Soon after stepping onto the campus of Notre Dame, I realized that I was somewhere special.

When I transferred into Notre Dame during my junior year, however, I often heard other students describe the campus as a huge “bubble.”  Though perplexed at first, I began to understand.  The poverty-stricken South Bend felt miles away from the luxurious Notre Dame.

Fellow students continued to describe “The Bubble” in this fashion, telling me that Notre Dame could cast a spell over its students, which allowed them to forget about any world outside of the campus.  Notre Dame was a giant bubble that kept everyone safe inside.  I admit that there were plenty of days during which I even forgot that there was a town outside.

I began to worry that I might be forgetting what really mattered in life.  Was I in the right place?  Was this too good to be true? These questions troubled me deeply throughout my first semester at Notre Dame.  Every time I felt those moments of sheer joy and peace as I walked around the lakes during sunset, I paused and thought about the world “out there.”

During winter break, I came back to my hometown, Los Angeles, and visited my best friend at UCLA. Many people would consider UCLA to be in the heart of the “real world.”  Students are directly confronted with homeless people, protests on the streets, and a whirlwind of activity throughout the campus. It is dirty; it is fast; it is loud; it is REAL.

It struck me how privileged I was to call myself a student of Notre Dame, where I always had a place to call my own and had time to contemplate life.  In Los Angeles, my friend was lucky enough if she got a few minutes to herself to think.  I wanted nothing more than to go back to my new home, to be cast under the spell once more, and to live in my illusion.  Los Angeles was not my home anymore, and it never would be again.

In my second semester at Notre Dame, I immersed myself in my major.  I firmly believe that being a theology major is unlike being a major of any other discipline.  Theology offers a unique depth and richness that encourages one to become a better person and live a more virtuous life.   It calls one not only to listen to lectures, but to HEAR them as well – to incorporate their messages into one’s life.

I attended Mass regularly, and during the Easter Vigil, I decided that I was going to become a Catholic in my senior year.  In my head, I kept repeating the joy bursting my heart, “I found it.  I found the treasure.  This is what I have been searching for my whole life.”  I had never felt more peace.  If this was an illusion, then it was the best illusion possible.  I wanted to renounce the “real world” completely and stay at Notre Dame forever.

After the semester ended, I came back to Los Angeles for two weeks.  Again, I was immediately taken in by the “world” there, especially the rampant materialism and its superficiality.  I did the normal L.A. routine.  I went to the mall and to Santa Monica to lie on the beach with friends and talk about the things that mattered: Did I hear Lady Gaga’s new song?  Did I see that one show with that one guy?  Did I know that so and so got married to what’s his face?  Bombarded with questions, I realized that all of my answers were in the negative.

When I began to describe my Easter Vigil epiphany to my friends and family, I was confronted with blank stares.  No one understood what I had felt or experienced.

For the first time, I recognized the truth.  The illusion was never at Notre Dame.  The illusion was here in Los Angeles.  In all cities.  In the world.  The Bubble is not Notre Dame.  The Bubble is any place that places anything higher than the Creator.

When a person can go an entire day without mentioning Christ, something is fundamentally wrong. Sadly, it is not easy to recognize this bubble of superficiality, let alone escape from it.

My desire to study theology is founded on this experience.  I wish to help others realize that the “real world” is an illusion, and that the bubble surrounding it needs to be popped. What I have found at Notre Dame is more real than anything that the “real world” has offered me.

Chelsea King is a senior philosophy-theology major.  Contact her at