When we moved to South Bend last July, everyone kept saying to us, “Welcome to the Notre Dame Family!” I kept wondering if this was just one of those phrases that everyone says, like, “Have a nice day,” or “Let’s have lunch sometime!” But it didn’t take long to learn what it really means to be a part of the Notre Dame Family. It’s a real thing. And it’s incredible.
My husband, Aaron, spent five years in the Army prior to our move to South Bend, and our five-year-old daughter was about to move to her fifth home. Needless to say, we had learned a thing or two about moving and meeting new people. What we hadn’t yet decided, though, was which school was the right fit for our family. In the military, everyone’s in the same boat – they tell you where to go and you go. When you get there, you meet tons of other spouses and significant others who are in the same position. But this was the first time in our married life that we had the chance to make our own decision, so we wanted it to be the right one.
We visited four other schools before we got out of the car in South Bend, but none of those places felt right. They didn’t have that family-welcoming feel or that, “Hey, we’d love to meet your wife and kids!” vibe that we were hoping for. But all of that changed the minute we got to South Bend. Our entire family was welcomed with open arms, and we knew immediately that Notre Dame was perfect for us. It was icing on the cake that Notre Dame has an excellent business school and a fantastic reputation. We had already put Notre Dame at the top of our list but now it was circled in red with big exclamation points all around it. When the phone call came from Notre Dame, that was it. We knew we were moving to South Bend.
After living here for about a week, we had fully settled into our apartment and I knew it was time to go on the hunt for new friends and a new community. During the MBA orientation, I attended the Family Life Committee’s welcome session, hoping this would be the perfect place to meet some new friends. There, I learned about the committee’s weekly playgroup, weekend outings, mom’s night out activities, book/movie club, cooking classes, and adult outings to area wineries and vineyards. Yes! I was in the right place. I started attending playgroup the very next week, and I immediately had a fantastic group of new mom friends from all over the country. We were able to revel in each other’s joy regarding new babies, happy toddler milestones, and great new restaurant and shopping finds. We were also able to commiserate about unpredictable class schedules, Mendoza group projects, and not-so-fantastic toddler milestones. It has been such a relief for Aaron to know that his family is just as happy hereat Notre Dame as he is.
Many of our playgroup outings take place at local museums, playgrounds, parks, and pools, and the goal is to keep things cheap, easy, and adventurous. We try not to go to the same place more than twice so that we are constantly discovering something new. We all know that navigating a new city is hard, and often we fall into a rut of doing the same thing over and over because it feels comfortable and safe. But when you’re with a big group of moms and kids, you feel freer to try something new because you’re not doing it alone. In the past year, we’ve done and seen so many interesting things, and it has given me so many ideas about what to do with both of my girls during the long summer months. My oldest daughter is going to four different day camps because of the adventures and fun that her little sister had during play group. These are camps that I never would have known about, had I not been a part of such a wonderful group.
The wonderful thing about the FLC is that it’s not just about families with kids. Those students who brought along a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse are just as involved with the FLC as the MBA parents. The FLC sponsors group outings to sporting events, picnics in the park, excursions to the local Lake Michigan beaches, and classes taught by other FLC members who are interested in sharing their skills. I taught preschool before moving to South Bend, so I lead a story time once a month for the playgroup kids. Other members have sewing or knitting skills that they share. And an MBA husband, who was also a talented chef, led the FLC cooking classes. There’s no end to the possibilities for fun with the FLC.
Now, halfway through our time in South Bend, we are still incredibly happy with our choice to come to Notre Dame.We’ve enjoyed the revelry of football season, the excitement of ice skating at theCompton Ice Arena, the great music of the Notre Dame Marching Band (which practices in the parking lot every evening, in the fall!), the beauty that Notre Dame’s campus has to offer, and the wonderful community fellowship of believers (of all faiths!) that make Notre Dame an incredible family to be a part of.
So, I say with all my heart, “Welcome to the Notre Dame family.” It’s far-reaching and it’s the most wonderful community that you’ll ever be a part of.
Co-Chair of the Family Life Committee
If you’re interested in learning more about all of the fun that we have through the FLC, you can check out our blog at WeAreNDFamily.com. Also, once you arrive in South Bend, you can ask to join our Facebook group at ND MBA FLC. If you have any questions, you can email the FLC at WeAreNDFamily@gmail.com.