me and loved me through it all, as I know you’ve done for a long time and will continue to do. 

To my friends: Thank you for getting me through some of my worst moments. Thank you for all of the late-night study sessions, the trips to Target, DnD sessions, presentation nights and nights spent watching the worst movies of all time. 

To Dr. Chan: Thank you for being an incredible professor and mentor throughout my time as an undergraduate. It has been an honor to work with you and to be taught by you. 

To the Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company: Thank you for trusting me to try something new. You are all talented beyond words, wise beyond your years and will be my closest group of friends for as long as I live.

To The Observer: Thank you for being there to watch me grow into the person and writer that I am today. The late nights and “love the passion, cannot print” moments are worth their weight in gold. 

To all those who I have not thanked explicitly here: Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring.

I will miss this place and all the people in it, but it’s definitely time for me to graduate (and sleep for about three months). Go Irish!

Anna is a senior from Cincinnati, Ohio, graduating with a bachelor's degree in neuroscience and behavior with a minor in Irish studies. After Notre Dame, she will be pursuing a master's degree in behavioral neuroscience at University College Dublin. You can contact Anna at

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