Joanna Mulvey | January 17, 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.
Dear Freshman Joanna,
Congratulations on finding a home at Notre Dame! I can confidently say that you have made the right choice. This is not to say that, at times, you will wonder if you did — that is bound to happen. But at the end of the day, this is the place that will develop your mind, your spirit, and your relationships. There are a few things I want you to know before you embark on this great journey. . . .
First, let’s talk about being a student-athlete. This is not for the faint of heart. It will take you a while to find your routine, to discover your place on the team, and to realize that you are not alone in feeling like you are being pulled in many different directions. There is no right or wrong way to navigate this journey that you are on, so be patient with yourself and ask for help. Be confident in your rowing ability and in your ability to be a leader. You will be surprised at how impactful your leadership skills will be throughout your career here; never underestimate your ability to make a difference. Though rowing will always remain in your life, your collegiate rowing career may very well be the last time you are really and truly a competitive rower. The sum of your rowing career will be greater than all of the individual races and meters from which it is comprised. You may not win a national championship during your time here, but you will realize that the authentic bonds you’ve made with your teammates on and off the water will be worth more than any first place finish. In the long run, the race results won’t be nearly as important as the incredible women you rowed in the boats with.
This brings me to my next point: engineering. Like most Notre Dame students, you got straight A’s in high school, made the Dean’s List, and fought for the top spot in the class. So, when you get your first General Chemistry exam back, do not panic. You have made the courageous decision to become a mechanical engineer. It is not going to be an easy road and you will question whether or not it was the right decision more times than I care to admit. However, during those late nights and horribly time-consuming problem sets, you will develop some pretty incredible friendships. You may not remember what the Runge-Kutta Method is, but the smell of popcorn will always remind you of doing engineering homework in the Cavanaugh basement with your closest friends. Unlike the internal energy of a thermodynamic system, college is not a state function — the path is incredibly important.