Ah, college. University. The wonder years. How it passes, how it sweeps on by, over before you know it. This is what we are told, as saplings, about the experience of attending a four-year university. Atop this saccharine characterization, we are burdened with another set of expectations, at Our Lady’s University in particular. O, the myriad of opportunities! O, the dazzling delight of football weekends, the blooming beauty of spring flowers on God Quad. The dorm life. The friendships to last a life time. Quoth Lou Holtz: “If you’ve been there, no explanation is necessary. If you haven’t, none is adequate.”

Maybe the rosy mystique only sets in a few years (or perhaps decades) after graduation, but for me, as a seven-down-and-one-and-half-months-of-a-semester-to-go semester senior, the view from the end looks, well … different. Let’s settle on “different” for now.

I was talking to a friend of mine about the prospect of graduation a week or two ago (the cliches have one thing right: the time does fly fast near the end). He said that, more than anything, the conclusion of his college years has caused him to think less about college and more about his whole childhood and upbringing in pensive retrospect. It is as if the end of undergrad triggers a kind of holistic reflection as one considers the forthcoming submergence into adulthood, complete with the stereotypical responsibilities of cooking for oneself and paying taxes, yes, but also the anxieties of departure and the task of maintaining relationships.

How can one spend four years at a bustling institution of talented and bright minds without ultimately facing this kind of dilemma of contemplation, after all? Although, to raise a cry of dissenting opinion, I did once read an inscription chiseled into a desk on the thirteenth floor Hesburgh Library that read: “I’ll be glad when it’s over. I hope never to return.”

Most of us, though, will return. Notre Dame has its magnetic draw, as many big name universities do, and the famed double Domers probably out-populate the residents of Howard Hall in any given year. I’m sure there’s a lot that one might appreciate at Notre Dame in a wholly different light once the diploma has been handed over and the textbooks handed in. A dorm mate of mine said something to that effect just the other day: “I’m sure it’s nice visiting Notre Dame when you’re not a student. You can look at all the nice buildings and the quads. When I’m walking to class, I just look straight ahead.”

It’s true. As students we are directed always ahead, always projecting our own concerns and ambitions, in need of solidification and achievement. Though, to be fairer on ourselves, that is not wholly true. Not all of the time, at least. There is ample charity here, ample commiseration and celebration of each other’s lives. At the end, anyway, there isn’t any further ahead one can project. The only direction is backward, toward reflection, as far as the campus goes, that is.

For my own part, I have been blessed with the company of some fine Notre Damers in my four years. Even with a year-long gap to study in some strange, outlandish country named England, I felt a cordial camaraderie with the peers that I got to know more substantially—here “got” again implies “had the privilege to,” lest we forget that, in the wide world, not everyone is as motivated and compelling to talk to as the average Notre Dame personality. This isn’t a direct swipe at the rest of the world so much as a veneration of Notre Dame, I should add. One of the less banal of the Notre Dame cliches is that it is a different kind of university, since, it is differentiated by sheer statistics. So are other universities, sure, but Notre Dame is different in its combination of academic excellence and integration of genuine Catholic ethos, however much we might find cause to complain.

So here you are, reading the Irish Rover. And I want to take time, then, at the end of things, to thank this community of writers, editors, professors, and advisors for providing me with a place to learn about the Notre Dame community and, in word and deed, build up the Notre Dame community. They have supplied me with a place for my more artistic and eccentric reflections when other publications on campus edited away my adverbs. They have entertained me with their wit, enriched me with their reporting, and enlivened me with their precise prose. Many among them have become my friends, and many others I wish to have met more fully. They have, perhaps, even provided me with cause to vindicate some of those flimsy stereotypes about university being a time of great exploration and kinship and lead me to say with an unfeigned joy: Praise thee, Notre Dame.