During her college search, Notre Dame’s “message” really resonated with first-year student Isabella Garcia. The University’s emphasis on being a force for good in the world was something Garcia could get behind. As a high school student, she became involved in activism around the causes that were important to her. She was a regular at marches and demonstrations in her hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona, even helping to organize the Flagstaff event March for Our Lives, which promotes common sense gun laws.
Since she planned to major in political science, Garcia also appreciated Notre Dame’s “practical political science education.” She was looking for hands-on experience, ways to put her beliefs into practice, and she says Notre Dame’s opportunities for research and internships helped her make the decision to apply and then enroll.
So far, the political science program is meeting, even exceeding, her expectations.
“I knew that Notre Dame had one of the best political science programs in the country,” says Garcia. “Notre Dame has this super unique focus in which they make sure that you get experience in all the four main breadths of political science. So, you know, a little about international relations and American politics, which are of course the basics, but then you learn about comparative politics so you're able to apply that knowledge. And then you also take courses in political theory...and [learn] how to think politically.”
In addition, Garcia knew she wanted a strong Arabic program. She’s taking on a second major in the language and says her Arabic classes are among her favorites at Notre Dame so far.
“I really like my Arabic class I have right now. It's Arabic I, Part 2, which sounds super boring but it's a really great class because everybody in it is so close and we're very comfortable with messing up which is crucial to being able to learn language,” says Garcia. She loves that class time allows her to experiment with the language, make missteps, and learn how to improve when she does.
Aside from Garcia’s Arabic courses, her University Seminar, or USem as it’s known, was also focused on the Islamic areas of the world. The course, called the Islamic Legal Tradition, covers major Islamic political thinkers and Islamic law and its practice.
The courses Garcia has taken so far have allowed her to connect with faculty, getting to know professors and learning about their research. She is working with political science professor Emilia Justyna Powell, who taught Garcia’s University Seminar, on a plan for Garcia to hopefully help her conduct research concerning territorial disputes and how those are resolved in different sections of the world, specifically concerning their intersections with religion.
She loves that, big or small, classes at Notre Dame allow her to make connections. “I've also found that [connection] in big lectures this semester,” she says. “I'm taking an Intro to Political Theory class. It has 100 people in it. So it's this massive lecture hall. But before class, the professor comes around and just talks to you and you can just tell jokes to him. He'll ask you about your weekend. And he remembers your name, which is kind of a ridiculous feat for a class of 100 people.”
Garcia’s courses have also given her opportunities to explore in ways she didn’t expect. Another favorite is her How to Write a 30 Minute Comedy Pilot class, taught by Professor Christine Becker and Connor Hanney ’14, who is a writer for Netflix.
“In the next three or four weeks or so, I'm going to have my first 30-minute pilot done, which is something I never thought I would be able to do in college but has turned into an amazing opportunity,” says Garcia. “[The class] has shown me something that I can continue to explore if I want to and it also is kind of demonstrative of the way that Notre Dame lets you explore every part of your academic interests. [A]t a lot of schools, being a political science and Arabic major, you wouldn’t have time to take a class like that.”
Garcia is embracing opportunities to explore comedy outside of class too. In fact, she joined the Humor Artists, Notre Dame’s improv group. Coincidentally, which Conor Hanney was a member during his time on campus too.
“I never thought I was a funny-type comedy person before I came to college,” says Garcia. “But I ended up auditioning for the team, loving it, and making a lot of really great friends.” Getting involved with the Humor Artists has been one of the best decisions she’s made so far at Notre Dame.
Garcia also volunteers with Matriculate, through which she mentors high school students from underserved backgrounds as they apply to college. And she’s the first-year council representative for the hall council in Badin Hall, where she lives.
The variety of opportunities Garcia has taken advantage of at Notre Dame are reflective of the community and atmosphere here, she says. “[It speaks] to the fact that Notre Dame is such a multi-dimensional community. There's not just one singular type of Notre Dame student. There is a club, a place, basically, for every kind of student.”
Watch the video above to learn more about Isabella Garcia's Notre Dame experience.