I am an international exchange student from London, England, and one of the most common statements I hear from my friends back home when I show them Notre Dame is “it looks like you’re living a movie.” To the average British student, things like Notre Dame’s massive football games, touchdown push-ups and campus the size of a city feel cinematic verging on unreal. On the other hand, when I tell Notre Dame students about my home university, Durham, in a quaint city in England, characterized by its medieval architecture and famous for being the site where Harry Potter was filmed, I hear a similar comment. The differences between education in the U.S. and the UK is astonishing, but you get some quirky similarities too. In this piece, I interview international exchange students from across the globe for their “hot take” of Notre Dame…
Medb Kennedy, Ireland
Medb is a junior at Notre Dame and studies Law and Politics at Dublin City University.
What is it like being an Irish person at an Irish themed college?
Medb: I never really thought about being Irish before I came here, and it made me really realize how being Irish is part of my identity and who I am. Everyone that I talk to tells me some sort of relation they have to Ireland, whether it was studying there or having family there, and it’s a really nice thing to hear how people are so interested in what it means to be Irish.
How do you find living in dorms with a roommate compared to living at home?
Medb: That was a big change, but I think it’s a really good experience. Dorm culture is a really big thing here and it’s nice that there aren’t fraternities or sororities because I feel really immersed in the campus and in college life. With having a roommate it’s a really great way to make a friend, and that’s different to Ireland where you would usually make most of your friends through your class instead of your accommodation. It’s very different living away from my family, as you have to learn how to make your dorm your home.
Maya Yona, Israel
Maya is a senior at Notre Dame and studies Data Science at the University of Tel Aviv.
So, your mother is from America. Did she prepare you for what American college life is like?
Maya: It feels like my whole life was a preparation for this. I used to hear all about her college experience as she used to talk about it a lot and her best friends are her friends from college, so I got introduced to that kind of life before. But I was still surprised, even though I was taught about it growing up, it still felt kind of foreign for me because I had never been in this environment in my life.
How did your first day of university back home compare to your first day of university here?
Maya: It was very different. Here I came with international orientation, so I felt I had friends who were in the same position as me, and I felt united with them in a way. On my first day of university in Tel Aviv, I did not know anyone other than the people that sat next to me in lectures and my flatmates, but I did not really know anyone else because I was not in a specific program like I am here. It was harder, and Notre Dame was easier in a way.
Polly Cameron and Alice Rainsford, United Kingdom
Polly and Alice are both juniors at Notre Dame. Alice studies International Development at the University of East Anglia and Polly studies history and English at Durham University.
Is there anything that you prefer about the American style of college compared to your college back home?
Polly: I think how the professors seem to care more and how the work you get set is working on building you up to a level rather than just being like “do this essay and do that essay.” For example, for one of my classes, I have to do an essay using a source but that is due right at the end of term. First, our professor wants us to submit our primary source, and then she wants us to make a bibliography for it and then she wants us to write the essay, so it is sort of like smaller tasks which make sure you do the work on time. I feel like the professors here are much more into making sure you understand what you are doing, whereas university back home, it’s more isolated.
How do you find not being Catholic at Notre Dame?
Alice: I was a bit worried at the opening ceremony. I thought because I went to a Christian school some things would be familiar, but even the Lord’s Prayer is different. There is a lot more discrepancy than I would have expected between different branches of the same religion.
How does American football culture compare to British football (soccer) culture?
Alice: I really like American football culture because it’s so inclusive. With the tailgating everyone is so welcoming, but also there were not any barriers in the stadium between Notre Dame and the opposition. I know if you didn’t have a barrier in the Arsenal-Tottenham game (these are British soccer teams), there would be fights. Overall, there seems to be a lot more sportsmanship here, the chants are a lot less offensive and everything is more positive.
Tim Courau and Anne Campion, France
Tim is a politics major at Sciences Po, and Anne studies politics at the Université Catholique de l’Ouest.
What made you want to study in America? And why Notre Dame?
Tim: In my political science major, I was specializing in the U.S. in the sense that all the case studies I have had were about the U.S. For example, I have studied the U.S. Constitution, segregation and theories of citizenship from the American perspective. I chose those because I like the U.S. and I think it is the place to be if you want to study international relations. I chose Notre Dame because I have heard it is a place with a strong community feeling, and, as a Catholic, it was important to have the Catholic presence.
How do you find the language barrier?
Anne: I can say I have some difficulties to be focused at 100% for all my classes. Sometimes my brain will think of something else because I can’t understand part of a lecture. Also, it takes longer to do things. For example, yesterday, I was writing an essay, and if it was in French I would have been so much quicker, but instead it took me like three hours!
So, that’s the international “hot take” on the Notre Dame experience thus far. I would like to thank all the students included in this article for giving up their time for such interesting interviews, and thank you, dear reader, for hearing out what it’s like for them coming from “across the pond”!