Andrew Weiler | February 22, 2017
Editor’s note: Published in June 2016, A Letter to My Freshman Self is an anthology of 65 personal letters that Notre Dame alumni spanning 60 graduating years up to the Class of 2016 addressed to themselves as freshmen. Edited by Lily Kang ’16 and Ian Tembe ’17, the letters reflect on often complex undergraduate experiences and offer wisdom to help undergraduates make the most of these transformative years of their lives.
It’s Sunday afternoon of Orientation Weekend, and here you are in front of Knott Hall, arms around your two new roommates. You’re wearing a light blue polo and cargo shorts. (Just as a heads up, you’ll realize within the next week that those cargo shorts are definitely not in style. Cargo pants will be back in style by your senior year, but in a different, hipster sort of way and let’s be real — you’re far from hipster). You smile awkwardly, and Mom snaps pictures for posterity.
In a few minutes, there will be no more stalling, no way around it, and you’ll have to walk Mom and Dad out to the minivan for their drive back to Minneapolis. Fair warning: Mom will cry, just as you suspected. But you’ll also see a shimmer in Dad’s eye too, and, well, you just won’t be prepared for that. So you’re going to get a bit teary too. You’ll give them long hugs, turn away, and then pull yourself together as you head back to Knott Hall. Call Mom and Dad often — to pick you up in the bad times, to be proud of you in the good ones, and to just say hello.
Then you’ll walk back into Knott Hall. At that point, Marion Burk Knott Hall will appear little more than a collection of white painted cinder blocks, seemingly constructed in the Soviet architectural tradition. But don’t count out Knott Hall. The white walls might not be much, but the hooligans running around inside those cinder blocks wearing blazing orange beanies and tuxedo t-shirts will become your best friends. The shenanigans will be legendary — claiming the land outside of the dorm as Knott Quadrangle, donning suits and ties for a 7-course dinner in North Dining Hall on a Friday evening in February, belting out tunes from Mulan at dorm parties. I could go on, but you get the idea: it’s going to be a good time. You should invest time and energy in those friendships and get involved in your community. Few times in your life will you get to be a part of a community so tight-knit.