“Then Horton the Elephant smiled. ‘Now that’s that.’” The last three words of this phrase are probably my favorite words from Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! Having grown up with this charming children’s book around the house, and having had the honor of playing Horton in Seussical the Musical during my sophomore year of high school, I hold these words close to my heart, and I repeat them frequently. And as I live these final weeks of my college career, I expect they will come to mind when this chapter of my life draws to a close. After the intensity of final papers and exams, the fun of senior week, and the excitement of graduation festivities, all will become quiet again. Then, I will smile, heave a sigh, and say with feeling, “Now that’s that.”

But why? What is so profound about this simple phrase? It might even come off as cold or indifferent. But allow me to dissect it. Actually, I think its simplicity is precisely what makes it so special to me. It forgoes elaborate description—which, no doubt, has its proper place. Emotions may dip and rise as the bittersweet change arrives, and beautiful words may flow. They should be recorded and remembered in their own right. But at the very end of the day, I enjoy this little phrase that rests content with the subtle. It’s brief, quiet, almost unnoticeable—like a nod or a bow. Just a little gesture, but full of heart. To me, the phrase captures a sense of finality, satisfaction, and peace.

In the context of my life at Notre Dame, anticipating the phrase once again makes me reflect on what the “that” is that I will be looking back upon. So, with fondness, I recall some of the most valuable experiences I have had here. Many were happy, some were painful, others were silly, and most were just the ordinary, day-to-day elements that constitute the rhythm of life here. Combined, these experiences have all helped shape me into the person I am today, and I embrace them all.

Everyone’s college experience is different, and I do not wish to present mine as preeminent. At the same time, I feel compelled to share a few thoughts from mine, in hopes that some of you might find them helpful or at least interesting.

One thing I have learned is boldness in friendship. This applies to both beginning friendships and sustaining them. I got to know some of my dearest friends because of a brief conversation after class, a spontaneous dining hall meal, or a daring invitation to karaoke night. And each of those bonds has grown stronger when I have embarked on profound, sometimes challenging conversations with those friends. By learning to be humble and vulnerable, I have learned to be a better friend, and I have also had the joy of being surrounded by people who care for me deeply as well.

Another priceless lesson I have learned is to see every challenge as a part of God’s loving plan. It’s not always easy, but it is a source of long-lasting joy. This is something that I had been told growing up, and I had experienced it to an extent, but the unique circumstances of college (particularly that of being away from home for an extended period) ingrained the lesson more effectively. Sometimes things haven’t turned out the way I thought they would—in certain friendships, job aspirations, or other future plans. But each time, I have received so much more and so much better than I could have asked for: new opportunities, loving friends, and an increased sense of trust in God.

Finally, I have learned to work hard for causes I care about, even when results are hidden. Whether or not I find out how a conversation, a speech, or an article impacts someone, I have the assurance that if I put my best effort into it with love, then nothing has been lost.

I look forward to continuing to learn these lessons in the next chapters of my life. After all, what I approach is less like a cliff and more like a stream that flows into a river; rather than leaving a life behind, I step forward as my same self, with my same life, into a new environment. And I will bring many things with me: bonds with loved ones, acquired strengths and weaknesses, and many lessons, new and old. I face the transition with enthusiasm, though I will also feel the sting of leaving leaving so many wonderful people, places, and opportunities behind. But thanks to the beauty of my time at Notre Dame—and thanks to the confidence that I will still carry it with me in a new way—I can truly utter Horton’s words with heartfelt gratitude.

Sophia Buono is a senior majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and minoring in Education, Schooling, and Society. She is honored to have served the Rover since her freshman year. Contact her (until this email expires and she will have to provide a new and not as neatly concise one as an alumni) at sbuono@nd.edu.