University of Notre Dame
BackgroundInterview Date:May 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Southeast Asian
Sexual Orientation: Lesbian
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public school in southwestern Michigan with a graduating class of about 500 students. There was a culture of going to college and also a popular community college where a lot of people went.
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: Neuroscience and Behavior
Extracurricular Activities: I was a varsity athlete my freshman year but then I quit. My main extracurricular is the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra. I’m also in the Rock Climbing Club.
Have any of your extracurriculars had a particularly big impact on your experience?
Both the Rock Climbing Club and the orchestra are great avenues to get to know people outside of my grade and major.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
My major is in the College of Science, which isn’t too different from the College of Arts and Letters, you just have to take more rigorous STEM classes during your freshman and sophomore year. Freshman and sophomore year, we’re focusing on those classes which involve note-taking in large lecture halls, doing a lot of homework outside of class, and prepping for labs. I’m abroad right now, so I’m taking more of my Arts and Letters courses like psychology and film courses, which is a lot of writing essays and doing readings outside of class.
Is there anything you feel the Neuroscience and Behavior department has done especially well or poorly?
Not especially. I think the one thing to keep in mind is that it’s a growing department. Like, we only had one adviser up until this year. One thing that the department has done super well is Dr. Nancy Michael, the adviser, has been a spectacular force for advising students and being available. We also don’t have many professors so we latch on to Biology and Psychology classes, so my first actual Neuroscience and Behavior class I took my spring semester of my sophomore year.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it is particularly competitive or collaborative?
I’m very much Midwestern and go with the flow, so what’s really nice about Notre Dame is people are quite collaborative. Especially in the rigorous chemistry classes during freshman and sophomore year, every time somebody says “Orgo” or “Orgo 2,” somebody around the dining hall who has taken that class or is in the class will say, “Oh my gosh,” and then you can commiserate about it and share notes. People are super helpful and collaborative. It’s nice to have a community where you can suffer together instead of making each other suffer.
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
My issue is I never go to office hours. In general, in the large lecture classes it’s hard to track them down because you have to compete with so many students. Like, office hours freshman year were a nightmare. But, as class sizes got smaller and smaller and I started taking more seminar-based classes, I found that if I emailed a professor they’d be willing to meet. I still have professors I’m in contact with who I can contact when I have questions about life and stuff, which is amazing.
What has been your favorite class you’ve taken for your major?
My favorite class was the Neuroscience and Behavior class I took sophomore year, creatively called, Neuroscience and Behavior. That was the class that made me realize that I’m so happy that I chose this major and that this is what I want to do.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’m very happy with my choice. Senior year in high school I enjoyed aspects of the soft sciences like psychology, but I’m a stickler for also having aspects of the hard sciences. So, I wanted a more biological take of psychology, and so far, I’ve gotten that and I’m excited to explore more in graduate school.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman-Junior: McGlinn Hall with one roommate
Senior: McGlinn Hall in a single
How do you like the residential college system? How has it impacted your experience?
The residential system is a really unique thing to Notre Dame and I really love it because I feel like I appreciate it more after I leave. I imagine myself in Chicago or Boston, two places where Notre Dame people are always, and if I see someone and recognize them from my dorm, we could strike up a conversation because we always have that aspect of family together. Conversely, some people don’t feel at home in the dorms because if you are a minority you can really tell when you’re living in the dorms because of the makeup of the population at Notre Dame. Like, my dorm is mostly White women. If you’re the only non-White woman in your section, you really stand out. Feeling isolated in the dorms is something I’ve heard people have issues with. I haven’t had that issue because my high school was predominantly White.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel super safe. I’ve always felt safe because I’m not one to go out a lot. When I do, I always go out with friends. I don’t go to men’s dorms alone because we’ve had issues with sexual assault, which are not being addressed as much as they should.
Pros and cons of being in South Bend, Indiana?
1) It’s close to home for me.
1) The weather. It’s a variation of winter 90% of the time, so it’s hard to get to your classes.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you participate in at Notre Dame?
I love going to the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings and go into South Bend to hang out. Sunday nights I always do dorm mass with my dorm, which is really nice. Friday nights depend. I only go to house parties where people I know are hosting because that seems to be an only freshman year thing to be walking around trying to find a party. There are houses for clubs like Glee House or Orchestra House that host parties I like to go to. I also host dorm parties, but those are pretty chill. Men’s dorms always have something going on.
If at all, how has being LGBT influenced your nightlife experience? Is there much of a Queer nightlife scene on campus?
People try to have a Queer nightlife scene. Clubs like Prism will host parties and post them on Facebook, but they haven’t been very good. Having one Queer space to party doesn’t really happen. It’s typically like you run into your Queer friends at straight people’s parties. Apparently, there’s a decent gay club in South Bend, but I’m not 21 so I haven’t gone.
How happy are you with the weekend options? Is there anything you would change?
I wish the Queer parties were better. That’d be a really nice resource for students who feel isolated on campus.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Through my dorm.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Notre Dame?
Everyone knows everyone a little bit. It’s one of these places where if you’re talking [badly about someone] you don’t use a last name because everyone knows everyone here. But, the social scene is friend group-based so people only know a few people really closely. Most people find those friend groups through their residential halls, minority communities, and other extracurricular clubs.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
That answer could vary based on what groups you associate with. For instance, I’m more liberal, so I hang out with more liberal people and see a lot of racial mixing and sexuality mixing. However, the people who are more conservative hang out with more conservative people and they tend to be White and straight. So, in my experience there is a lot of mixing, but that definitely depends on your perspective.
How would you describe the LGBTQ+ community? How strong is it?
We do what we can but we are faced with certain pressures from the university. For example, Prism has to struggle to get a lot of things done and there are a lot of constrictions on them. But, we still have tailgates and have a meeting place for Queer people to meet. We’re also a small population on campus. The people who are out are an especially small population they have to be very out and make it a stance because you’re well known in the community since there are only a few super out people. In my upbringing and my background, I was one of the few Queer people in my high school and then I came here, so it definitely feels different than if I were to live in a city where there are lots of Queer people and then come here where there’s only 20 or 30 on campus.
How would you describe the Asian-American community on campus? How strong is it?
I think it’s pretty strong. The Asian American Association is pretty popular but I’m not super involved. I think they’ve been doing good things and are super open.
What impact does the school’s Catholic identity have on the student body?
I like the Catholic identity, it’s really nice. I chose Notre Dame because I wanted a Catholic education. I feel like it’s impacted my experience but not to the extent that it’s impacted students who aren’t Catholic because it can be all up in your face. But, I don’t think it’s really affected my education, it’s just an environment I’m surrounded in.
How do you like the size of Notre Dame? How has that impacted your experience? [There are about 8,500 undergraduates.]
I really like the size. The size was also one of the reasons I came here. It’s nice because I feel super comfortable on the campus, I know everyone, and everything’s super accessible.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not really just because I do a lot of lab-based things which are different than the typical internship and job situation. I have to find professors who I want to work with and apply to work with that professor.
To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful is it?
I don’t think I’ve ever used the career office.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
Have you used financial aid? If so, how easy is the office to work with?
Yes, I use financial aid. I haven’t really interacted with them other than when I’ve asked for money and they give me what I get and I say thank you. It’s hard to get them to budge if you need more money, but they’re doing a good job of being responsive and accessible.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Notre Dame before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew to get as much as I could from the Summer Service Learning Program and the International Summer Service Learning Program. I didn’t have those in mind when I planned my summers and I have friends who did them and they are amazing. I would suggest looking at those as soon as you can to start planning your summers around them.
What is something a prospective LGBTQ+ student may want to know about Notre Dame that we haven’t touched on?
Your experience is going to be what you make it. If you go in thinking that people will be super accepting and you’ll have a lot of opportunities to meet other Queer people, don’t think that. Then, when you get here, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. You have to just go with the flow and accept that you’ll be in a dorm with people who are from very conservative families and knowing other Queer people is new to them, so you should give them a break. It’s not something you should have to do, but it’s something you should do because you’re at Notre Dame.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Take time to get to know South Bend because I know people who’ve committed to Notre Dame but then realized they don’t like living in South Bend or the aspect of living in a small town in the Midwest. It’s four years of your life and if you don’t enjoy South Bend, that would be tough.
Reasons to attend Notre Dame:
1) It’s a Catholic university, so the students do try to do a lot of community service in the South Bend area. Especially in your dorm, there is always something you can do, and there is a group called Mercy Works that I recommend. [More than 80% of students participate in service or service learning before they graduate.]
2) It’s a close-knit and safe community. When you start at Notre Dame you hear the word community so many times it’s ridiculous. But, then once you have your time here, you realize they use the word community so much because it’s the only one that accurately portrays how we live.
3) The prestige of the school is really nice.
4) The study abroad options are great.
Reasons to not attend Notre Dame:
1) If you’re looking for a more Jesuit education, this is not that.
2) Sometimes it can feel that Father Jenkins is only focused on making money. [See New York Times article, “Notre Dame President Stands Firm Amid Shifts in College Athletics” and article, “Does God Want You To Spend $300,000 for College?”]
3) If you want control over your schedule with more flexibility.
4) The weather is horrible.