Tamima Levinsohn Mourad, a senior studying psychology and Spanish with a minor in business economics, was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but grew up in São Paulo. In her final year at the University of Notre Dame, she served as a leader in coordinating outreach through the Hesburgh International Scholars Experience for admitted international students. She also facilitated the Notre Dame Club of Brazil and the Sao Paulo Global Center's outreach to admitted families and assisted with outreach to students throughout Latin American and the Middle East. As she prepares for graduation, Mourad reflects on how she was able to creatively reach admitted students online due to the pandemic and how she plans to remember her time at the University.
It's common knowledge to all Brazilians that saudades is one of the most difficult words to describe and translate from Portuguese. It is a nostalgic feeling that goes beyond missing someone or a place. Even though it hurts and makes you feel incomplete, there is bittersweetness to it. Saudades is how I feel about Notre Dame.
I never imagined that I would go from living in São Paulo, Brazil to South Bend, Indiana, especially since I did not know much about Notre Dame, aside from the fact that it had a strong academic history. After my sister got accepted to Notre Dame in 2015, my family and I were welcomed by the ND Club of Brazil (NDCB). The conversations that I had with members of the NDCB made me realize that Notre Dame has so many parallels to the Brazilian community: the family aspects, the warmth, and welcoming culture.
The NDCB finds ways to introduce prospective Brazilian students to Notre Dame, especially those who are not familiar with the University. From organizing welcome lunches, to exchanging messages, to sending postcards and calls, we do our best to welcome the students and their families to our NDCB family. Aside from helping with the NDCB, I engage with the greater international community. During the past three years, I have had the honor of working for International Admissions at ND, where my colleagues and I worked with both prospective and current students to spread the love we have for our home.
Every year, the International Admissions team organizes the Hesburgh International Scholars Experience (HISE) program where prospective students spend five days on campus to grasp what it means to be one of the Fighting Irish. The HISE experience includes staying in the dorms, interacting with students around our beautiful campus, and sitting in the classroom and learning from remarkable professors. HISE is much more than showing these students what our campus looks like, it is about showing them who we are. I say this from personal experience. Ever since I came to HISE in 2016, I knew that if I came to ND, I wanted to work for the International Admissions team.
Rewind to April 2016: I was a senior in high school, about to make a decision that would shape my personal and academic trajectory for the next four years. After being accepted to Notre Dame, I was invited to attend the HISE program. During my visit, everything at Notre Dame amazed me: the vibrant colors of the beautiful campus, the stunning facilities, the friendliness of the students and staff, and the welcoming culture. On our last day, I vividly remember being at the Grotto, along with the rest of the HISE students, reflecting on our past few days. Despite my immediate love for both Holy Cross and Notre Dame, I was still reluctant to make my choice. As I tried to assemble my thoughts, I went up to a student in the admissions team, who was previously a Gateway student, and I cried to her and said, “I don’t know what to do.” She reassured me that everything would fall into place. I carried that moment with me during my decision making process and I still carry it with me today. At that moment, I realized that if I were to go to Notre Dame, I would be recognized as an individual and not as just one more student.
Fast forward to April 2017: I was a freshman at ND and volunteered for some of the HISE events. While the group gathered at the Grotto, I went up to the same student, who was then a senior, and said, “Thank you. If it weren't for you and our conversation at the Grotto back in 2016, I might not have been here.” The admissions team cared for me. That student went out of her way to make sure that I was heard and my concerns were addressed, regardless of the fact that I had not made a decision yet. ND international admissions was part of me before I even noticed it. I realized that I also wanted to have that same impact on one, five, or ten other students throughout my years at Notre Dame. Working for the admissions team is also about showing our true essence and what constitutes our Notre Dame family. As you can imagine, it is incredibly difficult to translate these experiences and emotions into words and phrases, just like the word saudades.
Now, as a senior, and about to graduate, I hope to have been able to achieve the ambitious goal that I set in 2016. I hope to have impacted prospective students' lives as a reflection of my own experience being in that position. HISE is an important part of who I am. Ever since I started working for the admissions team back in 2017, I asked myself, “How will I feel on my last HISE?” To be quite frank, I had already planned on what I was going to say at the Grotto gathering for this year's HISE. Given our current circumstances, we were not able to have our usual HISE, but we realized that when Notre Dame students face adversity, we will meet and surpass our expectations. Our love and passion for this University is so big that nothing stopped our team from spreading Notre Dame's magic and showing the class of 2024 who we are. Despite the challenges along the way, our team had weekly Zoom meetings to brainstorm ways of welcoming the prospective students to our family. From creating an Instagram account, to doing a Zoom student panel, to doing videos, to setting up meetings with individual students, to creating small groups for students to get to know each other, we made it possible. Even though the students were not able to see our beautiful campus and it was not how I envisioned my last HISE to be, I hope to have been able to share with them the magic that they will experience in these next four years.
I will be graduating in a few days, and never have I felt as much saudades of Notre Dame as I do right now. My saudades for Notre Dame will be everlasting, but one thing that I know is that Notre Dame goes far beyond four years. I will continue spreading my love and pride for this University wherever I am.