It’s good to be home.
I left my internship in Chicago early to move back to Notre Dame for RA training week. RAs show up about two weeks before Freshman Orientation and nearly two and a half weeks before the rest of the undergraduates move in on campus.
This week was jam-packed with a lot of serious training, but we made time for plenty of fun, too. Each day, hall staffs sat through hours and hours of presentations from various departments and campus resources. I saw more mission statement slides than I care to count, but it was really incredible to think about just how many people it takes to make Notre Dame run….
We heard from so many people who are so excited about having students back on campus and who want to make life here easy and fun and wonderful. My involvement with Welsh Family Hall government had made me more aware, perhaps, of the university’s many programs and departments than the average student, but the scale and breadth of this week’s training sessions made me realize just how many people Notre Dame has mobilized to support students.
At the opening dinner, Fr. Tom Doyle, the Vice President for Student Affairs, spoke about community and family and ministry. Actually, most of our speakers this week touched on those points. And that’s what made RA training week so affirming. It seemed like everyone who addressed us was very careful to acknowledge the choice that the RAs had made by signing up for a very different kind of senior year and to offer to support us however possible.
Campus felt different this week. There weren’t many people around – probably 300 hall staff members spread out through the 29 dorms on campus – but the folks who were here really wanted to be here. The students who were selected to be RAs are good kids – friendly types eager to meet new people and share their love of Notre Dame.
Because of this, RA training week had kind of a weird, cool vibe. It was like being at summer camp – our days were very structured, but we didn’t have much to worry about. It’s strange to be at school and not have homework. After the busy, serious, scheduled days, we’d kick back in the evenings. On Tuesday night, we played sand volleyball with the Knott RAs, and we played kickball (and won!) with the RAs from Keough, Duncan, and Ryan Halls on Wednesday night. On Saturday night, the hall staff from Dillon, our brother dorm, took us out to a lovely dinner nearly an hour away. We drove by a haunted mansion and Oprah’s old house along the way. Because nobody has classes or sports or clubs to suck up their days yet, there has been this wonderful, relaxed feeling on campus. During the year, it can be hard to play without feeling a little bit guilty, a little bit like you should be doing something productive for the betterment of society and the advancement of your career. But guess what? This playing, this spending time – it is productive.
Most if not all of the RAs were deeply involved in dorm life for their first three years at Notre Dame, and everyone was familiar with ND’s special approach to Frosh-O. When we walked in to the first day of training, I was struck by a feeling of déjà vu. Everyone was wearing matching hall t-shirts! It was just like freshman orientation but without the awkwardness.
Staffs coordinated shirts (and jerseys and tank tops and polos) throughout the week, but the best day for uniforms was Saturday. For Hall Staff Olympics, dorms go all out – face paint and flags, bandannas and boas, cowboy hats and cutoffs. The Welsh Fam staff (red, white, and blue costumes) was paired with the staff from Sorin College (“corporate warrior” costumes), who perpetually intentionally finished last in the Staff Olympics. We weren’t about to lose, so when the Sorin staff began to sabotage our first activity, we ditched them and paired up with the staff from Keenan Hall.
We continued through a series of activities, team building and otherwise. We won the tug-of-war and the spaghetti tower events outright and came in second in the trolley event. My tour guide knowledge came in handy during the scavenger hunt and the trivia round. My team was glad that I knew weird, obscure things like the name of the painter who did the inside of Main Building (Luigi Gregori) and the location of the statue signaling “fair catch” (Corby Hall).
The facilitators announced that points would be awarded to the teams who showed the best sportsmanship. Being Notre Dame students, we managed to make sportsmanship a competition. When we gathered in North Dining Hall for the scavenger hunt, everyone chanted, clapped, and drummed on the tables. The Lewis/Carroll team should have gotten points for creativity – they chanted “No Quad!” and “We live far away!” The start of the scavenger hunt gave us the opportunity to practice for football season; we treated it like kickoff, whirling our arms with a “Gooooooooo—o! Irish!”
The Welsh Fam/Keenan team took first place. We’re very proud.
Earlier this week, Fr. Tom Doyle related a conversation he’d recently had with Dr. Emil T. Hofman. Upon seeing Dr. Hofman sitting on his bench on God Quad, Fr. Doyle greeted him and commented on the lovely weather. Dr. Hofman responded, “Today, it is a beautiful park. In a few weeks, it will be a university again.”