Los Angeles to South Bend?

Hi! I am a rising senior in high school and will definitely apply to ND for the fall 2019 semester. I was wondering if anyone has had the experience of moving from LA (or any large city) to South Bend and the challenges of it? Is moving from a rather liberal city to a rather conservative small town difficult? Thanks!

I actually wouldn’t necessarily characterize South Bend as a “rather conservative small town”. While certainly not the size of LA, it does have a population of over 100K. Also, I believe in the last week, SB’s openly gay (and well liked) mayor married his long time partner. That being said, ND itself is probably more conservative than most schools out there, the caveat being college campuses in general trend left.

If I were from LA, I’d be more worried about lake effect snow then the political climate. You won’t be screamed down for being liberal thinking like you would if you were a conservative attending UCLA or UCB.

Thanks so much for the replies! And sorry for being ignorant about the town- I think I am just hearing over exaggerated/incorrect things about conservativism in SB and at ND from others in LA…
P.S. - The weather is something I’m worried about but I hope I’ll be able to adjust if I go to ND or other Midwest schools :slight_smile:

@californiakt0 My perspective, as a parent, is that the adjustment required will be different for each person. Some kids who grew up in LA might absolutely love a new adventure, enjoy the college sports scene, like experiencing the crisp fall air, changing of the leaves, and the lake effect snow. OK, I made up that last one! Other kids will experience quite a bit of culture shock when adjusting to a new environment in a less urban setting, and homesickness will likely be an issue.

I think what you’ll find is that Notre Dame’s location is a part of what drove the tight-knit community feel at ND right from the start. The ND experience revolves around campus life and residentiality/dorm life to such a large extent, and some of that was by design, but surely some of that was by necessity as “town-gown relations” between South Bend and the University were not always as good as they are now.

But for the issue you’re describing, you could almost insert any other selective school located in a suburban or small town setting and get the same answer. Lots of LA kids end up going to Dartmouth because they are charmed by the classic small town feel and want the Ivy degree and Greek life. Lots of city kids go to Cornell because of the school’s rep and the beauty of that area. Same deal with Duke, UVa, or Michigan. All are selective schools in small- to medium-sized settings. And at all of these schools, kids come for the academics and reputation and big-time athletics, and often end up loving the community feel of the place they’re in.

Any applicant to Notre Dame has to be honest with themselves about the religious aspect of the school (and enforced parietals), the sports-focused culture, the homogeneity of the student body (racially and socioeconomically), the intense academic workload, and the reality of northern Indiana weather plus the South Bend location. Obviously, many kids have come to terms with those realities of Notre Dame life, as the school is still getting 20,000 applications a year and continues to enroll classes with outstanding credentials. Also bear in mind that Notre Dame graduates roughly 95% of the kids who enroll, so clearly the big city kids are adjusting alright.

Politically, ND will be more conservative as compared to other college campuses filled with young people. Which means it will be center/left rather than far left. There’s a big pro life presence on campus, but also a big orientation towards service and social justice. Pence got protested when he spoke at the ND graduation; Obama and Biden did too.

ND is one of the most (maybe the single most) geographically national colleges in the U.S. The school happens to be located in IN, but the kids come from all over (including plenty from metro areas in NY, IL, CA, TX and FL).

The ND campus is physically surrounded by lakes, big parking lots, two golf courses, and two other college campuses. So even though SB is a decent sized town, the campus feels very set off by itself. Almost like a rural school out in the country (especially in the winter). Then add in that ND is about 80% Catholic. And also that ND students typically spend 3 or 4 years living in the same “stay hall” dorm.

Net result is a VERY campus-centered student experience. The town really isn’t that big an influence one way or the other. The upside is a very passionate, tight knit, family-like community that most ND students love. For other kids, ND feels too small and homogenous.

One of my favorite quotes this year from our Seattle-area son who is home from his freshman year:

“There are equal numbers of liberals and conservatives but nobody’s a jerk about it.”

His favorite classes were the ones with philosophical discussions. The biggest adjustment for him, other than typical away from home stuff, was getting used to the flatness of the area.

If you miss the big city Chicago is an easy day trip from South Bend.

My daughter is a current student and I can tell you it’s true that South Bend is certainly no LA or Chicago or Boston. But it is a city of 100K people, and like any ordinary city of that size it has plenty of bars, restaurants, shops, movie theaters, etc. Students also go out in surrounding towns like Mishawaka.

ND is set off in that it’s not a “city campus” but it’s certainly not isolated. I don’t agree that ND is like a rural school out in the country. That is a very misleading picture (which you will see if you visit). It does have 2 lakes and 2 golf courses as part of the campus, which add greatly to the appeal of the campus. But the location of the campus is on the north edge of the city. Part of the campus abuts a residential neighborhood. And it’s right across the street from Eddy Street Commons, a small area of restaurants, bars, bank, hair salon, Urban Outfitters, deli, etc. Beyond that, most things are a 5 minute Uber ride away and anything more you need (like a mall or chain store) is a 10 minute Uber ride away. Uber has dramatically changed life on college campuses. My daughter and her friends use Uber constantly to go shopping, out to eat, out for the night, etc.

If you are not someone who drinks or parties, there is A TON to do on campus. Not only in terms of clubs and organized groups, but also signature dorm events, campus events, shows at the performing arts center and all the sports. If you do like to go to parties, then there are definitely dorm parties, but off-campus house parties are equally (possibly more) prominent. Many dorms and sports teams rent houses off campus. This is done privately, so completely unrelated to the university. So similar to a frat party, only without the hazing.

I definitely agree that ND is probably more conservative than most campuses, but that in the current environment, that simply means it’s center/left vs left.

Below are a couple links re ND’s geographic diversity. It really pulls from all over the country, only 30% of admitted students are from the Midwest.



@waitingmomla @Magnetron Would you be willing to share how your kids enjoyed their first year at Notre Dame? I’m a little concerned because our son is a bit “socially naive” (for lack of a better term). Not socially ackward, but “naive” in the sense that he hasn’t been a party kid / drinker or part of the popular crowd in high school. Just looking for some assurance that a good kid, maybe a bit on the shy side, will fit into the ND campus scene. Thanks.

He will be in good hands, @parent365 . Our son doesn’t drink, isn’t really into spectator sports, has never had a girlfriend, typically only had 1 or 2 friends, and still absolutely loved his first year. We were a bit worried because of how miserable he was during HS. His college search specifically avoided places where students tend to be miserable. Our daughter went to a state college and spent her first semester very lonely. This won’t happen at ND.

The dorm system really works for this. Orientation includes all the kids for a series of activities and is a good time to meet the rest of the dorm freshman. When the older students return the parties start. They are in the dorms, doors closed, loud music and dancing, beer available but no pressure to drink. If a kid does get drunk he will be watched and monitored, not thrown out on the front lawn like fraternity parties. Each dorm will also organize a few out-of-dorm events, usually with a DJ and dancing but no alcohol during. These encourage bringing a date but it is not required. Many of the seniors live off-campus and will host parties. They trend a little wilder but still not bad by college standards.

Each dorm tends toward the same tables every meal in the dining hall, so nobody eats alone unless they really want to. There is usually a hangout room in each wing. Our son’s dorm has a weight room and pool and ping pong tables in the basement so he has his own cue and paddle. He made friends in other dorms and over at St. Mary’s too.

Encourage your son to join things at the beginning that he might be interested in. They do an activities fair the first week. He can pare down later as the semester gets busy.

Sorry we’re hijacking your thread @californiakt0 . Good luck to you in the application round this fall.

@parent365 I’m happy to give you some feedback that I hope will benefit @californiakt0 as well. My daughter was also not in the party/popular crowd in high school, nor did she have a serious boyfriend prior to college. So I too worried about her heading to ND with those students who would be more worldly/mature. She found her “people” by the end of first semester, after an initial friend group that didn’t work out. I think it’s very important to explain to kids that they might not necessarily stay friends with the first group they socialize with. Between my daughter’s friends from ND and her friends from home, at least half of them changed friend groups once they were there a while and found people with whom they had more in common.

The elaborate and well-planned Welcome Weekend is exceptional for pulling the students together and fostering dorm unity right from the start. Despite this, once reality set in, my daughter was very homesick through fall break. But by Thanksgiving she was completely fine. Again this is a fairly common experience at any school that pulls many students from so far away. But she was happy to return to ND from winter break and just yesterday said to me - I miss school, I miss my friends.

There are plenty of kids that don’t party, those that party a lot, and plenty in the middle of the spectrum. In the end, everyone finds their social group and gravitates to people that are like them. My daughter does go to parties on the weekend, her roommate does not, and they get along great. Unlike what is often the case in high school, there is no popular group and there’s no judgement on who parties and who doesn’t. People just do their “thing”.

As far as football goes, my daughter never paid any attention to it prior to attending ND, but she did go to most of the games. The student section is a very fun, bonding experience, even if you don’t know anything about the game. Football days on campus are electric with activities and tailgating, again very fun even if you have no interest in football. So many alums on campus really pumps up the school spirit.

My daughter had a great RA who I felt really kept her on their radar. She honestly doesn’t have the best rector, but I know there are great ones there, I’m sure that’s true of any college. What is also helpful is the First Year of Studies program, that all first year students are enrolled in. They have a first year advisor to help them with the adjustment as well as the required Moreau First Year experience class that meets once per week, which is all about acclimating to the school. I know my daughter met with her first year advisor many times and he was very accessible, both for making appointments and for walk-ins.

Lastly, I often offer this thread to people because I think it’s so well written. See post #5 from someone called Docmom, who I think eloquently explains the ND experience


@Magnetron @waitingmomla Thank you both for the replies above. Helps ease a little parental worry about sending the boy off to school. Thanks also for the link to the earlier thread with the post by @docmom.

@californiakt0 Apologies for the partial thread hijack. Hopefully the additional responses helped give you a better sense for the campus experience at ND. Back to your original post…South Bend definitely won’t be big city, but there may be other aspects of the university and the community that will appeal to a California kid. Good luck if you decide to apply.

Just finished my first year at Notre Dame.

I am originally from Orange County, so not quite as big as LA, but still way bigger than South Bend. In my experience, because South Bend didn’t have a lot that interested me, I ended up staying on campus most of the time. I feel like this was similar for most other students in that going off campus was reserved for Target runs. Still, there seems to be enough on campus to keep students occupied. I ended up going to a lot of sporting events including football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, hockey, and baseball. I personally enjoyed the hockey games the most. The cheers and the student section at hockey games are always so fun. In addition to sporting events, there are sometimes concerts. I went to at least 4 concerts last year, but I know that the school offered many more. Most students end up going to dorm parties or off campus parties on the weekends. In high school, I had never gone to parties or anything like that. Even my first semester at Notre Dame, I went to parties, but I still did not drink. So if you like going to parties, there’s always some going on. Still, there’s not a huge pressure to drink if you don’t want to. Notre Dame puts on a few more random events every weekend. However, I kind of ended up getting bored a lot of weekends at Notre Dame. If that’s ever the case, you can go to Chicago.