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Students attend Notre

Sara Felsenstein | Thursday, September 16, 2010

In the past month, Anna Tordjmann has had a lot of firsts — her first time being a student at Notre Dame, her first time in the United States and her first American football game.

“At the first football game I didn’t understand the rules, and it was very long,” she said.

“But I went on Wikipedia afterward to look up the rules so I understood them. This last one I was so into the game. It was so intense and I was really nervous.”

Tordjmann is one of the 15 international students studying abroad at Notre Dame. Six of those students are here for the semester and nine for the year, Sam Lockhart, an international student advisor for the International Student Services and Activities Office, said.

Tordjmann, a junior political science major from France, said she did not encounter many difficulties adjusting to American culture.

“This is my first time in the United States,” she said. “The culture is not very different from French culture, because in France there’s American culture everywhere.”

Tordjmann said the Notre Dame community has been welcoming, helpful and friendly.

“It’s a healthy atmosphere,” she said.  

Yamel Cardona Gloria, a senior from Mexico, is also studying abroad at Notre Dame. She found out about Notre Dame through a professor at her school in Puebla, la Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP).

“I’m the only one from my school who came to [study in] America,” she said. “I wanted to do science research, and I found that the laboratories in Notre Dame are excellent and the science professors here do excellent research.”

Both students said there are differences between life at home and life at Notre Dame.

Tordjmann, who lives in Lyons Hall, said dorm life has been an interesting adjustment because universities in Paris do not offer a similar living situation.

“In Paris, we all have apartments, and we’re in the core of the city,” she said.

Cardona, a clinical biochemistry student at UDLAP, agreed that living in a dorm has been a unique experience. She said universities in Puebla have dormitories, but they do not have the same atmosphere as dormitories at Notre Dame.

Cardona, who lives in Ryan Hall, said her dorm has been a source of support throughout her transition to Notre Dame.

“I like my dorm a lot. The rectors, rector assistants and girls there help me with everything … like buying books, registering for classes and [understanding] flex points,” she said.

Another difference Tordjmann noticed between college life in Paris and college life at Notre Dame is that Notre Dame students fill their schedules to the brim, leaving little room for free time.

For students in Paris, time is more fluid — not every hour of every day is scheduled.

Tordjmann also said American courses seem to have much longer readings assigned for each class period than her courses in Paris did.

Cardona said her coursework at Notre Dame is very similar to her coursework in Mexico. The language barrier has not been a significant issue, because most science articles she read at UDLAP were written in English.  

The biggest difference, she said, is material here is covered in a shorter amount of time.

“We start school earlier [in Mexico,] and we don’t have any fall breaks,” she said. “There is a greater density of information [in the courses] here.”

Both students plan on traveling during their stay in America, particularly to big cities like New York, Chicago and Boston.

“I want to start with the East Coast, then go to Los Angeles. I also want to go to Colorado,” Tordjmann said. “I don’t have any [set] plans, but I certainly want to travel as much as I can.”