A guide for freshmen, from Kosovo – by “a country girl”


It’s Throwback Thursday on the Bridge Blog today! We’re featuring a post from 2013 by a Quest Scholars Network Blogger who attended Notre Dame and spent time abroad to further her studies in Kosovo. It may be a throwback, but the advice is timeless! 

After seven weeks alone in Kosovo, I’ve developed this talent for acting like I know what I’m doing, when in actuality I have no idea. Whether it’s navigating the impossible maze of city buses in Pristina or haggling with a grocery store clerk in broken Albanian, there are at least five instances every day that involve me feeling completely lost on the inside while having to maintain some semblance of poise on the outside.

And this feeling has reminded me of being a freshman.

So I thought I would share these five tips for incoming Notre Dame freshmen, inspired by a summer in Kosovo. Here it goes:

  1. Create a coffee budget. I promise, it’s worth it. At Notre Dame, you’ll arrive feeling like a big shot, rolling in flex points upon flex points of spending money. Skip forward two months and you’ll have spent it all on late night Starbucks lattes. Factoring in a budget for those lattes will make life so much more bearable when it’s finals week and you still have spending money for caffeine fixes. Here in Kosovo it’s the same situation; every day I realize how much money is lost in macchiatos … yet for some reason, my grant program wouldn’t fund me for this expenditure.
  2. Meeting new people is always positive. You will spend much of next year struggling to remember names, faces, and dorms as you wade through the sea of Irish business majors on your way to class. You’ll meet hundreds of wonderful people, people who will inspire and amaze you with their kindness. You’ll also meet people who will make you want to run screaming in the opposite direction. It’s important to remember that both kinds of encounters are equally positive. Both can teach you something about yourself, and both have the potential to help you grow. So even though it may get tiring after the first few weeks of constant introductions, remember that meeting new people will only ever be positive. It’s the same in Kosovo; I’ve been equally honored to meet the Prime Minister and a homeless woman named Zamira. Both have impacted me.
  3. Check the weather forecast. The weather in South Bend, Indiana, is sadly just as unpredictable as the weather here in Eastern Europe. Several times in both locations, I’ve been caught in the middle of a rainstorm wearing a white shirt and open-toed sandals or shivering in the morning only to boil in the afternoon – the temperature constantly shifts throughout the day. This all will be averted if you’re a little sensible about checking the weather forecast in the morning. It’s all a click away online … and for your daily random act of kindness, read it aloud to your future roommate!
  4. Call home, sometimes. For some of you, college will be the farthest away from home you’ve ever been. For many of you, it will be the longest away from home you’ve ever been. It’s important to know that all of you will get homesick at some point. Whether it’s your memory foam bed mattress, your high school football games or your wonderful labrador retriever, there will be some parts of life that you can’t bring along to college, and that’s painful. Every day in Kosovo I wish I could have brought my little sister along … and also my air conditioning unit. Just remember that while it’s healthy to call home once in a while, there is an entire world of new experiences and aforementioned incredible new people waiting to meet you. Try not to let your phone calls/Skype dates/FaceTime sessions come between you and those moments too often.
  5. Humans make mistakes. If researching in Kosovo has taught me anything, it’s that humans make mistakes. And sometimes at a school like ND you’ll forget that – because everyone is so wonderful. Our admissions office loves telling us, “You were picked for a reason, you’re the best of the best,” but being the best of the best doesn’t mean being perfect. It doesn’t mean setting the curve for every exam and winning the election in every club, all while smiling and laughing and self-actualizing. Freshman year is going to be difficult, and the difficult bits are what make it so beautiful. I hope you’ll be able to look back on your freshman mistakes and think, “Those were only one small part of who I became this year.” In the long run, you’re going to be more than okay; you’re going to be someone amazing.

If you’re an incoming freshman reading this, welcome to the Notre Dame family!

— by Brenna Gautam, Quest Scholar, Notre Dame ’14

This was originally posted on 7/11/2013 on the Quest Scholars Network Blog.