Ilija Tadic’s journey to Notre Dame began in a United States embassy in his home country of Montenegro, population 621,873.
At the time of his arrival in South Bend in the summer of 2020, it was not only his first time visiting Notre Dame, but also his first time setting foot on U.S. soil. He had found information on the University in the embassy’s cultural corner, where he looked at a brochure about Notre Dame and liked what he saw about the University and its traditions. He was also looking at the swim team.
In 2016, Tadic was part of the Montenegrin delegation at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, where he had been the country’s flag bearer and had participated in the 50m and 100m freestyle events.
Tadic was born without part of his left forearm, and began swimming at a young age for developmental reasons. He ended up sticking with the sport and pursuing it to the highest level.
After taking the ACT and reaching out to the swim coach at Notre Dame, Tadic was admitted to Notre Dame and began planning to attend a university in a country where he had never been.
The transition from European school to American university was certainly an adjustment, he says, but one he has enjoyed.
“I didn’t know many Notre Dame traditions during my first semester. I didn’t know about tailgating and that kind of thing,” says Tadic. He learned as he went. “I also like the American system of picking classes, because at most European universities, you have to choose your major before you even enroll. I like having time to decide my major.”
Tadic is a UNICEF ambassador for Montenegro and worked with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as part of the “It’s About Ability” campaign, which advocated for the inclusion of children with disabilities in education, sports, and other activities.
He has been impressed by the supportive community at Notre Dame, citing his first week in the U.S. as an example of the warm welcome he received.
“One thing that shocked me was how involved alumni are and how much people help each other here,” says Tadic. “When I first came to Notre Dame and had to quarantine, I had so many people reach out to me who I had never met in my life asking if I needed anything. I really felt like I was part of something.”