My daughter will be among the students cheering
on the Fighting Irish today.
{Photo: thanks to}

Today is Notre Dame's first game of the new season. Like many fans of 'the Irish' I have a renewed interest in the team and the college, although my renewed interest is not connected to the team's unexpected, meteoric rise to the top flight last year.

No, for me the keenness for ND is due to one of the university's new freshman students: my daughter.

Yup, last week my wife and I did as so many other parents did and dropped off our daughter at college – in South Bend.

Before last summer I never imagined any child of mine going to college in America, let alone Notre Dame. However, when our daughter got the idea in her head she went after it with vigor. Despite the workload she had with the Leaving Cert – I might resurrect this topic, but believe me no US high school student is as stressed in their senior year – she found time to do all that she had to do to go to college in America.
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From the moment it came into her head during the summer she worked at it: reading about  how the American college system worked; preparing for the SAT's; investigating all the possibilities with regards to finance; filling in applications and getting teachers to write recommendation letters – something Irish teachers generally don't have to do. Her Principal chipped in with a great letter and her Guidance Counselor didn't miss a beat, going back into the complex fully-online college application system to provide some missing bits of information.

After all that there was the waiting. Just like any college-bound American, our daughter had to wait to see what colleges accepted her. Only, she couldn't sit back and relax. That's when she really put her head down to get ready for the Leaving Cert. Staying late in school everyday, even Friday, working all weekend. Study, study, study. That was it. She knew she wanted to go to college in America, but she couldn't take anything for granted.

Eventually the acceptance letters started to arrive (a few colleges never responded; I should seek a refund of the application fees). Notre Dame was the most exciting one. Still she studied, other things had to fall into place before we'd know for certain.

Eventually, in early May it all came together. She knew, we all knew that she was going to Notre Dame. She picked her head up, smiled, had some chocolate cake to celebrate and then put her head back down to finish studying. The Leaving Cert was only a month away and she wasn't going to throw it away now, whether it ultimately meant anything or not.

Last week was the culmination of all her efforts. Now she has to start all over – not only learning what it means to be in college, but learning what it means to be in America, living with Americans.

We couldn't be prouder parents. Or sadder. Her liveliness and humor will be missed around the house.

So as Notre Dame takes the field today, one of their fans will be an 18-year-old girl with only the vaguest notion of what's happening. That won't matter to her, however. She'll be whooping it up with the best of them, even if she has no idea what clipping or a linebacker or the two minute drill are. And from far away we'll be missing her, but hoping Notre Dame wins and that she has a great time. Actually, we already know that she will.