Friday, June 8, 2012

School's (Not) Out for Summer

For those of you who don't know, this summer, I am working on campus as a music mentor with the Notre Dame Vision program. As part of this job, I am living in the dorms and generally doing what I do all year from my recent return from Ireland until the end of July. When we first pulled up to Coleman-Morse on Tuesday afternoon, my fellow Folkheads vis-a-vis music mentors heard, several times, that "all Notre Dame students need the experience of spending at least one summer on campus." Now that I've been doing just that for a few days, I understand why. Being on campus in the summer is really, really weird. Your on-campus friend/classmate base is different, your dorm is different, your responsibilities are different, the weather is definitely different, and yet everything else is essentially the same. I imagine this must be how visiting alumni feel all the time, minus the nostalgia and stories about how much better Notre Dame was before women got here.

One of the most striking weird things about summer on campus is the people. The Vision kids, as opposed to those here for summer classes and other miscellaneous jobs, are lucky in that many of us count our best friends among the mentors. But no matter what you're on campus for, it's a sure bet that you're not here with all the friends you'd be here with during the semester. It is very weird to walk across the quad, go to the dining hall, or hang out in a dorm lounge knowing that you're not going to run into the girls from your section, the overachieving freshman from your stats class, or that hot guy from Squash Club* you've been secretly in love with all year. (*I do not actually know if we have a Squash Club.) This weirdness is particularly amplified this early in the summer, since most classes and jobs have not yet begun. At lunch yesterday, the dining hall contained a whole six people who weren't Vision music mentors. Aside from us and the Alliance for Catholic Education trainees, pretty much the only people on campus right now are the football players. Going about your day knowing you will, in the whole day, run into a maximum of three people who aren't your coworkers is strange. Doing so when those three people are Andrew Hendrix, Manti Te'o, and Louis Nasty Dawg Nix is significantly stranger.

Weirder still than the people you're on campus with in the summer are the things you're doing while you're there. Campus during the school year is a busy, stressful place. Compared to the 15-18 credit hours per semester, dozens of club meetings per week, and endless stream of work that accompany campus life during the school year, campus during the summer is one big, sunshine-y playground. As music mentors, my summer-on-campus crew and I are essentially getting paid to sing a bunch of songs and put on some musicals about the Bible. Now don't get me wrong; we practice for a lot of hours every day, which, with a group of only 14 singers, is going to get pretty hard on both of our voices and our patience with one another before long. Once our two weeks of practice ends and Vision itself begins, our days will be even longer. But even if your summer responsibilities are fairly strenuous - those people, for instance, who are taking summer classes or doing the 10-day death march version of the semester-long Vision theology class the rest of the mentors already took - they're nothing compared to what you do during the year. Summer on campus, no matter what you're doing, gives you the best possible college experience. You can play frisbee on the quad at all hours without having to brave snowstorms or the permacloud, and you don't even have to burden yourself worrying about the piles and piles of homework you should be doing instead!

After a long day of playing frisbee, eating in empty dining halls, and cavorting with football players, it seems only proper to retreat to the comfort of your familiar, perhaps even air-conditioned dorm, right? Wrong. The last of the summer-on-campus oddities is that you're shoved into a dorm that, chances are, you've never even set foot in. And assuming you're here for Vision or Summer Scholars or anything that isn't summer athletic practices, you can bet your new home will be AC-free and "full of character!" While some logical people would look at this as a fun new adventure, I - living mere yards away from my beloved Howard in a dorm that is universally despised by the Ducks but is, I now see, generally just a nicer, roomier version of its neighbor - am less than thrilled by the idea. I am, however, looking forward to seeing where in Badin and Howard the kids are put when they arrive for Vision. It is my sincere hope that my sister and cousin are placed in my tiny double from freshman year, just because I feel that would be amusing karma.

Well, friends, at this point, I've got to run. Between the enthralling episode of Teen Wolf I have playing in the background and the looming knowledge that I have less than an hour to get ready to go down one flight of stairs to the porch where we're going to sing some songs about Jesus for the rest of the morning, my stress level is far too high to blog right now! Clearly, as this post shows, summer on campus is both the weirdest and one of the best things ever invented. (We'll see how my opinions on this change as the summer goes on and my days start to span from 7 AM to midnight.) For those readers among you who have had or are having graduation parties in the weeks surrounding this one, you now understand why I couldn't be there for them. I was either out of the country singing or at Notre Dame singing. Sorry! May all of your college experiences include at least one summer on your campus of choice, and to all my readers, may your summers be as song-filled and homework-free as mine.

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