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Never far from home

| Thursday, October 29, 2015

Another post-fall break Notre Dame homecoming, another stream of “how was your fall break?” inquiries. Oddly enough, my response to this question seems to change each time I share it. After scheduling a few interviews over break to minimize my time away from school and to maximize my time to actually explore the cities I was visiting, I wasn’t quite sure how I would be able to answer this question when I got back: would I be tired? Stressed? Happy? Behind?

My fall break turned out to be roughly equal parts busy, fun, productive, and even relaxing, despite the fact that I spent the vast majority of it in airport terminals and Boeing and Embraer airplanes. From eating more McDonald’s in a week than the average person should to understanding the vast gaps in my airport-map-reading proficiency, I — who before this fall break had only been in an airport a number of times that could fit on two hands — became increasingly familiar with the culture of commercial air flight. My slight preference for the aisle seat was solidified as a necessity with each additional flight, and I began to understand the various iterations of “pretty please?” that would convince the flight attendant that it was completely fine to give me the entire can of Fresca for our hour-long flight.

There was one aspect of my travel choices this past week that made the process of flying much easier, and it came from a decidedly unexpected source. No, it wasn’t the ability to check-in on the Delta app and load my boarding passes to my iPhone’s Passbook, although that certainly was helpful. And no, it also wasn’t wearing slip off shoes to make the TSA security check process quicker. Rather, it turns out that the bits and pieces of the impressive array of Notre Dame apparel I have cultivated after three and a quarter years of being a student here provided the greatest source of comfort in navigating airports throughout the week.

Whether it was a family of five at the Fort Wayne International Airport whose youngest member is determined to play football for Notre Dame when he grows up or the Class of ’69 alumni reflecting on his days in Dillion on a connecting flight from Detroit to Bradley, I found a relieving sense of comfort in being able to connect with these strangers while traveling to completely unfamiliar places. As my own version of Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, something as simple as a T-shirt or crew-neck sweater allowed me to take a momentary trip back home when I was on the road. Even though I didn’t know these people and would very likely never see them again, this past week I was reminded time and time again that the Notre Dame family we share is far broader than I previously imagined.

Going further, this phenomenon wasn’t limited to the airport terminal. Even in business formal attire during interviews — where my affiliation with ND was far less apparent than when I was decked out head-to-toe in the airport — the Notre Dame name evokes both personal stories (“I remember the campus was unbelievably beautiful in the fall!”) and those of close friends and family members who have been touched by Notre Dame in one way or another. Reflecting on these stories makes me smile, giving me a few more items to add to the long list of reasons why I am so fortunate to attend this school that means so much to so many, and in so many different ways. So, even after a crazy busy break where I was only physically present in my home for a grand total of 54 hours, I was still left feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle the remainder of my final fall semester. The lesson I learned this break is one many have already realized — there is no such thing as too much Notre Dame apparel.

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

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