A post from our student blogger Josh
I’ve wanted to do a number of things with my life at various points (racecar driver, musician, astronaut, brewer, the eclectic list of childhood/teenage dreams goes on). Had you asked me a year ago if I was going to study patent law at Notre Dame after college, I’d have probably given you a sideways glance. That being said, I’m here now, and I have to say there’s a certain appeal to doing a single year of study at a new institution, surrounded by new people and looking at life from a different perspective. Alright, it’s not as exciting as piloting a formula 1 car or going to space, but bear with me, because attending this program on this campus has thus far been one of the better decisions I’ve ever made. I’m not entirely sure where to begin, as the others have already enlightened you as to what boot camp and the first week of classes were like. But, since everyone experiences these things uniquely, I’ll elaborate on my time thus far.
Upon exiting my bus into town, I was greeted by my new roommate Evan, who escorted me and my bags to the swimming pool I would live in for the next nine months. No, you didn’t misread that; my apartment is a converted swimming pool, which until recently was a relatively popular concert venue in South Bend (feel free to Google it). After unpacking my bag and setting up the mattress I ordered, I set about exploring South Bend, and eventually stumbled on Notre Dame. The campus is truly as breathtaking as others have articulated (aside from seeing Rudy, I’d had no prior experience with this place whatsoever). I can assure you that being able to call such a beautiful place my temporary home is a spectacular feeling; though I will readily admit that I initially found the size of campus quite intimidating. This was quickly remedied when I realized that Google Maps was capable of directing me to each of my class buildings, and within a week I began to feel like I truly knew my way around.
When it comes to classes (and I may get in some degree of trouble for saying this), I haven’t found them to be a significant step up in difficulty from of those of my undergraduate career in physics. Truthfully, the most difficult components of this program for me to adjust to thus far have been the emphasis on precision writing, coupled with developing the time management skills necessary to juggle five classes and a Capstone project. All of this while trying to adjust to a new location can be a bit of a challenge, but I assure you it’s nothing that anyone reading this post couldn’t handle. The professors are professionally experienced and talented when it comes to making once foreign material seem approachable and second nature. They inspire confidence in our ability to succeed, yet their wealth of knowledge and high expectations also induce a sobering humbleness. One gets the sense that each of them has so much to offer his or her students that the real challenge here isn’t being able to complete the program; it’s getting as much from it as it has to offer.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve already read the student profiles on this page. When I first did, I thought “I don’t have a PhD, I haven’t written a paper on Alpha-synuclein Elevation Blah Blah Blah, I didn’t work for a law firm, I don’t have a J.D., how will I ever succeed here?” Yet, I feel at home in this program. I get to sit alongside people who are as educated as I am or more so, while feeling like a peer and learning from the best. I have class daily with civil engineers, molecular biologists, neuroscientists and chemists; yet I feel right at home, learning with them and from them. I’ve never been in a situation where I could realize the value of having so many scientists of different disciplines learning foreign subject matter together, but the experience thus far has been unique and unforgettable. If I had a bottom line for this post, it would be to say that this program is completely doable and worthwhile, at least from the perspective of a new student. I certainly never expected that I’d attend Notre Dame, live in a swimming pool, or have a future in Patent Law; but what would be the point in living if everything happened as I once predicted?