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An ode to South Bend

| Thursday, September 20, 2018

“I hear South Bend’s not THAT bad,” says my professor to a roar of laughter from the class. I glance around, irritated. The townie in me is frustrated and it’s only the second week of school.

And if you’re wondering — no, I did not grow up wanting to stay in town for college. But even so, I’m happy to be here.

I don’t think South Bend, the fourth biggest Indiana city by population, is a small town with “nothing to do,” to quote a well-meaning friend. I can’t even count how many times a friend from school has truly believed the best parts of South Bend are Notre Dame and Eddy Street Commons.

But anyway, I think many Notre Dame students have yet to even venture into the real South Bend. Most wander to Eddy Street Commons, University Park Mall, Nick’s Patio and maybe even a couple bars downtown. But have you explored downtown South Bend in the light of day? Or walked by the Riverwalk, day or night? I suggest heading downtown to take a look at our up and coming city, steered by Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has been profiled by the New York Times, and other news sources of a similar level. Stop into Chicory Cafe, the New Orleans-style homey coffeehouse where I’ve had both first dates and study sessions. Or head across the street to PEGGS (formerly Le Peep), a local favorite with excellent brunch selections where my family has spent many a Mother’s Day. Or, if you’re wanting a hearty ethic meal, go to Cambodian Thai, a fantastic, authentic family-run restaurant. And those are all just within a five minute walk from each other!

Yes, I do realize so far I’ve only given food-related options. But when people bring this up to me, I say, “What else is there to do in a city besides eat and shop anyway?” Personally, those are my two favorite pastimes. But for those less hungry and shallow than I, there are things for you to do. We have two (two!) movie theaters, a drive-in movie theater 30 minutes away, an aerial adventure park and programs going on downtown, my favorite being “First Fridays,” which on the first Friday of every month there are themed activities, food trucks, performances and more downtown.

South Bend has so much to offer, but only if you’re willing to give her a chance. Any city is what you make of it, but this city especially has a lot to offer. It can teach you a lot about the world, and calling her home is something I really appreciate. There are such a wide variety of people and cultures in this area to experience and learn from outside of the Notre Dame bubble. From the amazing authentic Mexican food on the west side of South Bend, to the new vegan and healthy options slowly creeping in on Grape Road, we are a city of many faces and flavors.

I don’t mean to sound like a South Bend commercial, but I am attempting to take control of the South Bend narrative. Notre Dame may be technically its own city, but that is not a reason to explore the flourishing town around us, and break down the divide between the two. South Bend, this is my swan song to you before I officially stop hyping you up like it’s my job. Am I probably going to at some point move away? Yes. But for now, I will appreciate my city.

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

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