Katherine - Gottemoller





Authentically ND: A First-Year Reflection

Last summer, I sat in the back seat of my parent’s car as we drove by cream-colored buildings and Welcome Week committees of screaming students waving neon signs and excitedly running up and down the sidewalks of North Quad. I desperately wanted to freeze time so that I didn’t have to get out of the car, unpack my suitcases, and begin my new life. I didn’t know what I would encounter, but I didn’t think it could be more loving or accepting than my family. Here, I have encountered disappointed expectations, brokenness, and imperfection. I have experienced love, acceptance, and community. I have responded with varying emotions, but most importantly I have responded by embracing the challenge that was my first year. 

I spent the majority of the first half of my first semester counting down the days until I would be back at home. What I did not realize is that the beginning of my fall break was accompanied by the release of midterm grades. When I finally built up the courage to look at my grades, I was disappointed. I had not expected to be challenged at Notre Dame and my grades reflected the fact that I was indeed being challenged. I realized that my expectations for perfection had robbed me of the opportunity to be proud of my accomplishments. From there, I made it my personal goal to avoid creating expectations and instead practice being proud of my accomplishments. 

Some of the things that I encountered in my first semester were expected. I expected to be lonely and tired and homesick, but I wasn’t expecting to encounter brokenness. In my courses, we talked about the brokenness of the Catholic Church, American government, and the brokenness of generations of oppressed peoples. I felt weighed down by all this brokenness and pain, but I didn’t know how to identify the problem I was facing. During the first semester, our section pondered the theme of “encountering brokenness”. At Notre Dame, we face brokenness by embracing it and taking action to change it. Encountering brokenness in the beauty of Notre Dame was scary, but the realization that the world is better and stronger for being broken has taught me to see my life differently. 

Not everything I encountered was negative. I also encountered success. I received unexpected good grades and made surprisingly good friendships and I learned that just as I share my defeats and disappointments with my community, I also must share my triumphs. I put this into practice by making a tradition of grabbing gelato from Hagerty Family Cafe after Psych exams with my friend Maria. Small traditions such as this have encouraged me to share my successes with my community at Notre Dame.

Although I expected to encounter opposing opinions in college, I was confident that my anti-confrontational personality would help me to keep my distance from these conflicts. I was quickly proven wrong when I was challenged to write essays for Comparative Politics which accurately described the counterarguments to my beliefs. Notre Dame has followed in the tradition of Fr. Moreau who wrote, “It is simply essential for the next generation of Christians [..] to be conversant with modern theories and philosophies, even those they oppose.” Notre Dame taught me how to critically address those who disagree with me in the pursuit of truth.

Encountering challenges, brokenness, success, and opposing opinions have all been part of my Notre Dame Journey. My Notre Dame community has driven me to share my successes and failures and challenged me to grapple with brokenness and conflicts.  Waking up every morning knowing that I am a part of this institution that defines nearly every aspect of my life has been exciting and daunting. As I look ahead to these next four years, I hope that they will provide me with a more complete understanding of how I relate to this place I call home: Notre Dame.