Second semester of your junior year at Notre Dame is going to be a weird time, and this post serves as your official warning. People are gone, people have come back, you are making huge decisions, and you never thought you could be busier than you already are. Because I’m still adjusting to it myself, I may not be able to tell you the secret to get through it, but the least I can do is prepare you.
One caveat: if you are abroad in the spring, then none of this applies. Your semester will be amazing and full of adventures. However, for the rest of us, things are changing drastically. First of all, a positive change is that all of the friends who were abroad in the spring are finally back! After not seeing most of them since last May, all of the reunions were wonderful. Still, it cannot be ignored that when they were gone last semester, we had to create a new reality without them. Everyone made new friends and groups adjusted to fill the missing spots for the semester. Although these new friendships were never a replacement for the people who were gone, they became the new normal. This semester, when our abroad friends came back, most of the new friends left for abroad. This adjustment has somehow led to every social scene looking very different than it did last semester; not better or worse, but certainly different.
Another aspect of this semester that makes it different is that (for most of us), it is our last semester living on campus. Next year we will all be scattered around South Bend, and things will change drastically. Despite the fact that this is not a change occurring right now, it makes you want to appreciate the fact that many of your friends live right down the hall from you, or a walk across campus at most. Additionally, soon we’ll be cooking for ourselves. I know many friends who are glad to never have to go to the dining hall again, but I will definitely miss the convenience of eating on campus.
A third, and more serious, aspect of change in this time is the rapid movement in the direction of our burgeoning professional lives. Junior year is the time in which many of us decide what our five year plans will be and take steps to secure our next venture after college. For business majors, this often means getting a summer job at a firm where they will be offered a full time job for after graduation. For science and arts and letters majors, this means preparing for our next type of education: graduate school. As a pre-med student, I am preparing to apply to medical school. This means much more than you would think; outside of my classes I am involved in shadowing, research, tutoring, writing applications, interviewing, and studying for the MCAT.
Despite of all these extra responsibilities and weird adjustments, being a second semester senior is a wonderful period in undergraduate life. New friendships are burgeoning while old ones are three years in and stronger than ever. Increased responsibilities come with increased maturity, and we get to celebrate our progress at fun events like Junior Parents Weekend. Overall, it is essential to appreciate our time here, no matter what challenges it throws at us.