The first time current senior Amandhi Mathews boarded a plane, she was headed to the University of Dallas to start her freshman year.
Starting with her first flight from her home in Sri Lanka, Mathews has faced unfamiliar circumstances with tenacity.
UD’s liberal arts education and science program attracted Mathews to Irving. Mathews was also drawn to UD as a Catholic university because she was afraid she would “move away from [her] faith” during college.
“I felt really welcome here,” Mathews said, describing how strangers helped her transfer her suitcases on move-in day as a freshman. She was surprised by the friendliness other students demonstrated towards her as an international student at UD.
“I think UD does a very good job welcoming people from all over the world,” said Mathews.
This past summer, Mathews was accepted for a research internship at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. The ten-week internship involved examining primary cilia and its possible role in the tissue regeneration of long bone fractures.
Mathews encountered a different community at Harvard than at UD.
Her internship at Harvard “was such a wonderful experience,” Mathews said. The unique opportunity provided her with practical experience in a research lab and interaction with Harvard science professors. Mathews was especially surprised by the competitive drive she saw in the other interns and the professors.
“It definitely made me question my work ethic,” Mathews said. She watched her professors and fellow interns go to the lab early and return home late, “constantly working, constantly polishing.”
From her postdoctoral mentor, Mathews learned how to “keep her work life and personal life separate,” a balance she aims to practice at UD.
Mathews values the knowledge she gained during the research and lectures in the program.
Mathews plans on delivering a presentation on her summer research to the Tri-Beta Biology Honor Society meeting at UD in October.
As an international student, Mathews is not able to see her family over most breaks. “I haven’t gone back home for over a year,” Mathews said, explaining that a trip to Sri Lanka involves more than a day’s worth of traveling with expensive flights.
However, she is able to keep in regular contact with her family and maintains a strong connection to her home of Sri Lanka.
Last semester, Mathews first proposed and helped coordinate “The Night of Remembrance and Prayer for Sri Lanka” with UD chaplain Father Thomas More and Campus Ministry. The week before, three churches in Sri Lanka were bombed during Easter Sunday worship services, resulting in 321 deaths and hundreds more injured.
Mathews realized how close these attacks were to her personally. “I’ve been to at least two or three of those churches,” Mathews said. Her parents even considered attending Easter Mass at one of the victimized churches, but ultimately changed their minds. “I don’t want to think about what would’ve happened,” Mathews said.
Mathews proposed the prayer vigil last semester “to bring people together and have them pray for these innocent people.” Members of the UD community prayed alongside some people who had never been to UD but wanted to support their friends and family abroad.
Regarding her life after college, Mathews hopes to get her Ph.D. in the US after her graduation in December 2020. “I am trying to decide if I want to get into academia or if I want to move into industry,” Mathews said. She is particularly interested in joining the industry, and she currently works with Biology Professor Dr. Drew Stenesen on an ongoing neuroscience project.
The biggest takeaway from her summer internship at Harvard was a lecture from Dr. William Curry, the Director of Neurosurgical Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School. In his lecture, Curry said that privilege isn’t economical. Rather, he defined his privilege as the fact that he had a foundation to succeed and react to difficult situations.
“The playing field isn’t equal,” Mathews said.
Matthews faces struggles as an international student, but she doesn’t want to respond to her difficulties negatively. “I should be celebrating the fact that I can do all of this,” Mathews said. “It’s very easy to feel bad about yourself. Just being yourself, dealing with the things you have to deal with — that itself is something you can celebrate.”