Author: Jeremy Dela Cruz

Skyline of South Bend

During the last 150 years, the city of South Bend has welcomed countless explorers seeking their fortune in northern Indiana: fur traders, industrialists, and missionaries have all called this little Hoosier haven home. Notre Dame students also lay claim to the area, enjoying a variety of attractions as well as engaging in various forms of service work. South Bend is a college town that offers a myriad of opportunities to truly become a part of the local community. 

Although a native of South Bend, Emily Voorde, a senior Political Science major, continues to find new dimensions to the city, discoveries she is more than happy to share with friends. “South Bend is a great college town because it's the perfect combination of young energy and the hard-working middle class.”
Emily encourages visitors to check out the South Bend Chocolate Company for some hot chocolate, the perfect beverage to sip on a stroll downtown. She also loves Howard Park in the winter, which is a prime spot for ice skating and grabbing a slice of pizza at Barnaby’s
“Our enthusiastic mayor, Mayor Pete, has done a lot to revitalize the city and grow the connection between South Bend and Notre Dame,” Emily said. “There's also so much to do so close to South Bend: Lake Michigan, Chicago, and more!”

Transfer students at Dunes Day

In addition to airport shuttles, the South Shore Line operates through South Bend and is an excellent way for students to visit Chicago, a city which boasts a large amount of ND alumni. Transfer students are able to spend the day during Fall Orientation at the Indiana Dunes, which boasts a relaxing shoreline and a series of hiking trails. 
Four years at Notre Dame have only increased Olivia LaMagna’s passion for the many perks of South Bend. A senior Political Science and Business Economics double major, she initially had misgivings about not living in a big city, believing that there would not be much to do in terms of entertainment and culture. “I've found that the exact opposite is true,” Olivia said. “By expressing my interests to individuals in the community, I have had endless opportunities.”

Her interest in live music spurred her to organize shows and a music festival with the help of South Bend locals and venues such as The Pool, a former apartment complex renovated into a thriving concert hall, and the Birdsell Mansion. Olivia also suggests attending games at Four Winds Field, home of the South Bend Cubs. “The games are always really fun, tickets are inexpensive, and historically the team has sent buses to shuttle students from campus.”

Olivia enjoys spending time with friends in downtown South Bend

As a Californian, I was excited for one particular aspect of Midwestern life: actual changes in seasons. The city transforms itself into an urban postcard during autumn and winter, moving from the warm colors of fall leaves to the immaculate wintry landscapes one would expect in classic holiday films. Needless to say, there is no lack of Instagram photos presenting the Golden Dome framed against beautiful sunsets and Facebook feeds featuring the gentle summer contrast between emerald fields and clear blue skies. Such South Bend snapshots, however, do make up for the sudden shifts in weather and the less-than-ideal drops in temperature. 
Your South Bend student experience would be incomplete without participating in one of the many ways to give back to the community. The South Bend Catholic Worker House and Dismas House often host volunteers to prepare meals and spend time with residents from underprivileged backgrounds. The Community Alliance to Serve Hispanics, a campus club, enables students to tutor English classes for local immigrants at La Casa de Amistad. Campus Ministry offers opportunities to serve as a catechist in local parishes. If you enjoy teaching 2nd graders about the sacraments, I highly recommend volunteering with the kids of St. Joe’s parish!

“I'm passionate about community engagement, and my involvement through tutoring at both the Robinson Community Learning Center and the Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture has been extremely positive,” Olivia said. “I'm sure a lot of newly-admitted students were active volunteers in high school -- don't let that stop in college!” 

Students share a meal at Cambodian Thai

Having a West Coast appetite for diverse cuisine options, I am grateful for the eclectic culinary selection in the city. Beyond Eddy Street Commons, a hotspot for Chipotle and Kilwin’s, students love the pad thai at Cambodian Thai, the burritos at Puerto Vallarta Express, and the pizza at Rocco’s, a South Bend favorite since 1951. 
Still, the best frame of mind to adopt when evaluating a college town is not so much what the city has to offer, but what you can do to make the next four years an amazing experience. 
“I'm probably on the extreme end of the spectrum for this, but I feel as much a part of South Bend as a part of Notre Dame,” Olivia said. “It would be impossible to imagine my Notre Dame experience without South Bend.”