ND Magazine: Looking out, looking over

Author’s Note: this article was first published in Notre Dame Magazine at magazine.nd.edu.
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Looking out, looking over

BY SARA FELSENSTEIN ’12

After work one night in September I met up with a friend from Notre Dame, Meg, for drinks at a rooftop bar in New York City. We’d been talking about doing this for a while, getting to a rooftop bar before things got too busy and the summer passed right by. After consulting timeout.com and conversing via Facebook we chose The Press Lounge, located on the West Side and overlooking the Hudson River.

It was something to look forward to, something to break up the monotony of the week. And in a way, going to a nice bar like this after work on a weekday feels like a young-professional-in-New-York-City rite of passage.

We arrived around seven, ordered glasses of Pinot Grigio and took a prime spot facing the city to watch the sun set while we caught up on our new lives. We talked about how beautiful the city looked from this angle and how we hoped to never become one of those jaded New Yorkers who goes about life in such an irritated rush that the place loses its awe-inspiring quality.

Meg and I graduated from Notre Dame the same year and both grew up in New York City suburbs. We talked about college, of course, but it was strange how removed we felt from it after only three months as young alumni.

We realized there is a clear disjointedness to those two lives, college life in the Midwest and home life outside of New York City.

Those two lives don’t seamlessly meld into one another, but rather seem to be self-enclosed bubbles of months or years, sharing adjacent positions on the timelines of our recent pasts.

It’s odd too thinking that during those undergrad years, college was everything. Total immersion in papers, practices, clubs and parties meant I’d sometimes lose track of major news events, even family updates — as if all that mattered was Notre Dame.

Despite semesters in different countries, summers in various cities or breaks at home, as soon as we were back on campus and thrust into the regular workload, those other experiences faded.

It was like we had never left.

Then, all through senior year, our impending graduation was this distant siren growing louder by the month, but never quite loud enough to demand serious acknowledgement. Even weeks before graduation, some of us were still in denial it would happen.

If we remained firmly grounded in this place, in everything Notre Dame, how could we suddenly end up on the other side?

Of course, after summer break ends and students move back in — that’s when the reality of graduation really sets in.

I think that’s what Meg and I realized that September night at the rooftop bar, surrounded by dresses and suits and foreign accents, wondering how much this vibrant place surrounding us was actually our place. Letting go of the feeling that this could be any other summer we worked in the city, that our professional lives were just practice for later and we could still be going back and accepting that four years of college is actually a relatively small amount of time.

It’s hard to keep that perspective as a student, to really feel how short four years are.

Until they’ve passed.

So yes, college was dearly, dearly missed. But we were also thrilled with being in New York and completely in awe of the sights in front of us. We couldn’t stay out until 4 a.m., but there were no tests, papers or job applications in our immediate future.

We were “done for the day,” a brand new concept.

One that we very much liked.

ND Magazine: The Subscription Dilemma

The approach of another new year begs the question: is it time to give up our print subscriptions? Check out my first blog post for Notre Dame Magazine below!

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The Subscription Dilemma

BY SARA FELSENSTEIN ’12

PUBLISHED: OCTOBER 18, 2012 POSTED IN: ALUMNI BLOGSSCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, AND SOCIETY & CULTURE Bookmark and Share

I remember one morning as a 10-year-old I was up early, reading a book by the living room window. A black car slowed before our house, the window rolled down and a package was thrust onto our driveway. I paused for a moment before running outside to retrieve the paper, thrilled that I’d actually seen the man who delivers The New York Times. My excitement was a mere step below seeing Santa or the Tooth Fairy. The paper’s magic was still preserved — I didn’t know where exactly they came from — but I was one step closer to solving the mystery.

That was 12 years ago. Twelve years ago, we had barely purchased our first bulky Dell, much less consider taking the morning news from a backlit screen. Twelve years ago, we still had dial-up Internet, woefully barren email inboxes and asked Jeeves instead of Googling.

A lot has changed in 12 years. That’s why my mom recently sat my dad down at the kitchen table to bring up a two-word, volatile phrase in my household: digital subscription.

“Bruce,” she said, “Don’t you think it’s about time we get a digital subscription to The Times?

I knew where this conversation would end even before it started. My dad shook his head and sighed.

“Sally, please. We’ve talked about this. It’s really not that much cheaper. We’re just not getting one.”

My mom protested, laying down her arguments. That we read the news on the NYTimes.com each day, pretty much only reading the physical paper on car trips. That it’s a heck of a lot of recycling and wasted paper for a low percentage of use. That the most functional purpose of the paper at this point is not the paper itself but the blue plastic bag it arrives in, which we collect and use for doggie waste receptacles.

“It’s an unnecessary expense,” my mom argued.

“We’re keeping the subscription,” my dad said, and that was that.

While it wasn’t my place to weigh in on this discussion, partly because I’m not paying for the subscription but mostly because I read news online 95 percent of the time, I was privately relieved at my dad’s decision.

As a member of the digital age, I spend most of my day working and socializing in the online sphere. But with The Times, I wasn’t ready to go digital. Somehow, making my life both wireless and paperless feels less like moving forward and more like giving in.

I tried to determine why I am so attached to print newspapers when reading news online is more convenient for my lifestyle. I guess I’m nostalgic for “old times,” remembering the excitement I felt as a kid when “I read an article Mom!” or picked up the morning paper and the ink was still wet. Even at a young age, I had a basic understanding of what amazes me today — that all of these stories were compiled, researched, written, packaged and delivered — in the span of one day.

That sense of a day’s entirety is lost on the homepage of a website. The NYTimes.com constantly updates and changes its top stories throughout the day. I rarely do it, but I want the possibility of reading from cover to cover, the satisfaction of tackling the news without the nagging feeling that some bold headline appeared just as I looked away.

The scope of The Times website is infinite — between all of the articles, archives, photo galleries, timelines and podcasts, I can never read enough, be on top of the news enough. Sometimes, this wealth of information and visual stimulation is exactly what I’m looking for. But I do find myself flitting from headline to headline and am much more committed to a story when I read it in print.

Those are my reasons for being conflicted. Of course, my dad has his own.

With the click of “submit,” so goes another year, another print subscription. Yes, we’re essentially buying the paper for the off-chance that we go on a car trip, that we want to read in bed, that the Internet goes out, but for now, that’s good enough.

I’ve decided The New York Times and the NYTimes.com are not interchangeable.


This article was published first in Notre Dame Magazine.  

ND. UM. ’08. Let’s bring this back.

On the bus home from work this evening, I checked the weather for South Bend and was bummed to find a 50 percent chance of rain forecast for Saturday.

Rain during the 24 hours I’ll be on campus,  during the one ND tailgating experience I’ll have until next year, during the one home game I’ll be at this fall after attending all 26 over the past four years?  I wasn’t thrilled, to say the least.

But then I thought: let’s bring this back.

Sept. 13, 2008. Notre Dame: 35 / Michigan: 17

The mud, the wet, the win. Let’s bring ’08 back like we never graduated.

Saturday calls for some mucky, mucky Fichigan.

Epic mudsliding on South Quad. Sept. 13, 2008.

Notre Dame admissions video: Any Given Day

“It’s about shaping you as a person and really getting you prepared for your life after Notre Dame.”

As a junior in high school, I found college touring exhausting. All of the info sessions, tours, scheduled meetings with student representatives– they all blended into one another. I had trouble defining what schools were really like when almost all the admissions literature teemed with vague words like “history,” “tradition,” “opportunity” and “success.” I can’t tell you how many schools I looked into that boasted “completely unique” opportunities for me. Was that even possible? How was I supposed to decide the location of my next four years, and the foundation of the rest of my life, based on a “gut feeling,” a programmed tour of interesting facts and some carefully worded handouts?

Since going to Notre Dame, I’ve always thought the only way to really know a school, to understand what it’s all about, is to be there as a student. Yes, there’s that feeling you get when you first walk on campus as a prospy, when you realize you “know” the school on some basic level. But that feeling grows, changes and transforms when on campus for good. When you discover the major you didn’t know existed or the club you dedicate all your free time to, that  feeling seeps into deeper parts of you. It’s no longer a fleeting emotion awakened only when looking up at the Golden Dome for the first time, but something more permanent, cultivated by the things you do on campus and manifested in the relationships you make.

Unfortunately, the wrapped-up-with-a-bow perspective typically handed to prospective students by the admissions office does not and cannot portray what a school is all about. The scope of the student experience– what’s possible over four years– is much too large.

But this new video released this week by the Notre Dame admissions office is different.  The video was produced by Philadelphia-based Neighborhood Film Co., a company that “mentors and employs individuals recovering from homelessnesss, mental-illness or addictions through the process of filmmaking.” Not only is it a fresh, modern and interesting work of videography, it both accurately and beautifully portrays the character of the University. Unlike videos I’ve seen in the past, I can’t pass this off as an annoying, overdramatic compilation of clips used by admissions to either play up or play down various aspects of Notre Dame.

Because it doesn’t. It’s not. It’s kind of the real thing.

Watch it.

Caffeine Culture

Published in The Observer

If you’re anything like my friends and me, Starbucks downs your flex points just about as fast as you down its tall vanilla lattes.

I don’t even drink coffee just to stay awake. There are so many other great reasons to grab a cup: to fill an awkward break between classes, to catch up with friends, to procrastinate studying and to keep warm when the temperature goes subzero.

We live in a caffeine culture, and the ridiculously long coffee lines between classes prove that. You can even tell a lot about a person based on their caffeine preference.

We have the Waddicks types, who linger at the coveted red booths, reading Chaucer or discussing philosophy, slowly sipping large pumpkin spice coffees.

You know someone’s got a long day when their tumbler is filled to the brim with Grab and Go coffee and secured in the net pocket of a protruding backpack.

And then there are those who are perpetually holding Starbucks — never straight coffee but always with an excess of adjectives like nonfat, extra whip, unsweetened, light ice and no foam.

I may be stereotyping, but at Notre Dame getting coffee is a more social thing for girls than for guys. You are much more likely to see four PW girls in LaFun gossiping over coffee, than to see four Siegfried guys crowded around a Burger King table, chatting and sipping their nonfat lattes.

On the other hand, unlike guys, girls don’t typically purchase energy drinks to have fun with their friends. Let’s take the case of Five-Hour Energy shots. Girls never brag about taking them. In fact, most girls will down them in the privacy of a Subway booth or in their own rooms. But when guys pop open that small bottle, they have to broadcast it to whoever they pass by. It’s always like, “Dude, I’m so ridiculously awake now, I just took a Five-Hour Energy. Love that stuff.”

Addiction? Possibly. Problem? Not really.

But the Five-Hour Energy shot poured into the coffee? Yes, I’ve seen it done. Now that’s a problem.

At Notre Dame, we like to think that while we “play hard” on the weekends, during the weekdays we are studious, diligent and in control. However, our coffee drinking habits are oddly reminiscent of our weekend drinking habits. Why else would we order a double shot of espresso on a Monday morning, or claim that “one more cup” of coffee won’t hurt us? Why else would we suffer through headaches at 11 a.m., just because we didn’t have that morning cup?

Whether you’re a social coffee drinker, a caffeine addict, or, gasp, you “don’t like coffee,” there’s no denying that we live in a caffeine culture.

Of course, there are those out there who claim to survive without any caffeine at all. On good, old-fashioned sleep, they say. I still think there has got to be some method to that madness, but for now, more power to them.

SAD

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) plagues six of every 100 people in the United States, according to statistics by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The main age of onset of SAD is between 18 and 30 years old.  The disorder is related to seasonal variations of light (or lack thereof).

No wonder it  affects so many students at Notre Dame.

That’s a pretty dramatic  shift of scenery. Beautiful, as the white pathway and  snow-covered dome are. But best viewed through a photograph or the warmth of a LaFortune window.

Check out The Observer‘s archives on Seasonal Affective Disorder here.