Margarita Marie Diego, originally from Manila, Philippines, is an economics major with a minor in education, schooling, and society. She shares her story as part of the International Student Reflection series from the class of 2020.
I’ll never forget reading the email from the International Student and Scholar Affairs office promoting the “Who’s at the Table? First Person Stories of Culture and Identity” initiative for people to gather and share their reflections with one another. I quickly hit the button asking for people to volunteer and speak and soon heard back from Ms. Leah Zimmer asking to meet.
As I stared out of the new Duncan Center’s massive windows by Hagerty Cafe, one of my favorite spots on campus with all its natural light flooding in, I had no idea what to expect from this meeting. Ms. Zimmer and I caught one another’s attention and got down to the business of planning this talk. She asked me that all too familiar question that seniors stressing out over the recruiting process might recognize— “So, what’s your story?” As I opened my mouth to speak, narrating my journey from the Philippines and through the gates of the Golden Dome, I was surprised by how many anecdotes spilled forth from me.
I don’t think I ever realized until this point how much has happened and how much I’ve grown at Notre Dame. For one, as the youngest of five siblings and first in my family with the privilege of going to college abroad, I was extremely intimidated by the people around me whom I looked nothing like. My first few days on campus were a tiring ordeal, trying to figure out where I could fit myself and blend into the majority white, blonde crowd. Yet here I was, four years later, ready and excited to speak in front of a room of post-graduate students, following a 32-year old associate professor from Serbia.
I realized that moments like these have defined my Notre Dame experience. My time here has been littered with countless conversations and exchanges of ideas that have altered my perceptions of the world. From hearing another person share their own journey to Notre Dame, to discussing the Founding Fathers’ philosophy on the purpose of the American school, and analyzing what Chikamatsu Monzaemon, a Japanese dramatist in the 18th century, was trying to reveal about the rigid social prescriptions of his time through his characters, one thing has become clear to me. Notre Dame has given me the gift of conversation and connection; in no other place would I have had this unique opportunity to absorb such a colorful range of subjects and engage with individuals who have so successfully married their identities as scholars with their moral responsibility to do good in the world.
It is not difficult to see the goodness that radiates off the folks who make up Notre Dame’s community.
I’ll never forget the many people- students, faculty, and staff members alike- who gave me the strength I needed as I struggled through my eating disorder— with words of affirmation and reflection, a platform to discover my voice and share my narrative to similarly help others, and receive the necessary medical attention.
I’ll never forget all the Campus Ministry staff and Basilica volunteers who tirelessly prayed and reflected with me through every failure and success.
I’ll never forget the burn of a senior thesis and, on the many occasions I was about to call it quits, the numerous professors who offered all their support as they refused to let me give up.
I’ll never forget the unassuming hour I spent over coffee with Ms. Zimmer that revealed just how much I had grown in Notre Dame. Notre Dame has done many great things for me, but as I prepare myself to leave this May, I must acknowledge the true to duLac formation of my mind, body, and spirit that was possible here. I graduate both as a scholar and humanitarian, excited to use the knowledge I have acquired here to effect good in the communities
I’ll find myself in next. I’ll never forget that Notre Dame taught me to be strong— to rise from every failure having learned a valuable lesson and hone the courage to begin again.
I’ll never forget that Notre Dame taught me to be confident— to no longer strive to blend in but to celebrate my differences and the gifts I have to offer.
I’ll never forget that Notre Dame taught me to lead by action— to, in the words of Fr. Hesburgh, be a force for good in the world.
Margarita Marie Diego, originally from Manila, Philippines, is an economics major with a minor in education, schooling, and society.
I’ll never forget Notre Dame.
Originally published by international.nd.edu on May 12, 2020.at