The Notre Dame FamilyBY: Amber Galik '14 DATE: October 18, 2013 CATEGORIES: Making the Transition to College
How do I even begin to address the impact freshman orientation had on my first year at Notre Dame? To start, let me just say that I came to South Bend in August 2010 with little to no worries about “starting over” in college. Growing up in a military family, I had moved so many times throughout my childhood that it seemed normal to me to pick up and start over every few years. And although attending three high schools in three years was far from easy, I had survived it just fine and was looking forward to my next big adventure. So, what didn’t I expect to feel my first semester of college? Homesickness. And what was the only thing that allayed that aching sadness? The knowledge that I had a second family at Notre Dame – a second family whose foundation was created, faster than I even thought possible, during freshman orientation. Through all the talks, the games, the awkward ice-breakers, and the even more awkward serenades, there somehow emerged a special sense of harmony and oneness that I knew I felt here the minute I stepped on campus almost a year before.
Freshman orientation forged bonds within my class, and especially within my hall, that I still feel today. My favorite memory of freshman orientation happened right after most parents, including mine, left campus on Sunday afternoon. Badin Hall’s big sister/little sister program traditionally has an event that night in which an upperclassman is given a little freshman sister to mentor throughout the year. The event that night included a casual get-to-know-you talk and some food, of course, and then we each decorated our own candle holders and walked to the Grotto together to light candles and spend some time in reflection before the start of the academic year. I lit my candle and knelt in front of the Grotto, trying to process why, after spending all summer counting down the days until I left for Notre Dame, I was feeling so sad and lonely. When I got up and turned around, I found my new friends and their big sisters standing together, some of them hugging each other and some of them just looking dazed. We eventually formed a giant group hug that quickly dissolved into tears and words of consolation, and I knew that everything would be okay with those girls by my side.
Notre Dame’s freshman orientation places a crucial and unique focus on community right from the very start – because while we can, of course, flourish as individuals, we would be nowhere without the support of people we love who love us. And with this fundamental support system already well on its way to what we all come to refer to as the “Notre Dame family,” freshmen are sent off into the great unknown of university life – with demanding academics, a multitude of opportunities, and a friend in every former stranger – to create their own, individual experience of this great University so many of us now call our second home. This, in my mind, is what is most important for freshmen to experience during orientation. Thankfully, it’s also what Notre Dame does best.