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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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I could've gotten this anywhere

I could’ve gotten my college experience anywhere. I worked for the student newspaper, got a business degree, studied abroad, went out to bars, you know — the usual. Notre Dame was by far the “best” school I got into, but I could’ve gotten the full college experience and had a great time at any school.

During my time at The Observer, I’ve often found myself criticizing the school because, well, that’s what a student newspaper is here for. Now that I’m looking back, I find it appropriate to reflect on the most important lesson that I learned here.

While Notre Dame was the “best” school that made the mistake of letting me in, I did not and do not care about that. What drew me in and sticks with me is how comfortable Notre Dame is in its own skin.

There’s a lot of nonsense going around at some of the “top” universities right now. Schools are canceling commencement ceremonies, students are going crazy, university administrators are proving incompetent at managing the well-being of their institutions. It’s a weird time.

I’m grateful to go to a school that carved out a unique character. A character that goes beyond simply appeasing the whims of pretentious 18-22-year-olds. Don’t get me wrong: there’s still a lot of that. But Notre Dame is Notre Dame. It’s not an Ivy. It’s not a party school. It’s not even just a Catholic school. It is its own thing.

At a time where Catholicism is even less trendy than normal and tight-knit communities and normal social interaction are hard to come by, Notre Dame is unique. It’s an intimate, pedestrian campus with lively dorm communities and a Catholic reputation it doesn’t downplay.

Notre Dame’s academics are phenomenal. But the rapid acceleration of the University’s academic prestige is a byproduct of its distinct reputation. Smart high school kids can get an “elite” education at a number of places. But if you’re looking for a school where most students are genuinely seeking to build community, well, that’s a little harder. When you distinguish yourself for a cause you believe in, doors open for you — often because you get flak for it.

While on the surface my college experience was basic, I’m not sure how many schools I could’ve gone to where I could cover multiple Supreme Court justices — one of them being a law school alumna — and the Ecumenical Patriarch visiting campus or Quarter Dogs disappearing. I’m lucky to have gotten to experience all the random — and sometimes weird — opportunities Notre Dame has afforded me, all while meeting unbelievable people and communities in every corner of campus I’ve visited.

I don’t know what the rest of my life will look like. But — for all its flaws — Notre Dame has taught me the importance of standing up for values I believe in. The path may not be clear at this point. But thanks to this really strange school in the greatest city in the world, I know that if I stay true to who I am, it will eventually fall into place. 

Ryan is graduating from Notre Dame with a major in business analytics. After graduation, he will work in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. You can contact him at

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