Nowhere else except Notre Dame.
The phrase or some interpretation of it is used year after year and has become familiar to any student, alumni or fan of the university. Used to attract national and international talent to a smaller school in Northwest Indiana, the statement succinctly sums up one of the most unique universities in the country, especially when it comes to the presence of both top-tier academics and top-tier athletics. .
In May, eight Notre Dame soccer players were able to put that mantra to the test, when they embarked on a two-week trip to Italy as part of a study abroad program.
“That’s one of those sides that’s so special over Notre Dame,” senior linebacker JD Bertrand said. “There are not many (athletic) programs in the country that allow you to study abroad for two weeks and be able to (immerse yourself) in a different culture.”
kevin baummann, Eifert faucet, Isaiah Foskey, Ramon Henderson, rylie mills, drew pyne Y Xavier Watts accompanied Bertrand on the voyage across the Atlantic. The group was in Milan from May 16 to 27 and enrolled in the “Design Thinking International Immersion” course.
Located in the beautiful city of Milan, students will use their ethnographic research skills to understand the unmet needs of consumers by immersing themselves in the culture of Italians. class description on the Notre Dame website reads “Both the language and the foreign environment provide the ideal environment to truly immerse oneself in the proverbial shoes of the user.”
What did the course involve in practice? The group took four hours of class a day with students from the Università Cattolica, which is in Milan. The final project focused on improving the museum experiences from a commercial point of view, something that is beneficial for all players despite the variety of specializations.
“We worked on a consulting project for our local museum and got real-life consulting practice,” Bertrand said. “We met with consulting and design companies, presented our ideas and let them criticize them. (We have) that real-world application.”
Foskey said that the museum trips that complemented the class were without a doubt his favorite part of the program. Each group went to different locations around the city, giving the students a variety of food to take away when all was said and done.
The trip was not Bertrand’s first encounter with the Italian language. He took eight Italian credits over six weeks last summer. He took an additional 11 this summer.
“Writing was so much easier just because I could use Word Reference and other things to get started, but learning to speak in six weeks was a struggle,” Bertrand said.
The experience was also not Bauman’s first introduction to Italian culture, although it was his first chance to see reality. His mother’s side of the family is Italian, so he grew up with stories about those roots.
“Growing up, I always said, ‘I can’t wait to go to Italy,’” Bauman said. “I finally got this opportunity, and it was the best two weeks of my life. The culture was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was a dream come true. A bit surreal.
Outside of class, the group was mostly alone to explore the country. They went to Florence for a weekend and were constantly surrounded by Italian delicacies.
“It was the best food I’ve ever eaten in my life,” Bauman said.
The trip provided that piece of cultural immersion, but also allowed the teammates to deepen their bonds off the football field. Bertrand and Foskey, who are very close friends, share a room in a small hotel. Keep in mind that Foskey is a 6-5, 265-pound first-round NFL Draft pick, while the 6-1, 230-pound Bertrand isn’t too small.
“They would turn off the air conditioning at night and we were sweating like crazy,” Bertrand said with a laugh.
The group also made numerous Italian friends and they suspect those relationships will continue for a long time.
“We still talk on WhatsApp,” Foskey said. “It’s pretty fun.”
Perhaps more important than the class, the food or the cultural immersion was the opportunity to take some time away from football. With an overwhelming season ahead in which many of the players want to make a positive impression before the NFL Draft in April, the trip allowed them to relax and learn in a different environment. Football might as well not have existed.
Like other universities, this group cannot take a full semester abroad to study in a foreign country during college. That comes with being a Division I athlete. But perhaps unlike other universities, Notre Dame not only allows its student-athletes to take trips like the Italy program, it encourages them. That’s obvious in one of the show’s favorite recruiting speeches: “four for 40.”
Those eight players embraced that idea when they committed to Notre Dame and got to live it.
Promise made. Promise fulfilled.