University of Notre Dame
BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: East Asian
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public high school in China with a graduating class of about 500 students. There was not a culture of going to college in the United States. People went to more domestic universities.
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: Industrial Design
Minors: Sustainability and Italian double minor
Extracurricular Activities: I am part of a prayer group, and I occasionally go to climbing classes and some other classes that are offered in the Smith Center.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
My prayer group has because that is the club I’ve stayed in the longest. I’ve been in other clubs like Psychology Club but was not part of them for a long time. I have now formed a long-term habit of going to the prayer group every week.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
A lot of my work is project-based and I spend a lot of time in the studio. I have a lot of sketching, rendering, researching sometimes, and prototyping. Those projects make up the majority of my grades.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
One thing I think it does well is it gives you the training for solid skills. Once you take a class, you gain a skill like sketching or something else. One thing it does badly is you have to spend a lot of time in the studio so you don’t have much time for extracurriculars. I don’t have a very stable schedule because it depends on what project I have.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it is particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s more collaborative than competitive. When it comes to design projects, if you are unsure about your design, you can talk it through with other people in the major, faculty, and also people in other majors. It’s not competitive because everybody is doing different projects. Even though we’re given the same topic, everybody’s project will be different.
How accessible are your professors?
They’re pretty accessible. Occasionally, they will be really busy, but most of the time I don’t even email them because I’ll bump into them in the building.
How was transitioning academically from your high school in China? Were there any resources or systems in place that helped you adapt?
It wasn’t that hard to transition because there were a lot of upperclassmen from the same country. All the Chinese students have a group chat, so you can post a question in there. Also, depending on where you’re from, you will have friends who are from the same country who can help you too. Freshman year I was in the International Student Support Group where we shared our experiences of adjusting, which was helpful. Also, all the orientation activities helped with adjusting.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’m very happy with my choice. My first year and first semester of my second year I was a Marketing major in Mendoza but then realized that’s not what I wanted to do, so I changed the second semester of my sophomore year. It’s been going really well and I think I’m learning a lot of useful things. It’s a major that’s fit for what I really like.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Welsh Family Hall with one roommate
Sophomore: Welsh Family Hall with three roommates
Junior: Welsh Family Hall with one roommate for the first semester and the second semester I studied abroad.
Senior: I’ll live off-campus in an apartment with two other people.
What has been your favorite living situation?
I liked living in the dorms and enjoyed living in a double. I like that all of my close friends are close to me in the dorms. Off-campus you have a lot of privacy, but sometimes you can feel a bit disconnected from your friends on campus.
How was transitioning from your hometown in China to South Bend, Indiana?
It’s a huge change. It takes a lot of time to adjust because most of the international students who come here all grow up in cities. It’s not very common to live in the far suburbs. When I first came here, the whole situation is so different. It’s not very walkable, there are not many people here, we speak a different language, and the choice of restaurants is not great.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel pretty safe most of the time.
Pros and cons of being in South Bend, Indiana?
Pros: (1) The natural environment on campus is really pretty, especially the lakes. It’s really good for exercising.
(2) It’s pretty cheap to live here.
(3) It’s a smaller community, so you can always find a quiet place here. It’s pretty tranquil while big cities are noisy.
Cons: (1) There are not many new things to look at or do. There are not that many accessible events or interesting culture.
(2) The transportation system. If you don’t have a car, the only way you can get places is Uber, Lyft, or your friends give you a ride.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you participate in at Notre Dame?
I definitely went out more during my freshman and sophomore year, but that was mainly to dorm parties. When I turned 21, I went out exclusively to off-campus parties. If I’m not out, I’ll probably just be hanging out with my friends in the apartments or dorms watching a movie. I rarely ever go out three days in a row, even two days in a row can be a little too much. If I’m going out, I’ll go out Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.
How happy are you with the weekend options? Is there anything you would change?
Because we cannot go anywhere else other than parties in South Bend, people don’t have much freedom in choosing the location or the music. This isn’t fair to say, but nightlife in the city is usually much more fun because you have options with clubs and the places are bigger. I just wish there was more of a city environment.
How did you meet your closest friends?
A very important part of my friend group comes from my dorm. In the very beginning of my first semester of freshman year, I became very close with my friends there. Even after I moved off-campus, I still keep in contact with them. Another important part of my friend group comes from my study abroad program, and another part comes from the Chinese community and other random events through extracurricular activities.
How would you describe the social scene?
Everybody will find their own groups. People might start out thinking they can hang out with any group and then try to hang out with different people, but finally you choose one group of people to be your friends for the long term. Because of my cultural background, I don’t always feel connected with some people, but I have my niche market with international students. Usually, I can have really good conversations with the international students.
To what extent do international students and domestic students mix socially?
I think they mix well. I’m pretty optimistic about this because I became close with both of my roommates who are American. I think it depends on whether they are open-minded enough, and that goes for both the international student and the domestic student. Some domestic students might not want to hang out with an international student because they don’t know much about American culture and the international student may not be willing to learn more about something he or she doesn’t already know. When you’re out of your comfort zone, it’s very easy to hang out with people from your same country. Both sides must make an effort.
As an international student, were there any parts of Notre Dame or American university overall that surprised you?
I am a little bit surprised by the atmosphere here. It is definitely more conservative than I expected. The pros of the atmosphere is the spiritual aspect of being here. The religious aspect is really strong and supportive. There are pros and cons to it because people might be a little more conservative but they are stronger in their faith. It creates a strong culture around “Go Irish!” which I can see forming a strong sense of community for international students. But, at first, people here don’t seem as welcoming because it’s not like New York or California where people know your culture. Sometimes the stereotypes [about the Midwestern states of the United States] are true here.
How would you describe the Chinese community? How strong is it?
I wouldn’t say it’s that strong because people are spread out across different majors with most being in Mendoza. It’s not really, really close, but everyone knows each other and several of my really close friends are from the Chinese community.
Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of Notre Dame by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Notre Dame?
Across the board, everyone who graduates has a sense of achievement because they learned and did a lot of things here. Some might feel the community is not embracing or supportive enough because if you are not a traditional Notre Dame Irish family you may find the community less accepting. But, overall, people who graduate consider Notre Dame as an achievement.
How strong is the Catholic presence on campus? How has it impacted your experience?
It’s pretty strong. I really like that people are conscious about their religious beliefs. I am personally from an atheist family but am spiritual, so I find that to be a good reminder of my own beliefs. I think people who are Muslim or Buddhist, they might not feel as comfortable. [About 81% of students are Catholic.]
What have you used the career office for? How helpful are they?
I used them to review my portfolio before I applied to jobs. They were helpful.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I learned the entire Adobe Suite. I think Solidworks and KeyShot are our strengths.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Notre Dame before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew that this university has a certain type of culture that doesn’t seem as inclusive as you expect at first. It was not as diverse as I expected. I would also consider the location more because it’s not a city.
What is something a prospective international student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
A prospective international student may want to know about the community here. They should look into how many students from their country are here and what kind of cultural activities or resources are there in order to help them adjust.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
They should get a better sense of what dorm life is really like.
Reasons to attend Notre Dame:
1) The education encourages you to work really hard and learn a lot.
2) The alumni network is very helpful and supportive. You can find people in every industry, which is really nice.
3) If you want them, there are a lot of belief-related resources that help you learn who you are spiritually.
4) The study abroad opportunities are really awesome.
Reasons to not attend Notre Dame:
1) The lack of cultural diversity. [About 68% of students are White and about 7% are international.]
2) The location is not very exciting. It’s hard to get in touch who are not affiliated with the university.