As a senior with only a few months left at Notre Dame, I often find myself reflecting on my time here and the range of experiences that have shaped my undergraduate career. This will occasionally lead to further introspection about why I even came to Notre Dame in the first place. Sure, my high school’s mascot was the Fighting Irish, but with no family connections to the university, what reason did I have to leave Nashville and embark on a new chapter of my life in northwest Indiana?
On each of my visits to Notre Dame prior to enrolling, I found my answer. Sure, the Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus were heart-stopping icons of this place, but the true answer could not be seen or touched.
Community. Inclusiveness. Family.
These three themes shaped my vision of Notre Dame when it came time to make the final choice. What ultimately separated this university from the others on my list, even more so than its academic reputation, was the level of community I felt here from the moment I stepped on campus.
Students look out for each other. The faculty, staff and administration look out for each other and for the student body. In difficult times, the campus comes together as one. That close bond — from which the idea of “Notre Dame family” truly stems — is why I chose Notre Dame.
I fully recognize that not everyone shares my same positive experiences when it comes to Notre Dame as a fully welcoming institution. Undoubtedly, there are still a number of steps that must be taken to ensure that all students are represented fairly and have their voices heard. It is incredibly inspiring, however, to witness so many courageous individuals stand up and fight for positive change.
I do firmly believe that Notre Dame acts with its end goal being the best interest of its students. Its decisions might not always be well-received, and in some cases one might argue that the administration erred in acting a certain way, but this university would not have endured for 175 years without a constant emphasis on the lives of its students.
I look forward to seeing the future of this campus community, one which welcomes new students from distinct backgrounds and invites them to embark on a new chapter of their lives. Hopefully, it will be one upon which they look back with many fond memories; that has encapsulated my time at Notre Dame.
Juan José Rodriguez