Notre Dame, international since the beginning


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Since its inception, the University of Notre Dame has been a global school. 

It was founded by a French priest and brothers in 1842 with money raised in Europe, and as soon as 1850 was enrolling international students. 

In the decades that followed, more than 100 students would come to Notre Dame from Canada, Cuba, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Panama and Poland, enriching and diversifying the campus. 

The majority of them, including Notre Dame’s first international student, came from Mexico, largely due to the efforts of Rev. John Zahm, C.S.C., and the “Zahm Special” rail car.  
Leased by the University in the mid-1800s, the train car would take Zahm as far south as Chihuahua, Mexico, to pick up students and provide them transportation to campus. 
Since then, Notre Dame has opened its doors to more than 36,000 international students. 

In 1964, Notre Dame began sending its students abroad, first to Innsbruck, Austria. Programs in Angers, France, and Tokyo, Japan, soon followed. Today there are nearly 50 programs that send students abroad for a semester or academic year, as well as 19 summer study programs in 26 countries. Undergraduates have responded to the numerous opportunities — 73 percent of them earn credit studying abroad during their time at Notre Dame, the second highest percentage in the nation.

Notre Dame International, as we now know it, was founded in 2010, as part of a strategic effort to further enhance Notre Dame’s already significant scholarly engagement in many parts of the world. NDI’s goal is to maximize the University’s global impact in teaching and learning, research and discovery, and service to humanity.

“No university can be a great university for the 21st century unless it is an international university and a global university,” says Provost Tom Burish. “That means not only attracting great students and faculty members from all over the world but also giving students and faculty the resources to go out into the world to pursue distinctive learning and research opportunities.”

When NDI launched, it became the umbrella for the existing International Student and Scholar Affairs (ISSA) and Study Abroad offices. Two years later, the first Global Gateway opened its doors in London, thus beginning the sprawl of Global Gateways and Global Centers that have so richly contributed to faculty and student experiences alike. 

Today, there are five Global Gateways — in Beijing, Dublin, Jerusalem, London and Rome — and six Global Centers — in Santiago, São Paulo, Mexico City, Hong Kong and Mumbai and at Kylemore Abbey in western Ireland — all in the hope of bringing Notre Dame, its scholarship and its values to the world.

In short, Notre Dame International provides students and faculty with the experiences and resources to work with people from around the globe. The vision is that by understanding the world and its many people and cultures, members of the University community will become global citizens who can effectively lead and serve the common good. 

That is Notre Dame. It always has been.