From his first week at Notre Dame, Hayden Mascarenhas ’23 felt at home.
That’s saying something because Mascarenhas, who is Portuguese, grew up in Saudi Arabia and India, where his family lives now. He came a long way to attend Notre Dame and was grateful to find a home under the Dome in his residence hall community in St. Edward’s Hall.
Thus far, residential life has been one of Mascarenhas’ favorite aspects of the Notre Dame experience. He bonded with his hallmates right away and says that, because St. Ed's, or STEDS as it’s known on campus, is home to just around 150 residents, they are an especially tight-knit group.
“So everyone will know everyone's name and people are always looking out for each other. That's a great community,” says Mascarenhas.
Connections are important to him. As an international student, Mascarenhas has embarked on an adventure during his college years. He has had to overcome the obstacles that come with studying in a foreign country, from learning to speak the U.S. version of English like a native to adjusting to the cold Northern Indiana winters. While it has taken time to adjust to life at Notre Dame, the changes have been made easier by the welcoming campus community.
In addition to St. Ed’s, “the best dorm on campus,” says Mascarenhas, he has found community through an extracurricular activity he had never tried before—dancing.
Mascarenhas was a singer-songwriter growing up. He even submitted a few of his original tracks with his Notre Dame application. “So that was cool, but when I came [to Notre Dame], I was like, you know what? I've done that for a while. I also want to try some new things, some more social activities, and so I joined two dance groups,” he says.
He joined Project Fresh, Notre Dame’s hip hop dance group, and the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s Ballroom Dance Club. Dancing is now a big part of Mascarenhas’ life on campus. He has been a part of three performances so far, has made some great friends, and has even branched out into doing choreography for the groups.
“Dancing, in my opinion, is the most underrated activity ever. The amount of joy and warmth it brings to someone who probably hasn’t even danced before in their life is just surreal,” says Mascarenhas.
Mascarenhas has found that the sense of community at Notre Dame is present in the classroom too. One of his favorite classes is his most collaborative class. It’s called Design Matters: Introduction to Design Thinking.
“Eventually we will be designing products and companies will be coming in [to work with us]. But right now we're working on collaborative innovation so that means we work in teams and we try to solve problems,” he says.
Each class period, Mascarenhas’ professor presents a case study to students and students learn about design thinking via practical exercises. They then form groups and apply design thinking to team projects.
Right now, Mascarenhas’ group is tasked with improving the student snacking experience at Notre Dame. This involves interviewing people on campus about their snacking habits and then figuring out ways to implement solutions based on their research.
Mascarenhas appreciates the opportunity to apply what he is learning to real-life situations. “We get to have an experience like this as freshmen and that's so cool,” he says.
Mascarenhas also loves his Philosophy of Law course. The course explores theoretical and practical issues arising in law and students study cases related to criminal law. Mascarenhas took the course to fulfill a philosophy requirement and, “At the same time I also wanted to learn more about law and see whether or not that's for me,” he says.
Mascarenhas is considering law school after Notre Dame, among other options. He came in with the intention of becoming a pre-health major, but right away discovered that path wasn’t for him.
He took advantage of the career discernment services at the Meruelo Family Center for Career Development and met with a career counselor who advised him to explore his varied interests instead.
Now, Mascarenhas is following his curiosity, rather than a plan based on what he thought he should study. This path has allowed him to explore through courses like Design Matters and Philosophy of Law. As far as majors, he is now considering Film, Television, and Theatre, as well as economics.
“And the good thing about that is that I can really major in anything and still be able to take up any career path,” says Mascarenhas. “So I really like that freedom and that opportunity to study whatever I'm passionate about.”
Watch the video above to learn more about Hayden Mascarenhas' Notre Dame experience.