Lydia Piendel is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and Psychology.
Lydia’s story exemplifies how being open to new experiences can not only be enriching, but also rewarding. At Notre Dame, Lydia learned new languages, travelled, received grants to pursue field study in the area of Dementia and other neuro-degenerative conditions.
During her time there, she immersed herself in campus life, was an avid sports fan and soaked in the school spirit.
Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:
Episode Title: Lydia Piendel on Notre Dame: Dementia Research, Huge Sports Fan, and the Travel Bug.
Episode summary introduction: In high school, Lydia grew up with a love for science, sports and school spirit. When she started to think about college, she looked for colleges that could offer those very same things.
Lydia Piendel is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and Psychology.
In particular, we discuss the following with her:
Topics discussed in this episode:
Memorable Quote: “I was not a very open minded person when I first went [to Notre Dame], and I found that I didn't love my roommates right away. And I wish that I had been a little bit more open minded to get to know more people.”
Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.
Transcript of the episode’s audio.
I traveled to Denmark to meet with the architects of a dementia friendly village model. It's basically a specialized nursing home for people specifically with and more advanced Dementia. And I was, I was just amazed with the innovation and the kindness of these people and their thoughtfulness for the community at large. And they completely inspired me to apply for more grants.
Lydia Piendel is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and Psychology.
In high school, Lydia grew up with a love for science, sports and school spirit.
When she started to think about college, she looked for colleges that could offer those very same things.
After being egged on by her cousin she visited the University of Notre Dame. Lydia knew right away that Notre Dame was the college for her.
Lydia Piendel joins us today, to share how her undergraduate experience transformed her.
Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives, Five Highlights from the podcast:
[“Overwhelmingly Positive Experience”]
My overall impression of of my experience at Notre Dame is overwhelmingly positive. I loved almost every second of it. An absolutely amazing time. I spent four years there and loved it completely.
[Why Notre Dame?]
was impossible not to feel the just the beauty and the tradition that you can feel when you walk on that campus. I was really drawn to it. I knew that there was something really exciting about being there.
[Transition to Notre Dame]
Because I did go to a high school that was pretty academically rigorous. I figured that I would be prepared for college. And I would say that I was prepared for some classes. other classes I was certainly not prepared for my peers at Notre Dame were extremely bright.
[Studying Abroad in Australia]
So I applied to programs in Dublin, Ireland and in Perth, Australia. And I was chosen for the Perth gram. And I lived for that semester, it was the spring of 2017. I lived for a semester in Perth, Australia and loved, loved loved it. It was just incredible.
[Advice to Aspiring Students]
I absolutely. I loved Notre Dame in my experience, but I I would say do your research ahead of time to find the place that you think because I knew I know that Notre Dame really fit fit me and my personnel. Well, but I know it wouldn't. It wouldn't necessarily fit everyone's there's a lot of options out there. So doing research ahead of time really does make a difference.
Venkat Raman 3:43
Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Lydia. So without further ado, over to Lydia Piendel!
Hi, Venkat. How are you?
Venkat Raman 3:55
I'm doing well. You?
Venkat Raman 4:00
Great. First of all, let me welcome you to our podcast. College matters, Alma matters. Thanks for making the time.
Yeah, thanks for having me.
Venkat Raman 4:09
Sure thing. So as we discussed, we are catering to an audience of aspiring students, primarily international students. And the idea is to sort of help them with personal stories about your college experience, and in their case Notre Dame's experience and hopefully that's beneficial to them as they map out their college journeys. So I think this is going to be extremely beneficial for them. So thank you again.
Cool, so maybe the best way to get started is maybe we could start with your overall impressions of your experience and then we can dive deeper from there.
All right. So my overall impression of my experience at Notre Dame is overwhelmingly positive. I loved almost every second of it. An absolutely amazing time. I spent four years there and loved it completely.
Venkat Raman 5:19
Anything that stands out that you didn't particularly like, or was it, nothing, nothing of that
the weather in South Bend, Indiana, which is about an hour outside of Chicago, it is extremely cold in the winter. I remember waking up with the temperature below zero below zero degrees Fahrenheit, many many times. And we had several feet of snow on the ground. Every winter.
Venkat Raman 5:50
but the winter does the snow makes it very beautiful on campus. So
Venkat Raman 5:59
maybe the right question to ask is why did you pick Notre Dame? And how did you end up there?
So I am, I grew up in Georgia, which is in the south. And it is very common for people from my area to attend a large football school in the south. Any one of the big sec, football teams and football schools. And so I was pretty much considering only those schools until my cousin told me, Hey, you should consider Notre Dame. Because she was currently she was a student at Notre Dame at the time.
And I didn't really know anything about it. But she invited me up for a weekend to stay with her. And it was a weekend in September, I was a junior in high school and I went to a football game with her I met her friends on campus, and she showed me around. And it was impossible not to feel the just the beauty and the tradition that you can feel when you walk on that campus. Oh, I was really drawn to it. I knew that there was something really exciting about being there.
So when I went home, I did a lot of research about all the different schools. And I applied to only schools in the south plus Notre Dame. And after I received different acceptances and denials, I finally got accepted to Notre Dame. And I waited until the last possible day to make the decision. Because we were waiting for the financial aid package. And once I received enough financial aid from Notre Dame, which was actually a surprising amount, I was able to figure out a way to pay for it. And I couldn't say no. I just knew it was gonna be too good of an opportunity to pass up. So I chose Notre Dame.
Venkat Raman 8:07
While you were in high school did you have any specific interests, and what were you kind of occupied with both in class and outside class? What were your interests and what was your passion?
So in high school, I was very athletic. I played soccer for varsity soccer team. So I knew I wanted to go to a college that had sports as an option. And I also really have a passion for science. I went, I went to what we call a magnet High School, specialized classes in the biology and chemistry areas. And so I knew I liked science.
And then I knew Notre Dame had a lot of opportunity for scientific research. And it's specifically for undergraduates to get involved working as research assistants in different labs.
And finally, I knew that I wanted to go to a school that had the opportunity to study abroad to spend a semester abroad and at Notre Dame, it's very common for everyone in their junior year to spend one semester abroad. And so those the combination of sports in school spirit and the scientific research mindset and studying abroad, were the three things that I was interested in high school and Notre Dame had those.
Venkat Raman 9:35
How was that transition ultimately, when you actually went through from high school to college and, you know, just from home to college? Both those...
Good question. It was, there were a couple of different aspects that I could probably speak of. Finding a college that had that school spirit that might that high school did for me was May The tricky transition easier like in high school, I was a very much a fan of attending sporting events and like high school dances and things like that. at Notre Dame, it's very easy to find that same spirit, I would say. So that transition was easy. I also found the transition to the the environment of religiousness. I haven't mentioned that yet, but Notre Dame is a Catholic college, I did grow up Catholic. And so I found that the atmosphere was similar to the way that I grew up. Not Not every, not everyone who goes to Notre Dame is Catholic, but there is opportunity to go to Mass often or or speak to a priest, for example, or just to be around people who grew up in a similar way. So that transition was also not too bad. The transitions that were more difficult for me, were the distance on whether the geographical transition, I grew up in a very warm environment. And South Bend again, is a little bit colder. I hadn't really experienced a winter before. And it was about a 12 hour drive away from home for me, so it was farther away. But I actually was happy because it gave me a lot of independence that I didn't previously have. And finally, the academic transition. Yeah, because I did go to a high school that was pretty academically rigorous. I figured that I would be prepared for college. And I would say that I was prepared for some classes. other classes I was certainly not prepared for my peers at Notre Dame were extremely bright. And I found myself very quickly falling to the average to bottom of the pack. Whereas in high school, I was always one of the brighter students. So the transition academically was difficult as I found myself, getting some poor grades, failing a few tests, and I had to really reevaluate how to study better and ask for help. But luckily, the atmosphere at Notre Dame is not competitive. Everyone is happy to help you, the professors and your classmates are happy to have study groups, you get free tutoring as a freshman. So I was able to take advantage of some of those things.
Venkat Raman 12:31
Good. So did you Was it difficult? Or was it just needed? A lot of effort? Or was it a combination? I mean, what do you think? You said it was challenging. So I'm just trying to,
Lydia 12:46 [
I would say that, that it was it was difficult for me to jump in with some of the level of study that we were doing. For example, chemistry and physics were both very difficult. Perhaps because the professors assumed we knew more than more than we knew right away. But I also I had a unique experience my first year in college because I I tore my ACL and my knee playing soccer and I had to have surgery. And so I was actually, I missed a little, a few days of classes, I was on painkillers for a while. And I was in a lot of pain for a while and so so my I think my experience is not exactly the norm your first year in college.
Venkat Raman 13:38
That must have been a painful experience. Yeah. There's a long long rehab to how are you are you mentioned a little bit about your classmates? How was I was the general distribution of classmates and peers, quality of the students and then you mentioned very collaborative environment. So that's obviously good. So what is the general feeling about your peers?
In general, I, it was very difficult to find somebody that you didn't like. People are very kind. It's a pretty small school, there's only about 1000 undergraduates. So that's, that's a little bit smaller than some of those bigger football schools that I was talking. And so in general, I would say my classmates were all very bright, but all very approachable. You could you could sit next to anyone in class and ask them Hey, did you did you understand that or could I see your notes first? Or do you want to meet up after class and do a study group it was very easy. The the general student population at Notre Dame is is about 5050 in terms of male and female One thing that is unique about Notre Dame is because of its Catholic tradition, the all students who live on campus in the dorms are required to stay in female only or male only. And so you a lot of people have differing views on whether that's a great thing or not agree. I found it actually comforting because I was able to go back to my dorm and find a very supportive environment of other girls who who were very, very bright. And so for example, studying chemistry, I found it much easier to learn from my peers in the dorm, the girls dorm, rather than in the in a mixed code group because I found that the girls in my dorm were a little bit more supportive and understanding if I didn't understand something.
Venkat Raman 15:57
How was the teaching, the professors, size of class, etc. It's a small school. So...
It is but there are just like any other college that I know of, there are those general ed classes the year that are a little bit bigger. I think the biggest class I had was almost 200 people. That was like, general biology, I think. But classes like I took calculus, again. And that class I think, is 25 people. That was my freshman year, we had to do a reading seminar. And that was seven people. So the classes really varies. And it gets smaller as you get further in your years. The more stuff specialized you get, of course, the classes get smaller, I would say my average class size my senior year, was about 15-20 people. And the teachers, all the professors I found were excellent, very well renowned in their field. I I wish that I had gotten to know them better on a personal level. But I did get to know a couple on a personal level to the point where I even was a babysitter for one of my professors, two daughters, which was really sweet. And she wrote me recommendations for jobs later on. I yeah, I really, I can think of maybe two professors that I didn't click well with. But that was because their teaching style was a little bit different from my learning style. In those cases, then it's it's good to really take advantage of the study groups, and the TA is the teaching assistants that are also in the classes.
Venkat Raman 17:45
Okay, so by and large, were the profs doing most of the teaching, and you had sort of these sessions, tutorials or breakout sessions and the tears,
okay, the professors almost always taught the classes completely and then the TA is would maybe have like a Wednesday study group after class or would have open office hours all the time or things like that. Except for my actually except for my my chemistry lab. The chemistry lab itself was run by the TA is, but the the chemistry lecture was on my professor.
Venkat Raman 18:25
Let's sort of segue to campus life outside of the class. Maybe we can start with the dorms and the food and then sort of work away.
Alright, the dorms are, the dorms are the heart of campus. Yeah. Anyone you meet who is an alum of Notre Dame, the first question they ask you is what dorm were you in? It's sort of your identifier. And the reason that is the Notre Dame tradition is is that every student has to stay on campus in the dorms. When I was in school, it was just for your freshman year, but I believe it's been extended for three years now. I think you have to be required to stay on campus. But the the the benefits of that are just so numerous because you're given a community that you are part of just by by virtue of where you live. And each dorm community has. It's kind of like how Greek life works and other colleges dorm has their own name, their own mascot their own traditions, their own dances, their own volunteer groups, their own sports teams to compete in the intramural leagues. Each dorm has like common spaces where you can go and eat together study together. I think most dorms have a little workout space. So I actually had a little gym in the bottom of my dorm It was really convenient in the winter months, I could just do a quick workout instead of going to the main school gym. Yeah, the dorms, the dorms were so much fun. And in my dorm, we did a thing called section social hallway on the dorm was this, each hallway was split into two sections. And then your sections. Everyone who lived on your section was invited, like every Monday night at 10pm to come have snacks in the hallway together and kind of just talk about how your day was and things like that. And that was always one of the highlights. Because it was a really great way to get to know your immediate neighbors. We would hang out in our pajamas in the hallway. We also did a section social where we each did but we would do like squats. So we call it section squats in the hallway together.
Venkat Raman 20:58
So now you are the DOM we've before one of the years, I assume from what I hear. So what is the DOM we do?
So I was the vice president of the dorm, my junior year. Each dorm has, as I mentioned a lot of community but that community is run in part by the elected town hall council. So those are girls in the dorm who want to plan the events and, and that sort of thing. And so I was elected the vice president. And so my role was to lead a weekly hall council meeting with anyone in the dorm who wanted to be a part of the event planning and involvement in the greater Notre Dame community. I helped us plan a new signature event that we called the Farley fall fest. my dorm was called Farley Hall. And so we we got some pumpkins and we had hay bales brought out and we did pumpkin painting and sold little baked goods. And we had that out on the quad. And so a lot of other students were able to come and have this little fall celebration. And I think that event is actually still going on three years after I helped to start it three or four years after I helped to start it. And then we also plan lots of volunteer events. Who do we donate to? How do we raise money for the dorm to have different renovations done things like that. And actually, when I was a vice president, we won the Women's Hall of the Year award. So each year, the whole President's Council so that the bigger group of all the whole presidents and vice presidents votes on which women's dorm and men's dorm and then overall dorm, as has garnered the most dorm spirit and done the most volunteering and done the most activities that have brought people together. And so my dorm actually won that year. I was really proud of that.
Venkat Raman 23:13
That's that's really great. That sounds like this. This was a great experience working with people, motivating folks. And, you know, obviously, the brighter side of life, if you will on campus.
I know my dorm experience was wonderful. I had really wonderful people. My friends in the dorm are still my friends today from the ones I met right away. So I definitely, I'm speaking to a specific person here. I mean, as a specific person here, I don't know that. I would say the dorm life. And the fact that you're required to stay is definitely not for everyone. And so that is a consideration to make. Yeah, choosing for sure.
Venkat Raman 24:03
Let's sort of talk about the cultural social activities, different organizations on campus.
Okay. Notre Dame has many, many, many different organizations and clubs and it's difficult to start a club either you have an idea, all you need is a sponsor who is a professor or staff on campus. And then you can essentially start your own club and that is not very difficult. So if you have a cultural or volunteer or or interest that you want to start a group do that. There were many different cultural groups that I would say I didn't get involved in too many. I did get involved in the Louisiana club of Notre Dame because my family's from Louisiana. So I I was able to join them for different crawfish boil and cook out types of things, which was really fun. Notre Dame has often been criticized for its lack of diversity. And while I do hope that the university is moving towards creating more diversity, I do have to say that as a student there, I can attest to the fact that it was not extremely diverse. The opportunity for involvement in diversity, I think, comes from your personal determine determination to get off of campus and get involved in the greater South Bend community, the Chicago Community traveling abroad, which we can talk about later, but definitely have some experiences in that regard. My diversity and cultural experiences from Notre Dame came from the fact that I left campus to do other things, which nerding absolutely provided. So I would say that the cultural experience came from those things off of campus.
Venkat Raman 26:09
What about soccer? I know the first year, were you able to see her get back? Yeah, so
my first my first semester, I tried out for the nodename Club soccer team for women. And I made it I was chosen for the team. And then two months later, I tore my ACL. And I was able to heal before the following season in the fall. So I did actually play with them for I would say, three, three and a half years. And I also did play intramural soccer, as well as co rec soccer. There were a couple different leagues of recreational soccer that you can play on both with your dorm and with your group of friends. Notre Dame has plenty of other sport options. I would say we are one of the leading schools in terms of our sport. We're one of the few schools I think one of the only schools besides the military academies that offer full tackle football. We also have a fantastic rugby team, the Women's rugby team has been amazing. With we have all of our varsity sports, of course are very famous and doing really well. Our women's basketball we have one of the greatest coaches in all time just retired, muffet McGraw. The sport culture is really great on campus. And the opportunity to play sports is also great. I actually worked at the gym for four years. And we offered anything from racquetball squash, all the soccer. We had correct baseball, we also had, we have a very famous basketball tournament that we recalled bookstore basketball because there's basketball courts, on the other hand, teams, teams join hundreds of teams join and then play this tournament, and then it's actually pretty famous every year. So yeah, there's plenty of sport opportunity.
Venkat Raman 28:19
Let's move on. And let's talk about your summers during the four years, or three years, I guess, fourth year probably out. And then we can talk about your study abroad experience.
Okay, okay. So yeah, so I had three, I would say three summers from Notre Dame the summer after my freshman year. The summer after my freshman year, I chose to go home for a little bit in Georgia. But it was it was an interesting summer because I had originally applied to work in Africa for eight for eight to 12 weeks doing volunteer work at a school. And I went through several interviews to do this. And I was chosen as an alternate, okay. And so at the last minute, I was told, sorry, the person we chose originally is going, so you have to find something else for your hammer. And so I found a similar opportunity, but a domestic opportunity to volunteer for eight weeks in a nursing home. And I'll talk about this a little more later, but essentially, I lived for eight weeks in a nursing home as a full time resident there volunteering and that's sort of one of the things that spurred my interest in what I'm doing. And then for the other part of that summer because the summer was a little longer than a week. I actually got an internship working with the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at EMI in Atlanta near where I live. And so I was able to have both an internship and this eight week service experience in the same the eight week service experiences part of a program that Notre Dame offers called the SSL p, which is summer service learning program. And then they're also have the international summer service learning program that offer they offer like a class credit for that volunteer experience. And also that whole experience, it's, it's a really cool way to redeem has a lot of initiative to get involved in the community and social justice through the center for social concerns, which is a group on campus that I got very often. Um, so I was able to do that eight week volunteering through them. The second summer was the summer.
Maybe I had it backwards. Maybe the second summer was the one that I did the volunteering and the first summer I worked at home. as a waitress, I worked for one summer at home as a waitress to make extra money. And then one of the summers I was actually traveling in Europe. Okay.
Venkat Raman 31:29
So maybe that's a good segue to your study abroad. Tell us about that. Sure.
So I, as I said earlier, Notre Dame really offers a lot of study abroad experiences, depending on what, what major you are doing what you're studying, come so for me, I was a science major. I was studying biology and psychology. And so for me, the options to study were limited by the places that offered those science courses that I needed, but also by the language, because I only spoke English at the time I needed to find an English Program. So I applied to programs in Dublin, Ireland, and in Perth, Australia. And I was chosen for the Perth gram. And I lived for that semester, it was the spring of 2017. I lived for a semester in Perth, Australia and loved, loved loved it. It was just incredible. I went with 10 notre dame students. But we stayed in an international farm in Perth and we made so many great we were able to really have a great cultural experience in immersion because Notre Dame provided three different excursions to a little mining town and then to a vineyard and then to this really beautiful Botanical Gardens in Perth. So we were able to do some really neat things. Because we were Notre Dame students there that we had an organization and we had organized trips, which I loved every second of Australia, I actually met my partner there. And we've been together for four years now. And so it was it was just a really, I loved Australia. But it really spurred the travel bug in me, I was able to plan more travel with the people that I had met Australia. A lot of them were from Europe and South America and all over Southeast Asia. And so I was able to plan a few trips to visit them at their homes. So my experience through Notre Dame, meeting all these people from around the world, completely transformed my perspective on the world. And I actually learned Italian as a result of this trip, because I met some Italians who, okay, we're just really enthusiastic about their language and we bonded over the fact that we will occur. And so they said why don't you learn Italian and so I did. I can now speak Italian. Yeah, yeah, it was really just couldn't have been a better experience.
Venkat Raman 34:28
You mentioned biology and psychology. How did you get a How did you get interested in that? And to the point that you majored in biological sciences and psychology, how did that happen?
So, so in high school, I was really interested in just science in general, I knew I wanted to be a scientist. And then my last year in high school, I learned about different neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's Citizen primers. And I just, I couldn't stop thinking about how horrible they were. They're just awful pieces with very little prospect of your. And so I was really interested in that. And I also took a psychology class in high school AP psychology and I knew that was testing. So in college at Notre Dame, they had just started this new neuroscience major. So I signed up, and I was really excited to be a part of one of the first neuroscience classes. And after two years in the neuroscience major, I had taken several neuroscience classes I even got to dissect.
It was just cool.
I wanted to get involved in a research lab, working working as an undergraduate research assistant, and the lab that I wanted to join. They were limited, they only were allowed to take biology students. And it was it was a little bit frustrating. But I spoke with my advisor. And we determined that my neuroscience course was very similar to the combined majors of biology and biology, actually switched my majors, part way through college to be biology and psychology, so that I could get involved in this research lab.
And so it didn't really affect too much, I did have to take two different courses as a biology major that I wouldn't have had to take otherwise. But one of them was evolution, I would say that was one of the most classes I took. Just as a biologist learning about evolution is one of the foundations of science, it's really interesting.
So I was Yeah, so I became a double major, which offered me a little bit more access to some of the classes I wasn't able to access as adjusting. And along this line along this path, I learned that I was really interested in math. And I'm putting my interests in science, combining that with my interest in social justice and volunteerism and compassion for people. And so I was able to combine that and, and really work to get all the pre med classes done.
And one of the things about science at Notre Dame, we have the best pre med Advisory Committee. They, they know that a lot of students don't know what they want to do when they're only 17, 18, 19 years old. And so they really make it so that you're taking the pre med courses away. So that even if you don't know, if you want to be a doctor, you're already taking classes. And if you decide not to go into medicine, you can just drop those classes. So it actually they make it easy to switch out rather than having. So I didn't even know it. But I was already taking the pre med courses, which made my time getting into the medical path a little bit easier. And then the pre med advisors have been fantastic and advising me about how to go about reaching that career in medicine.
Venkat Raman 38:27
I think this probably led you to the independent research that you did. You got a grant, while you were there. Tell us a little bit about it and how you ended up, what research you did?
Yeah, so going back to my cousin, the one who went I remember, she told me about one of her friends, one of her classmates who made it a goal to travel as much as she could using grant money. And I thought that that was funny, but I mean, a cool way to see see the world and she basically was doing that because Notre Dame has a lot of grant money to give out to students because the alumni network at Notre Dame is wonderful and large and and the people who graduate from Notre Dame really want to give back to the students there. And so there is a lot of money available to students who want to explore their passion.
And so I i would say after the summer that I lived in a nursing home, and I had taken several science classes I really knew that I was interested in, in dementia research, neuro degenerative research. And so my, my last year in college, I finally decided that I should take advantage of this the grant money that Notre Dame has, so I went to the office for scholarly engagement.
Basically, there's an entire department of people whose full job is to help students apply for that money. And so I went to them, and they were super helpful and helped me create this application. And I applied to the Nanovic Institute for European studies, to spend my spring break senior year in Europe, attending a conference for Alzheimer's research and visiting a really cool nursing home model. And so I actually won that money, it was a fairly simple process. And then I was able to use that, that sum of money to travel to Europe, for the first time ever. This was this was actually before I traveled to visit, pay other friends there, but I was able to travel there and attend the research conference. It's been a really fantastic point on my resume. It's a good speaking point when I was applying. And I would say that Notre Dame really is one of the schools that can offer students who have passions and, and who are really determined and we Notre Dame has that chance to help fund. If you have an idea, and you just don't know how you can shoot it, they can help.
My advice to incoming students would absolutely be take advantage of those opportunities. They I know actually a couple of people who traveled to India, and traveled to Sri Lanka, who traveled to different places in Europe all on Notre Dame's dime, because they have they just had a passionate research question. And then they applied for a grant.
Venkat Raman 41:56
So now you were able to do some good research at in Denmark, I mean, so what what kind of some of the takeaways from that experience?
Yeah, so I was I, when I went on this on this experience, on this grant, I traveled to Denmark to meet with the architects of a dementia friendly village model. It's basically a specialized nursing home for people specifically with more advanced dementias. And I was, I was just amazed with the innovation and the kindness of these people, and their thoughtfulness for the community at large. And they completely inspired me to apply for more grants I'm actually working on right now to go back to Denmark and work on these villages. And that they really just solidified my interest in the aging field, which caused me to work I've actually worked now for two and a half years in Alzheimer research. So it was it was just a fantastic experience. Now,
Venkat Raman 43:19
you also, was this the topic that you spoke that the TEDx conference, so with that?
Yeah, yeah. So So TEDx, I'm not sure if a lot of people are familiar, is basically independently organized Ted events. So this was a student run event that had the, I don't know, agreement of the TED organization to use their logo. But it was just it was a grouping of, I don't know, 100 or so students who came together. And then there were a couple of us who, who presented on something that was interesting to us.
One of my friends presented on, like just the city of Seattle, they were passionate about it, and they just presented that.
But my presentation was about this trip to Europe, and what the, what the European mindset on treating dementia was like, and the fact that many people our age don't understand what also hers is. And so I was just kind of sharing my experience and trying to create this intergenerational knowledge and kind of bridge that gap. And it was a really great experience. A lot of people had said they didn't, they didn't really know what it was until they had heard my presentation. And it was a great practice for me.
Venkat Raman 44:50
Venkat Raman 44:54
Where are you headed with all this. This is really valuable and exciting from a research point of view, great work. Where do you want to take this?
So, good question. I think that I'm a little bit unique in the fact that I have a very specific topic that I'm interested in a lot of my peers are more interested in general in scientific research, or medicine at large. And I, I, I'm lucky in the fact that I found a topic about within mentioned Alzheimer's, that's really interesting to me. And so I've, I've kind of adopted that as my path. Now. But But I am, I am applying for medical schools. And so I will be trying to go into med school, very open minded with the understanding that I might be interested in other areas of expertise. And I don't really know, I'd love to be a contributing part, a contributing member to Alzheimer's research into that field because it needs it. But I am trying to keep an open mind with something in the medical field. So this hopefully, as we'll see,
Venkat Raman 46:14
if you were to go back to Notre Dame, and relive the four years, what would you do differently, if any?
Well, I definitely have played that game.
Yeah, I would say two or three things come to mind. I was not a very open minded person when I first went, and I found that I didn't love my roommates right away. And I wish that I had been a little bit more open minded to get to know more people. But that came with experience, and especially going abroad, I really was able to broaden that groups of people that I was involved in.
In terms of making direct changes, I wish I would have started out as biology and psychology right away, because it would have just made it easier. And I also, I wish that I had kept learning Spanish, I took a lot of Spanish in high school. And I, I did not take it in college because I had already passed the required intermediate level. And so I wasn't required to take it anymore. But I wish, I wish that I had continued with that. It would be nice to say that I could speak Spanish and Italian right now. But I would say that my Spanish has gotten much worse. So I would say I wish I hadn't gotten involved in that.
Venkat Raman 47:42
Well, no, these are these are great, great points, I would say that there's still time to learn Spanish or continue on that. So that's Yeah, you definitely have a lot of opportunity there.
Venkat Raman 47:58
What kind of advice would you give incoming or aspiring college bound students?
Well, it's a lot to think about when you're trying to make a decision about about your college. But try not to get too overwhelmed. I would say I absolutely. I loved Notre Dame in my experience, but I I would say, do your research ahead of time to find the place that you think because I knew I know that Notre Dame really fit fit me and my personnel? Well, I know it wouldn't, it wouldn't necessarily fit everyone's there's a lot of options out there. So doing research ahead of time really does make a difference to make sure that you wind up in, in an environment that you're comfortable with that you also are going to be pushed out of your comfort zone a little bit.
No, just, I don't know get excited about it. College is a great point in your life.
Which I'm sure if you're listening to this podcast, you're doing plenty of research.
Venkat Raman 49:10
Okay, so we're kind of coming to the tail end of our podcast, I want to give you a chance to talk about anything that we didn't talk about or some memories that you'd like to share or anything else that you think might be appropriate.
Let’s see, I, I mentioned a little bit about getting involved in the community, but it was really, South Bend is a great community to be involved in. There. There's so many opportunities to meet people volunteer at hospitals, volunteer in political campaigns. just seen up the streets. So that was a great part, I really loved that.
The fact that we were close enough to Chicago to go there for a day or two was was great. We often went for cubs games and I, I would say I'm going to share a memory that probably only people from Notre Dame would really remember.
But it was one of my favorites every Friday night at midnight before a home for the entire drumline from would come out at midnight and play a bunch of like 45 minutes worth of just Notre Dame champion things but only on the drums and they would get in a circle in front of the main building on campus with that beautiful goal. And they would play and get everyone super hyped up and rallied for the football game next day. And I loved that I almost didn't miss any of those friends within then we'd go out afterwards.
Even though Notre Dame is is definitely has that reputation for being one of the more low key more religious schools, we definitely did have a party atmosphere, sometimes it was really, really fun to be on campus on the weekends for football games, you can't beat it. Those were some of my favorite memories. I would say.
Venkat Raman 51:28
That sounds great. So, Lydia I want to thank you for taking the time. And you've been extremely generous with time and your details. So thank you so much, I'm sure. No, I think, I think it is,vivid is the right word. So not.
So it's painted a very nice image and pictures. And you're involved in a lot of interesting things and some that determine the future of a good determined future of I don't want to say humanity, but at least for the next 100 years. I mean, you know, I think dementia is a great...
I'd like to think that I can help make
Venkat Raman 52:13
Of course, I mean it I'm sure you will. And so good luck with that. And we'll be watching. So thank you so much for your time today. I'm sure we'd want to talk again in the future, but for now, take care and be safe.
Venkat Raman 52:27
Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Lydia Piendel about the University of Notre Dame.
Lydia’s story exemplifies how being open to new experiences can not only be enriching, but also rewarding.
In the process, Lydia learned new languages, travelled, received grants to pursue field study in the area of Dementia and other neuro-degenerative conditions.
During her time there, she immersed herself in campus life, was an avid sports fan and soaked in the school spirit.
It was quite a ride!
I hope you check out the University of Notre Dame for your own undergraduate study.
For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [firstname.lastname@example.org].
Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.
Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].
Till we meet again, take care and be safe.
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