University of Notre Dame
BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Biracial: Half White and Half Asian
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Public school in Darien, CT with a graduating class of about 300 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Computer Science
Minor: None, but I have taken a lot of courses in the East Asian Languages and Cultures department and that was not a minor when I first came here.
Extracurricular Activities: I am in the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra and Iron Sharpens Iron, which is an interdenominational Christian group, and I’m a mentor for Building Bridges, which is for a mentorship program for Multicultural students. I was also in Japan Club for my first two years but am not anymore.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
I’ve definitely met a lot of my main friends and community from the orchestra and Iron Sharpens Iron. I’ve also have kept some strong bonds from being in Japan club my first year.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
In Computer Science classes it varies a lot on the size of the project. We’ll have weekly, biweekly, monthly, and even semester-long projects. There are also weekly problem sets for theoretical classes like math classes and algorithm theory. The major graded assignments are exams and the programming projects.
Is there anything you feel the Computer Science department does especially well or especially poorly?
My favorite thing about the department is the T.A. system. Most of the T.A.’s are undergrads who took the class the semester or year before, so they really know what’s going on. In some classes I’ve taken in other departments we have graduate T.A.’s who aren’t that in touch with what the class is doing and can take a really long time to understand what you’re asking. The undergrad T.A.’s also have super convenient office hours because they’re on the same schedule as you, like they’ll have office hours from 6PM to midnight. There are also so many T.A.’s that they’re always available. It’s so nice because you get tons of one on one help, you get to know the T.A.’s and they’re students in other class years, and you also get to know the people that come to office hours all the time. It’s really helpful and fosters collaboration.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it is particularly competitive or collaborative?
I find it to be super collaborative. I really didn’t like the competitive nature of my high school and I felt totally liberated coming here because people are not up in each other’s grades and stuff. There are a lot of group projects and everybody works together on homework and in office hours.
How accessible are your professors?
Super accessible. There are several professors that are teaching professors, meaning that their focus is on teaching instead of research, and they’ll have lots of office hours. People will also hang out in the hallway of where all the professors’ offices are and will pop in and ask questions. People will also build close relationships with their professors.
What has been your favorite class you’ve taken for your major?
Personally, I took Systems Programming, which is a required sophomore programming class. It was difficult and a lot of work, but I think that class is the transition that people go through where before you’re not sure you can call yourself a Computer Science major and after you can because you’ve learned so much and feel like you’ve done so much that you get excited about what there is to come. You also get everybody in the major in a classroom, so you get to know the people in the major too.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I am super happy with it, I love it a lot. I didn’t choose it until the end of freshman year because I was going to do chemical engineering and there’s a required engineering introductory class that everybody takes where we learn programming. We did a project in the class that got me super interested in programming because I hadn’t had experience with it before that. I talked with more people and it started to think that it would be really fun for me. I like that it’s something that if you like it in school you’ll like your job because it’s similar work.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: McGlinn Hall with one roommate
Sophomore: McGlinn Hall with three roommates
Junior: I transferred to Flaherty Hall with one roommate. Most people stay in the same hall for all four years, but I transferred because I got close with some people in this hall. It was no problem to transfer.
Senior: Flaherty Hall with one roommate
What is your favorite living situation?
Definitely this year because room selection is by year. We have the best room in the hall and it’s totally huge and awesome. Also, my roommate is awesome. We’re the seniors who wanted a double because most people get singles, so we had the first pick and we got a great room.
How do you like the residence hall system?
I like it a lot. The hall communities are great. Each hall has its own mascot, colors, sports teams, signature events, and close communities. A lot of social life revolves around that.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It seems safe to me. I don’t go off-campus that much because there’s a lot going on on-campus.
How was transitioning from Connecticut to South Bend, Indiana?
It’s fine. The only thing is South Bend is two hours away from the airport, so it’s annoying to travel back and forth. Other than that, it’s pretty similar in terms of people and the weather.
Pros and cons of being in South Bend, Indiana?
Pros: (1) There is the Morris Performing Arts Center, which has musicals, shows, and concerts.
(2) The city totally loves Notre Dame and the whole city gets behind the football games and you have a big community feel.
Cons: (1) People’s main complaint is the weather. It is cold in the winter, but I think it’s fine if you get used to it.
(2) There’s not a lot going on in South Bend. People don’t go out and do much there.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you participate in at Notre Dame?
There are dorm parties and off-campus parties. I go to those occasionally. The dorm parties end strictly at 2AM because of parietals. For the most part, my friends and I are relatively low-key. We go to a lot of the on-campus events that Notre Dame sponsors. They’ll bring in comedians, magicians, and movies that are currently playing in theaters for really cheap. The dorms will also have events like dances, formals, and there are cultural events on-campus. My favorite thing to do on the weekend is to invite a bunch of friends over and have a low-key board game night or make food and that kind of thing.
What are some of your favorite on-campus events?
In terms of dorm-specific signature events, The Keenan Revue is a comedy show that’s huge and the line is like a mile out the door for the free but limited tickets. The comedy is all inside Notre Dame jokes. Then Lewis Hall has L-Hop where each floor of the building makes a different breakfast food and all night for one Friday night of the year you can get food there.
How happy are you with the weekend options? Is there anything you would change?
I’m personally am pretty happy with them. I think I just found a group of friends who want to do the same kind of thing as me, so that’s all I need.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I first made friends through the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra that I joined freshman year, and then it turned into friends of friends who I met through them. Those people were all in the same dorm, so I ended up making friends through that too. It all spread from there.
How would you describe the social scene?
I don’t know if I have a very good idea of what overall people do that aren’t the people I interact with, but it seems pretty low-key to me. People mostly do work during the week and then will do fun things on Fridays and Saturdays. There are parties, but there a lot of people who aren’t doing that and doing random other fun stuff. A lot of the social scene revolves around dorm events, but then some people have their own things with their clubs. There are also a lot of clubs that do things on Friday and Saturday nights. Dorms are pretty identifying of somebody, that is part of your “Notre Dame Introduction” along with your class year and major. The dorms are assigned randomly, but they all have their own culture and character.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
A lot. I don’t think people are noticing or thinking about that when they make friends in clubs and stuff. The residence halls create a place for people to mix because they are assigned completely randomly, so it’s not like there are cliques formed of very similar people.
How would you describe the East Asian community on campus? How strong is it?
One of the biggest clubs on campus is the Asian American Association and they have sub-clubs also. I don’t participate in that too much, but I think it’s pretty strong.
How would you describe the student body?
Well, it is about 80% Catholic. That’s all people who say they are Catholic, but not actually practicing. Because of that, it’s probably a more conservative culture than other campuses. That said, it’s definitely super liberal compared to Catholics in general. You get a lot more of a mix in viewpoints politically, we have the whole spectrum here.
How strong is the Catholic presence on campus?
It’s definitely present. There is dorm mass in every dorm every week and a lot of people from the dorm go to that. There will also be prayers at events. Beyond that, it’s all about how involved you want to be in it. It’s not forced down anyone’s throat.
How do you like the size of Notre Dame in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience? [There are about 8,500 undergraduates.]
I think it’s pretty good. It’s big enough that it’s not too hard to find people who are like you or you want to be friends with. Also, if you’re walking around campus you’ll definitely run into somebody you know. It’s not so big that it’s unfamiliar.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I personally haven’t used the alumni network but I know it’s really strong. The Computer Science department sends people for free to a women in computer science conference every year, and that’s how I got my internship and job. [On multiple occasions Notre Dame has been named one of the best places for women to study computer science.]
What have you used the career office for?
I used them for a resume review which was helpful. I know a lot of people use them for a lot more than that, but this computer science conference for me was a way to get internships.
What computer programs and languages have you focused on?
Notre Dame is a C based school. We primarily do C and C++. I lots of other classes you can use other programs, so I’ve learned Python and a little bit of Scheme and Java. It’s way less focused on Java than some other programs, which I personally think is good.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Notre Dame before entering as a freshman?
The electives for Computer Science, and a lot of majors, are capped to keep a smaller class size. What that means is that it is harder to get into the classes that you want to get into if you don’t have an early registration time. If you can get into one before junior year, go ahead and take it early because it’s going to be so hard to get your favorite class if you happen to get a bad registration time later on.
You have to take two Theology courses, so try to take the first one, which is a foundation course, early so you can pick a cool elective later on. There are some really cool electives and they are way cooler than they seem if you can get into good ones.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
A lot of people like to run and walk around the lakes. The lakes are definitely a beautiful part of campus. People will swim there and the sailing team takes their boats there sometimes. It’s a really serene and beautiful place to go
Reasons to attend Notre Dame:
1) The community and feeling part of the school as a whole. There is the idea of the Notre Dame family, and it’s small enough that people really feel like they’re a part of things. There is football and unique dorm events that everybody does together. It makes people feel like they belong and are part of something cool. People have a lot of spirit for Notre Dame.
2) The professors are super good. I’ve had maybe one or two professors I didn’t like through all of my semesters. They are really high-quality and super accessible.
Reasons to not attend Notre Dame:
1) If religious people really annoy you. I think people who are atheists or would have a problem with how the administration deals with issues regarding religion, that may be a problem for you. People who are not religious but don’t really care if people are religious don’t seem to have an issue, but if you’re strongly not religious you may have issues.