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Undergraduates deserve respect

Christina Di Gangi | Monday, October 6, 2003

I don’t know much about Notre Dame study-abroad programs. No, let me qualify that: most of what I know is based on participants’ enthusiastic reviews, which would certainly disqualify me from expressing an opinion in Will McDonald’s book acoording to his letter that ran Oct. 2.

I take it that he has heard one too many undergraduates rave about his or her “ultimately hollow” experiences in Rome, London or where-have-you and would prefer that students stayed in South Bend to “pray, ponder, read, ask and wonder.” He is entitled to express his view on the programs themselves, albeit (in my book) patronizingly.

For me, however, Mr. McDonald’s comments express a deeper problem with graduate students’ view of undergraduates on this campus. I’m a foreign national. This is my sixth year here, and before I came here I had lived in five countries on two continents (then again, my experiences there might have been just as shallow and hollow as those of Notre Dame undergraduates studying abroad, but I leave the reader to judge). In any event, I am tired of hearing from my colleagues in the graduate school about the shallowness, cookie-cutter-ness, Midwestern-ness, and so on of the undergraduates whom it is their responsibility to live among and to teach.

Who is to say that when a given student was in Rome and eating gelato she wasn’t also gaining a deeper perspective on her faith and on a different culture? More to the point, who is to say that Notre Dame students are not perfectly well aware that “there is more out there than just Reckers, dorm parties and football”?

I consider myself proud to have more than a few undergraduates in my acquaintance, and this has never been my experience of them. Let’s look to our own narrow-mindedness before we start projecting it for others.

Christina Di Gangigraduate studentFischer Graduate ResidenceOct. 4