Bernice - Antoine





St.Ann's, Trinidad and Tobago

For International Students Trying to Make Their Home Under the Dome

How will I embrace change? 

Applying for my visa, getting on a plane, and  saying goodbye to my family was the easy part. We had known for months that I was leaving, the exact date and time too. We had ample time to prepare. But nothing could have prepared me for the real change I was about to experience: going from a predominantly coloured country to suddenly being a minority, being an international student and feeling like a stranger in the midst of people who look like me. These are the changes that were less easy to plan for. Yet I knew one thing with 100% certainty: God would not take me out of my comfort zone unless he had something better planned for me, all I had to do was sit back and embrace it. In the honorable Carla Harris’ address (“Notre Dame Commencement 2021: Laetare Medalist Address” by Carla Harris - Moreau FYE Week Six) she speaks about ‘not counting yourself out’ and to me that has been the best advice im used to embrace change at Notre Dame. I’ve never watched football before, I didn't know a quarterback from a wide receiver, frankly i’ve never even had pumpkin pie or danced salsa but I realized if I was to embrace Notre Dame, I had to become a person that raised my hand and say ‘yes i’d like to participate’ even if I wasn't sure if I’d like it. Embracing change means being open to new experiences, and pushing yourself out of your healthy comfort zone. 

That’s another thing I learnt at Notre Dame, the difference between being pushed out of your comfort zone to a healthy extent and then to a dangerous extent. I knew that there were some of my cultural values that I would never exchange. Those are the things that I stood for, which is why it’s so important to reflect at the beginning of any new encounter and analyze your root beliefs and how it can possibly manifest itself in your decisions. 

Applying Carla’s advice to effectively, ‘lean in’ by not counting yourself out I have become a much better person. I deliberately seek out different perspectives now and use it to sharpen my own. Because I ‘leaned in’ I volunteered to cook for my hall thanksgiving dinner (without even knowing how to cook lol). But I was determined to share a piece of my country with my new family, so I called my aunt, played the Trini Christmas medley and cooked up a storm. I'm happy to report that everyone who ate is still alive.In the future I plan to continue counting myself into conversations, rooms and experiences that I haven’t explored before. 

How will I build a strong community? 

Building a strong community takes effort. It means I have to show up for my friends, I have to create traditions, I have to love out loud, celebrate their successes, and mourn their sadness. My Foundations of Leadership professor, Christopher Stevens said, ‘a friend is someone who walks in when the rest of the world walks out’. 

How will I make an impact on Notre Dame? 

That’s the six word sentence that has dictated everyone’s life here at Notre Dame. I have spoken to countless students who have been able to perfectly articulate their purpose here. Naturally, this has induced my own anxiety of ‘finding my purpose’ on campus. Notre Dame has inspired me to be a force for good, and I have already committed my life to justice, now I just have to figure out how. This is a question I have tackled since the beginning of the term. Finding your purpose in life isn't something you rush into, it's something you nurture by being open to new experiences.