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Irish Tex-Mex’

Benitez, Chuy | Thursday, May 12, 2005

Now that all the challenges have been conquered and tests have been taken, I sit back and realize that completing a degree at Notre Dame is probably the best thing that I could have ever done to find my true purpose in life. In fact, Notre Dame gave me many reasons to keep on living. This is where I found the love of my life, love for my hometown culture and my passion for photography. For helping me find so many ways to enjoy life, I will forever be thankful to this University, and I will always show the utmost pride for being a Notre Dame graduate.

With so many students from so many states and countries, I never could have guessed that I would come to Notre Dame from my hometown of El Paso, Texas and end up falling in love with a girl who also grew up in the Borderlands of Texas. If it hadn’t been for her, I think I would have gone crazy from culture shock at Notre Dame.

I am definitely American, but there are definite differences between living on the southern border of the country and living in the Midwest. Being away for four years has made me miss so many things from my home, but since my girlfriend, Anikka, and I are from similar areas, we have been able to reminisce together about good times back on the Texas border and keep homesickness out of our systems.

When I tell people that I am a photography major at Notre Dame, they usually say, “I didn’t know they had photography as a major, but that’s great.” I didn’t come to Notre Dame with the intent of doing photography. In classic Notre Dame style, I actually started in Engineering, mostly because my father is an engineer, but that lasted about a month before I fully knew that I belonged elsewhere. My father, however, was still an influence because he is the camera/technology junkie of the family, and was surprisingly supportive when I told him that I wanted to choose photography as my major.

Today, I could not imagine my life without photography, and I could not imagine my time at Notre Dame without being a photographer and photo editor at The Observer. If there is one good way to experience Notre Dame, working as a press photographer on campus would have to be it. You get the chance to be on the sidelines, behind the scenes with the biggest and most important people on campus, and best of all, it is your job to have a camera on you to catch the moment as it unfolds.

As a normal student, everyday I look around and am amazed by the raw talent that exists on campus, and being able to be so close to the hundreds of leaders at Notre Dame and get to know them on a personal level is an experience that cannot be matched.

My Notre Dame diploma is a sign of my success here at this University, but that piece of sheepskin would mean nothing to me if it were not for the many others who have worked to receive it as well. The many people who have successfully influenced me and motivated me in the past four years also have their partial ownership to my diploma because I would not have wanted any of my success without them. In the future, when I look at my diploma, I won’t think about how I changed Notre Dame, but how Notre Dame changed me.

Chuy Benitez is a graduating photography major who will continue on and work for his Masters in Photography at the University of Houston, but will continue to wear his Notre Dame apparel, even while teaching Photo 1 classes. Chuy will also probably go through “Dome view” withdrawal and will have to make a mock-up Dome outside his apartment window to keep him calm. Notre Dame is definitely in his blood, and he will forever feel the need to bubble in “Other” for the Ethnicity section of surveys and write in “Irish Tex-Mex.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.