Pastels are everywhere….

by Theodora Hannan, USA

Happy Easter! (hop, hop)

It’s Easter Triduum here at Notre Dame, and quite a fine one. The sun is out, the weather is perfect, the hordes of alums and parents are visiting to sit like sardines in the Basilica for hours on end.

It’s the first time I’ve been on campus during the Easter break, since I’m from the Bend: usually my family does attend the Basilica masses, but not this year. My family’s in town visiting from their new home, but I’ve spent most of the weekend on campus with my friends. It’s a bit strange for me, since I’ve never had to deal with the truncated dining hall hours, the quiet of the partially empty dorm, or the sense of being on break (not having spent quite so many hours waiting for the Basilica doors to open).

It’s been nice to have that quiet for my homework, for working on plans for my future, to get some sleep – but my favorite thing has been how much time I’ve been able to spend with my friends. There are plenty of kids who don’t go home for what’s really only a four-day weekend, but my international friends really don’t have much of an option about staying or not, for the most part. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s been wonderful to spend some free time together with my friends: watching silly romcoms, trips to Kilwins for after-dinner dessert, spending some time discussing abstract and real problems for two hours in the middle of it all. These are the times I’ll remember when I gradu—wait, not using that word just yet. But these are the moments that I value most of all, and basking in them this weekend is the best Easter experience I’ve had.

It’s also wonderful to hear about my friends who have adopted or been adopted by others here. Friends to hang with in Chicago, local religious services instead of Notre Dame’s, foster parents here in America; these are the most touching things over this weekend for me, seeing how all of my international friends, Catholic or not, have made themselves at home here, who can feel like they belong on a family-oriented holiday. They are most certainly a part of my family, and I’m so glad they’ve chosen to be here with me.

Wherever We May Be

by Theodora Hannan, USA

*overenthusiastic waving* Hi!!!

So, I realize it’s been a while, but I hope you enjoyed the post from our excellent guest blogger Nikita. Now that the semester is back on track, you’ll be hearing from lovely me more often, promise! I hope all of your holidays were happy (and those to come as well – I’m looking at you, Chinese New Year).

I have two things I’d like to share today, and I’ll start with the most adorable one. Last night, two of my friends and I watched the film Love, Actually, possibly the most hilarious, inappropriate, and endearing Christmas movie I’ve ever seen. I’m sure you’ll agree with me if you’ve viewed it, and if you haven’t, go see it asap! Among the various couples in the marvelous ensemble cast, this time my eye was caught by the characters of Colin Firth and Lucia Moniz, who respectively are a Hemingway-esque author vacationing from his life to write and his housekeeper. Firth is an Englishman and Moniz is Portuguese, and neither speaks the other’s language.

From just before Thanksgiving to just after Christmas, Firth’s character stays in his cottage writing with Moniz working around him, and various blunders on both sides are made. Each forms an attachment to the other, but Firth returns to his extended family in London before anything happens between the two of them. Regretting his departure, Firth spends the next couple of weeks trying to learn Portuguese and rushes to Moniz’s home to propose to her in broken, but relatively coherent, Portuguese. Moniz, in turn, agrees in fairly fluent English. A month later, the two are seen returning to London, comfortable together and teasing each other easily.

Cliché as this might sound, these two people fell in love without ever exchanging words intelligible to the other. Now, I will happily engage in a debate about love and its qualities at another time, but my point here is that it really didn’t matter that they were from different worlds, with different languages, different everything. It didn’t matter. Both of them made the effort to bridge that gap, and got their Hollywood-rosy-colored-glasses happy ending. Realistic or not, I thought this was absolutely uplifting and wonderful.

My part two is…connected? Somehow? Give me a chance. My family life has had some significant changes in the last month, and my father just accepted a job offer at a university approximately 650 miles from here, South Bend, where I go to school and where they’ve lived since I was two. I’m going to miss them; even if I don’t go home every weekend to see them, it’s nice knowing they’re right there if I need them, that I can walk twenty minutes from my dorm to my dad’s office to get a hug if I really, really need one. Maybe it just hasn’t sunk in yet, but actually, I’m really happy for them. This is good, it’s going to make them both really happy, and that makes me happy. And even though they won’t be here all the time, even though my dad won’t know everything that’s going on here before I do anymore – they’re still there. Really, this probably sounds a bit strange to international students, because you all have left your own families much farther away than mine to be here. But it feels like a departure to me, and that’s what counts, right? But it will, in the long run, be for the best in the long run. And that’s why all of you are here too, right? So we’ll relish in the adventure, keep our loved ones in our hearts and minds, and look forward to the coming future approaching in all of it terrifying and beautiful glory.

These entries keep getting longer…

by Theodora Hannan, USA

Hello! I’m here to awaken you from your post-Thanksgiving slumber. This is a bit strange for me, because I’m an American student, and I’ve spent the last nineteen years having a Thanksgiving blowout meal every third Thursday of November, and to me it just seems normal. But being an International Ambassador has provided constant mental kicks to my default mode, and I spent quite a bit of time this week thinking about all of you.

I know for certain of a few countries that most definitely have a Thanksgiving Day, but I don’t think it’s a safe assumption to suppose that each one does. And when I begin to think about it more and more, what is Thanksgiving really for here in America? It’s Turkey Day, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (which, for the record, I did watch, and I swear it had more international music entertainers than Americans, doesn’t that strike you as a little strange? Maybe just me, but I wasn’t expecting Carly Rae Jepsen), it’s the day before Black Friday, the most profitable day for the US economy (followed closely by the upcoming Cyber Monday). As I stopped and stuttered every time I wished one of my international friends a happy Thanksgiving, I had to wonder: what is this day about?

There are plenty of other national holidays here, many of which are official days off: Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day…. And this seemingly random day in November is just another day, after all – in fact it was one of my new international friend’s birthday on Thursday! Life goes on living, the world goes on spinning – what’s so cool about today?

I have a pieve of family lore that makes me laugh and roll my eyes every year. My mother’s side of the family is actually related to some of the original pilgrims who came to the New World way back when. Now, according to their stories (corroborated by a library book when I was about twelve), one of my ancestors was a little kid that first year, was a right little terror, and got himself lost and picked up by the Indians (ahem – Native Americans, to be politically correct). They returned him safe and sound to the colonists, and began the peaceful first interactions between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims.

Now, I don’t really know how true this is (cute children’s library books aside), and frankly, I don’t really even care. Because the point is that it’s supposed to be a happy celebration, about friends who are friends even if they don’t particularly want to be (that little kid really was a handful according to the stories, I wouldn’t’ve blamed the Indians or the Pilgrims for wringing his neck). My family has never gone around the table and had everyone say what ze is thankful for, and I’m sure it’s due to the extreme strangeness of my family (don’t ask), because most people in America do this. And I for one think it’s nice: a time to be grateful to others, to share what makes you happiest, to take joy in others’ joy. That kind of mutual concern and love has nothing to do with nationality, an dI hope each and every one of you experienced something like that this week.


by Theodora Hannan, USA

In all fairness, I should mention a disclaimer that I’m not at all scary in real life, nor have I ever dressed up as anything in the least bit frightening for Halloween. Let me pretend, all right? I hope you’re all enjoying the festivities, or even if you aren’t doing anything exciting tonight – which would put you in good company, because I’m certainly not – that you at least got free candy from someone today. But that’s the point, yes? The free candy?

That’s been on my mind quite a bit lately, actually. One of my professors this semester is a dignified, polished British man in his sixties: he isn’t stuffy (quite a nice chap, really, and I hope you read that in an English accent) but he’s just so British. Does that make sense? Anyway, a few days ago, he was marveling at the concept of Halloween, wanting to know what the fuss is all about. Now, I am well aware that different countries have different holidays, and I guess I distantly knew that Halloween was a pretty American thing. But surely, even if one doesn’t celebrate, one can surely see the point? (cf. the above FREE CANDY.) For whatever reason, I was feeling particularly cheerful and peppy that day and went about attempting to convince him of the innate goodness of Halloween, only to be met with resistance. My selling points? Free candy, cute kids in fun costumes, no classes (because in American public elementary schools you spend the day doing nothing but looking adorable in your costumes), free candy, neighborly camaraderie (which is ridiculously difficult to spell), and, oh yeah, free candy. Sensing a theme?

But my professor just doesn’t get it. He goes out somewhere with his wife! Shocking. Well, not really, considering my parents conveniently live a condominium association with very few young families and therefore have not given out candy in quite a few years. Well, I for one miss it. I know that American consumerism culture is tedious, that Halloween evolved from a combination of pagan fears and a Christian holy day, that the focus on five-year-olds can be incredibly annoying. But as a five-year-old at heart, I love the fun of Halloween, its lack of seriousness. We have plenty of serious holidays, and most of them are mandatory, one way or another: Independence Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, winter holidays are all actually quite serious, if you pause and consider. But Halloween is pure fun, that we Americans do completely voluntarily and with great mirth. This is the opener for the holiday season, which will now begin at breakneck speed and sweep you up and off your feet for the next two months. So why not it start it off with a little bit of fun and a lot of free candy?

Now, while all the little kiddies count their bounty, I’ll be quietly sitting in my corner preparing my Christmas playlists for the stroke of midnight . . . but more on that later. 🙂

“If you feel discouraged, that there’s a lack of color here, please don’t worry lover…”

by Theodora Hannan, USA

I’m sitting, rather uninspiringly, in my dorm room, cuddled up in bed with pillows and layers and blankets. Now, you all don’t need a description of my snug little single in Lyons, but I bring it up to set the scene for the shocking news that everyone currently abroad needs to hear: it is fall in South Bend. I know, I know, that’s silly, of course it’s fall, Theodora, it’s October — but you forget, my friends, the bipolar nature of South Bend weather. On Thursday it was eighty degrees and sunny, but it’s been raining and overcast and downright chilly for the last two days, and it’s safe to say that there’s no going back. Worst of all, I looked out my window two weeks ago to find just one tree had decided to visit the stylist and was looking a little bit on the auburn side; walking to breakfast Thursday morning, with the trees and walkways darkened from the rainstorm the night before, and the leaves falling in halos around their previous owners, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect fall day (until it hit seventy degrees by 11 am, good old South Bend).

I tell you this, not out of any sadistic desire to make you yearn for your college habitat, or to make you cheer that you are currently grazing in better pastures, but because you aren’t here. You are far away from heart and home, off on grand adventures, living and breathing and growing and becoming. You are experiencing things I never have and in a great many cases never will, and I am here, at Notre Dame, also doing things without you here with me. Each time I think about you, want to text you or tell you what’s going on, I have to pause, realize yet again that you’re not here and that you won’t be for another few months. That barrier, that separation, never feels more real than in those little moments when I just want you here.

There has been plenty of time for me to dwell on this in the last few weeks, but it wasn’t until I sat down for a long talk with one of my new international friends this weekend that I felt how real this feeling is for those of you in the opposite position just by being here. It made the word “international” much more real to me, to hear my friend allude to his family across the universe from him, to realize that it’s exactly how I feel. How people in long distance relationships love and hurt when distance does not make the heart grow fonder, how family members spread across the globe for years lose the domestic closeness that had once bound them together, how once-friends look across the bridge of the lost years and find it too difficult to brave spindly wooden boards to close the gap.

Fall here is a beautiful time, and I hope all our newcomers enjoy it before it disappears in the blink of an eye. I hope to hear stories of falls in different climes and countries in just a few more months, but until then, we must content ourselves with the worlds we are each of us living, and wait in anticipation of better things.

And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

It’s that time of year again….

by Theodora Hannan, USA

Good morning!

I sit writing this on the first home football Saturday this year, having been awoken by the dulcet tones of some of my fellow undergraduates’ wake-up reveille. Greeted by a little bit of rain, a little bit of sun, and a whole lot of fun, today brings back memories of my first two years here at Notre Dame. Even though I’ve been surrounded by a lot of Notre Dame spirit all my life (I am a dreaded “townie,” from South Bend, after all), my initial reaction to the Irish football weekend was pretty much “overwhelmed.” Huge crowds, loud noises everywhere, football stuff everywhere? I don’t think so. I went to most of the games freshman year, and had a pretty good time, but still didn’t fall in love with the whole process.

I’m as American as you can get: I grew up in the Midwest, I’m from a middle-class family, I’ve spent very little time out of the country. But I’ve also spent a lot of time with people less stereotypical than myself, not the least of whom are my international friends here at Notre Dame. I’m so happy this year to have that group of people grow exponentially by meeting all of you, to learn more about you and where you come from and where you’d like to go. I still don’t necessarily understand just why everyone here is so obsessed with football, but I can see how that love plays out here on campus seven weekends every year, as alumni and students and (quite probably) future students come together to celebrate. So whether you’re in love with football, encountering the Irish in all their glory for the first time, or missing us today from far away, know that there are people here who love you very much and can’t wait to experience these days, and many more, with you.