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Life and Living Well

I’ll begin by stating the obvious: grad school is hard.

As graduate students, we are familiar with the toil of prioritizing and accomplishing our to-do lists. But grad student to-do lists grow faster than grad students can work. We’ve always got a nagging feeling that we ought to be doing something productive right now.

Part of what helps us tolerate long hours of labor and high expectations is knowing that it’s temporary. Only a few years of suffering; then comes the really meaningful work. We’ll land the job we desire, and then our life can really begin.

But we spend so much of our lives in this mindset. As an undergrad, we looked forward to grad school – that’s when I’ll finally get to do what I really want! And as high-schoolers, we looked forward to college – finally, a chance to be out on my own!

And then Master Yoda suddenly pokes us in our (metaphorical) ribs: “All his life has he looked away – to the future – to the horizon! Never his mind on where he was! Hm? What he was doing! Hmph. Adventure – heh! Excitement – heh! A Jedi craves not these things.” (The Empire Strikes Back) And somehow, in the words of a weird, shrivel-faced puppet, we recognize the truth: we can spend our whole lives looking forward to the next thing, believing that our life hasn’t begun yet.

But the fact is – it has. Life isn’t in the future. It’s happening right now.

And if life has meaning, it must be somewhere in the present. It must be here and now: in the friends and neighbors who, by chance or providence, surround us; in our own hearts and spirits, calling us to pay attention, to look – to really look! – and to listen – to really listen! Our life may not be what we’d like – but it is – it exists. And that’s good.

Work hard, then, but don’t be deceived – the meaning of your life isn’t all in what you produce. It’s in your relationships. It’s in who you are.

Listen to people. Bless them and tell the truth with humility. Don’t rush. Stop. See the living world around you. The beauty of it all is that life’s not useful- it’s just good. It’s all the gift of God, who didn’t need to create anything at all.

But he did. He willed the world to be. And he willed you to live so that he can love you. He’s already given you all that’s necessary for happiness, free, no strings. It’s there if only you have eyes to see – if you only ask him.

Trust God’s love. Hear his voice. Enjoy his grace. He is the meaning in the present moment. He is the Beauty in the beautiful. He is the Goodness in all that’s good.

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As graduate students, we spend much of our energy on one activity – writing. The quantity and quality of our writing is, in many fields, the benchmark by which we are evaluated by colleagues. The greater the volume of the writing we produce, and the more citations it receives, the more distinguished grows our reputation.

We’ll leave aside the perturbing questions that this reality should raise, and state the obvious: writing is the centerpiece of a graduate student’s career, whether it’s our dissertation, a class presentation, a journal article, or a conference talk.

Many of us find ourselves alone as we wade into this morass of words and ideas, relying on a combination of calendar and willpower to forge ahead. In these trackless swamps, however, procrastination is ever at hand and our thoughts and expressions tend to curl inwards until we find ourselves in an echo chamber of our own making.

Our mistake is to think that writing is a solo expedition, a way to express ourselves, but it’s more than that. Writing is a relationship. It’s about articulating the truth so that it can become somebody else’s too – and the words that we think best express our thoughts may not be as successful as we suppose. There’s only one way to tell, and that’s to get feedback. Equally helpful is having a companion in our toil to encourage us and, at times, prod us into making progress.

Each of these aspects of composition – communication, feedback, and accountability – happen in the context of community, a world far larger and richer than any dissertation or article. The academy may evaluate you on the basis of words produced, but the real font of meaningful living lies deeper – in friendship, the very heart of human flourishing.

Grad Life’s Writing Accountability Groups program is about building just such a community of writers. The premise is simple: you and your colleagues form a writing group for the purposes of keeping each other accountable in your work and providing one another feedback, and Grad Life gives you money – up to $10 per person per month – so that you can enjoy snacks and coffee or tea together. The community is yours. We just help with the cash.

For the full details, additional guidance, and to register your own group, check out the Writing Accountability Groups webpage on the Grad Life website.

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Have you and your grad student friends ever wanted to go to an event, but couldn’t quite bring yourselves to fork over the cash to pay for it? Next time, Grad Life may be able to help!

One of Grad Life’s ongoing programs is the GO Grant program, sponsored by the Notre Dame Graduate School. Groups of current Notre Dame graduate students and post-docs (and their guests) can apply for a GO Grant to help cover the cost of tickets or entrance fees to events around Michiana. If you have a group of six to twelve graduate students (and up to one guest for each student) collectively coming from at least two different academic departments, you’re eligible to apply for up to $300.00 per group to help subsidize the cost of the event you have in mind. This program is meant to support graduate student participation in local events in order to promote well-being and foster community.

All you have to do is fill out a short online application with a description of the event and a brief argument for why your group should receive funding for it. Eligibility requirements and other policies are spelled out in full on the Grad Life website, but here are the basics.

  • The money can only be used to cover the cost of tickets or entrance fees to one-time events – it is not for covering the cost of food, beverages, alcohol, transportation, recurring classes, etc.
  • Submit your application at least one week ahead of time, since every participant will need to fill out and submit a waiver form.
  • It’s okay if the total cost of the event will exceed $300 – you can use the GO Grant as a subsidy.
  • No applicant or attendee may be the beneficiary of a GO Grant more than once a semester. If you were part of a group that received a GO Grant in January, you can’t be part of a group that receives a grant for the rest of the spring. Check the website for specific dates.
  • Only adults (over 18) are eligible to receive funding.
  • Afterwards, your group will need to submit your receipts, a short survey, and a photo of the group at the event in order to receive reimbursement.

It’s as simple as that! So next time you and your friends feel like fleeing the library and getting some recreation, you can think less about cash and more about fun. Apply now!

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As I write, rain is pouring down outside. The weather has reached 60 degrees, the first sure sign that winter is coming to an end. I expect that the cold will return, but the seasons are surely turning. All of this water will soon swell into blossom on trees across campus and the arc of the Sun across the sky will slowly expand and render the days mild and warm once more.

More good news: the new Graduate Student Lounge in Duncan Student Center is now a frequent haunt of the reclusive and perpetually-working graduate student. It has become something of a natural habitat for this strange species, thanks mainly to large windows, comfy chairs, and an abundance of one of its primary sources of energy: coffee (to say nothing of peanut butter sandwiches). Time has certainly confirmed my opinion that the Lounge is the best space in Duncan – there is just something about the sunlit ambience, the colors of the furnishings, and the smell of coffee brewing that makes it possible to rest, even while studying.

The space is far from perfect, of course. At lunchtime and after five o’clock, fitness classes begin in the gym directly above. All of the electric outlets are now functional, though the lockers remain half-assembled. And yes, the occasional stray (or unscrupulous) undergraduate does make off with a peanut butter sandwich.

All in all, however, the Lounge is a pleasant place. Importantly, it is our place – not a home, perhaps, but a space nevertheless to which we belong.

Welcome.

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It’s deep winter in Michiana. The sky is cloudy, your fingers are numb, and the latest glacial air mass has transformed our campus into a winter wonder-if-I’ll-live-to-see-grass-again-land. Rumor even has it that woolly mammoths migrating from Canada have been spotted outside the city!

At times like these, only one thing can warm your frosty innards: food, delicious and piping hot. We’ve already given you some good suggestions on where to find it in previous posts (see especially this one on cheap restaurants) so today’s will focus on eight Mishawaka restaurants not previously featured on Ask the Salmon or on the Grad Life website.

So lash your sled dogs together and zip on your snow pants. It’s time to dine!

Diner on 12th
1212 E. 12th St.
Website

This little diner has sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, pizza, and baskets on the menu, all of them as cheap as they come. They are particularly known for serving a life-changing ham sandwich.

Pasquale Rulli’s
904 Division St.
Website

Reasonably-price, family-owned, authentic Italian diner. What more do you need to know? Not to be confused with Sam & Mary Rulli’s Pizza in Elkhart.

OneFourteen
114 Lincolnway East
Website

A modern gastro-pub serving hand-crafted burgers, sandwiches, salads, and sides, all made with fresh ingredients. The best news? It doesn’t come at a premium in price.

Taste of Asia
5327 N. Main St.
Website

Chinese and Thai food for dining in and taking out. No frills, low prices–but delicious.

Oliva’s Bar & Restaurant
327 Union St.
Website

Family-run Italian-American diner open for lunch and dinner. Check out their daily specials!

Macadoo’s Family Restaurant
2108 Lincolnway East
Website

An unpretentious American diner known for its breakfast and brunch, especially for biscuits and gravy.

Kristin’s Cafe
303 E. 4th St.
Website

Another hole-in-the-wall American breakfast diner serving up large portions at low prices.

Scoobie’s
223 N. Main St.
Website

Rock-bottom prices for a delicious, American-style lunch and dinner–sandwiches, burgers, pizza, pasta, and more. “Get Toasted at Scoobz!”

As always, check out the Grad Life website and TripAdvisor for more restaurant suggestions in South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger, and beyond. And don’t worry: spring is only two months away!

 

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Grad Life’s New Home and the Graduate Student Lounge

As winter break comes to a close, I’d like to invite you on Grad Life’s behalf to visit us in our new space on the south side of the Duncan Student Center’s second floor. Over winter break, Grad Life moved from a small space in the back rooms of the Main Building to a brand new office overlooking Legends and the Stadium Lot. This office is the new home of both Grad Life and the GSU.

Our office also looks into a stupendous lounge intended just for graduate students! The lounge, arguably the best spot in Duncan, has a wall of windows facing DeBartolo Hall and is filled with comfortable couches and chairs (including two rockers!) and tables for studying. There are also a number of day lockers, as well as a small kitchen area for graduate student use, which includes a sink, microwaves, free coffee, and, in case you forgot your lunch, supplies for making peanut butter sandwiches. The lounge’s conference room will also soon be available for reservation.

You can come check out the new lounge and our office during the official Duncan Student Center Open House on Monday, January 15, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. For more information on Duncan, see the university press release regarding its grand opening.

Smith Center for Recreational Sports

One of the new student center’s star attractions is the Smith Center for Recreational Sports, which will be fully operational on January 15. The entrance to the Smith Center is on the third floor, but is only accessible from the stairwell and elevators on the north side of Duncan. Upon entering, you’ll find yourself on the main floor of the Center, among dozens of state-of-the-art treadmills, ellipticals, and other cardio machines, most of them with individual monitors. On either end of the long room, you will also find fitness and personal training rooms, a basketball court, locker rooms, weight machines, a free weight area, and the SYNRGY 360 system, which amounts to an adult jungle gym with TRX resistance-training capabilities.

On the fourth floor, accessible from two stairwells inside the Smith Center, there is a 1/6 mile track with areas for stretching and numerous additional cardio machines and lockers, as well as another jungle-gym type apparatus. The Smith Center also boasts a climbing wall and a bouldering wall, both of which can be reached by a separate entrance on the second floor of Duncan.

There is much more to see in the new student center, however, so come take a look for yourself.

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It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas! Or perhaps it will once this week and next have passed, with all the intensity of final projects.

And blessings on your winter break. Rest is a wonderful thing: treasure it while you have the time. Be present to those whom you love. Eat good food and take time to do what you enjoy. These things, in the end, are more important than what we are doing at school. Our career is only a part of who we are, and that part changes throughout our lives. But fellowship – leisure – delight – these go to the heart of being the human person you are.

Grace and peace be with you in this Christmas season. May the God and Father of all people touch your heart with joy.

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This is the last in our series of blog posts on living on a graduate student budget in South Bend. We’ve covered grocery stores, movies, local thrift stores, and restaurants, and past posts have featured such under-utilized money-saving resources as the local public library and the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Check out these and other posts on Ask the Salmon for tips on saving cash in Michiana.

In this post I want to draw your attention to one of the best ways to save money if you are a married graduate student: the spousal ID card offered by the Graduate School (Business, Architecture, and Engineering students will have to contact their administrative assistants for information specific to their schools).

Current graduate students who are married can get their spouse a Notre Dame ID card by filling out the form on this webpage and submitting a scan or copy of their marriage certificate per the instructions. After that, there is a $5 fee for the card itself, and then your spouse has access to at least five on-campus services (though individual departments and programs may choose to extend access to additional services–talk to your department’s administrative assistant).

These services are as follows:

(1) Access to all student activity events and student-only events at Legends.
(2) Free entry to all RecSports facilities. Who needs a gym membership? Your spouse can even take fitness classes! (3) Access to the university library system, including the ability to request and check out books. Instead of logging into their library account with a NetID, spouses use the NDID number on their ID card.
(4) The ability to use Domer Dollars and to load a meal plan onto the card.
(5) Free transportation on all Transpo buses. This is a perk for all who have a Notre Dame ID card. Just show the bus driver your card when you get on, and you’re off! This makes getting around South Bend a whole lot easier for those with transportation restrictions. Check out the Transpo website for schedules and routes.

And now you know! All of this is available to spouses for the very reasonable fee of $5. Don’t pass it up.

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I devote the final post in the Arts and Culture series to what is probably the oldest art of all: dance. There are not many opportunities these days to see true, artful dancing, but a university town has more than most. The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center is a great place to see ballet and other forms of dance either on stage or on film. This season’s highlights include visits to the stage by UZIMA!, Jessica Lang Dance, and the Grand Rapids Ballet.

Here are some other places to check out in South Bend and in Chicago.

Southold Dance Theater

Southold is home to a pre-professional ballet company drawn from the Michiana area. Much of their work is comprised by education, but they do put on two performances each season in the Morris Performing Arts Center. The first is a performance of what is probably the most well-known ballet of all time: The Nutcracker, a staple of the holiday season, to be performed three times on December 9-10. Tickets start at $20. In May, the company will also be putting on Don Quixote.

Joffrey Ballet

The Joffrey Ballet is a world-class professional dance company that is based in Chicago. If you are willing to make the trek to the city, you can see some of the best performers in the United States during one of their four performances every season. Naturally, they will be performing The Nutcracker throughout the month of December, but they also have other worthwhile performances in the spring. $15 student rush tickets are available in limited numbers on the day of each performance; otherwise, tickets start at around $35 apiece.

Of course, the Joffrey isn’t the only ballet company in Chicago. Other venues to see ballet (and many other types of performances) include the Harris Theatre, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, and Hubbard Street Dance.

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Chicory Café

Located on the corner of Michigan and Jefferson in downtown South Bend, the Chicory Café serves a smorgasbord of Cajun-themed foods, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most sandwiches are less than $7 and most entrees  less than $9. Nearly the entire breakfast menu is under $5. The food is delicious and the venue is charming. One visit will surely turn into many more!

J.W. Chen’s

Between Studebagels and The Salvation Army Family Store on South Bend Ave, you’ll find J.W. Chen’s, a local favorite for MSG-free Chinese cuisine. Most dinner plates come in below $10 and there is a full range of lunch specials for $6 or $7. The owner, Jean, takes orders herself and regularly recommends dishes to her guests based on their preferences.

Mango Café

Across the street from J.W. Chen’s is the small Mango Café, specializing in Venezuelan food and burgers. With a large number of vegetarian dishes, sandwiches, and Venezuelan specialties (including cachapas and patacones), most of which are $9 or less, this is one South Bend eatery that is not to be missed.

Allie’s

Allie’s is open Tuesday through Sunday for breakfast (served all day) and lunch. The full breakfast menu includes all of the standards, plus a bit more, with sandwiches, salads, and burgers for lunch, all for under $10 and often much less. Allie’s also serves a $10 Polish dinner all day on Saturday. The restaurant is located on Mishawaka Ave just east of IUSB.

Girasol

A hole-in-the-wall, cash-only, carry-out joint serving Salvadoran cuisine, Girasol is known especially for pupusas, tamales, and horchata. Although you’ll have to take your food elsewhere, expect to spend somewhere in the range of $5 for delicious, homemade food.

Nick’s Patio

At Nick’s Patio, near the crossroads of Ironwood and South Bend Ave, you can eat 24 hours a day. Breakfast and lunch are affordable, with most options coming in under $9, including breakfast casseroles, omelettes, pancakes, waffles, sandwiches, and burgers. Many of the dinner plates, with sides and bread, are also available for reasonable prices.

Toscana Pizza and Pasta

Near Nick’s Patio on Ironwood, Toscana serves a small menu of Italian entrees and sandwiches for $10 or less. Their specialty, however, is pizza with a Chicago-style thin crust (only the personal size is under $10). Carry out your pizza or enjoy it on site–no matter which way you slice it, the Italian family who runs this joint serves up some delicious food.

Cambodian Thai

Lovers of Thai food (and who isn’t?) need look no further than Cambodian Thai in downtown South Bend, where there are only two options over $10: a whole fish, steamed or fried. Soups, curries, noodles, and specialty plates are all on the menu, as well as decadent Thai iced tea and coffee.

Blaze Pizza

For less than $9, Blaze Pizza serves an 11″ personal size pizza with all the toppings you want: that’s one price for any toppings. The word is that the joint has some deficits when it comes to customer service, but the food is still delicious, especially for the low price.

Evil Czech Brewery

While it may surprise some that Mishawaka’s Evil Czech Brewery made it onto this list, there are two simple reasons: Burger Box Monday and Taco Tuesday. Evil Czech is a craft brewery that serves a variety of delicious American and pub foods, well worth a visit even on days when they don’t have specials. On Mondays, however, they run a special on burgers: $10 for the burger plus fries. Tuesday’s deal is even better: street tacos for $2 each.

And they are good.

Fiddler’s Hearth

Yes, this is number eleven. But Fiddler’s Hearth is a true classic of downtown South Bend. Here, you can eat the Salmon of Knowledge for dinner and gain its wisdom for yourself! This family-friendly restaurant serves all manner of Irish pub fare, features live music, afternoon tea parties, and a self-playing pianola from 1955 that was willed to the family by a Notre Dame alumnus. Not everything on the menu is under $10, but be sure to ask about the 10% discount offered to students (and spouses!) with an ID. And don’t forget about their Sunday breakfast and brunch buffet. This is one South Bend establishment that you’ll want to visit before you graduate.

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