Natalie Gendelman Takes Study Experiences Abroad in Rome, Poland, and Israel

Natalie Gendelman is a senior studying Political Science and American studies, but she has already made post-grad plans to go into law and even start her own non-profit. Growing up in Denver, KU was never really on her mind, but after looking into it, it checked all of her boxes.

Throughout her time here, she has worked as a legislative monitor in Topeka, completed a fellowship program in Rome, and traveled to Poland and Israel. In the future, Natalie looks forward to working in data privacy law and the cybersecurity industry. Read more about Natalie’s journey to KU, how she has spent her time here, and her future plans below.

Where are you from? Why did you decide to come to KU?

I’m originally from Denver, Colorado. KU was never on my radar until a close friend convinced me to visit. I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere. I was looking for a school with deep-rooted traditions, a strong community, and school spirit. As a big basketball fan, KU checked all of these boxes. I knew I loved the campus, but experiencing a game in Allen Fieldhouse made the decision for me. I also was accepted into the University Honors Program. This program challenges me while also giving me all the tools and support I need to be successful. 

Why did you choose your major(s)? And how do they complement each other? Was there a moment when you decided this is what you wanted to study? What was that journey like?

On my visit to KU, I met with a professor in the business school, which was my intended major. At the time, I was very interested in civil rights and working in the prison system. This professor pushed me to look into American Studies. I researched the department and the professors. After reading about the esteemed AMS faculty and course options, I decided to declare American Studies as my major. Also, I have always been interested in policy and legislation. After talking to my pre-law advisor, I added Political Science as my second major. 

I started taking Spanish in 7th grade wanted to continue studying it at KU. After my sophomore year, I had completed all beginner Spanish courses, so my advisor suggested adding it as a minor to keep Spanish as part of my course load. During the spring of my Sophomore year, I took a class called Social Justice Perspectives and Experience in the American Studies department. During this class, I was able to do a project for the NAACP for credit and community service hours. My advisor informed me that this counted towards the social justice minor along with some of my other courses, and I added it to my schedule. 

What is the most exciting part of your major(s) and/or minor(s)? What do you think is most valuable about your experiences in these programs?

Each field of study brings something different to my academic journey. Although my majors and minors are similar, they all vary in the type of skills necessary. The exciting part is being able to challenge myself by going to different types of classes each day. 

The most valuable part is being able to adjust. My Political Science classes are heavily focused on reading whereas my American Studies classes tend to be more essay-based. My Spanish courses require a completely different type of thinking. As I go from class to class, it forces me to adjust for each subject. 

What is the benefit of being in KU College alongside students studying sciences, arts, and humanities?

The benefit of being alongside students from all sorts of studies is learning from others’ experiences and meeting people that expand my thinking. When talking with some of my classmates, I realized that my pre-law life was completely different from my friends studying Biology or English. I love learning about the experiences of others and my classes with students from all majors have the most thoughtful conversations. 

Have you done any internships, study abroad programs, or any other learning experiences you’d like to share? If so, what was that like?

Internship in Topeka:

This is my third year as a legislative monitor at Braden, Heidner, Lowe, and Associates. The session is usually from January to May, but I am able to do remote work for the company in the fall and summer. My key responsibilities include attending committee hearings, preparing reports, monitoring debates on the floor, and tracking legislation. This internship has expanded my understanding of policy and politics. I spend my days in the Capitol Building going from meeting to meeting usually 2-3 days a week in the spring. 

Lex Fellowship in Rome:

I spent 3 weeks in Rome, Italy visiting a new law firm almost every day. I learned how to analyze legal cases from various specialties including tax law, international law, arbitration, defamation, etc. Various law experts from Italy and the United States explained how to read contracts, understand constitutional law, and prepare for law school applications. 

Poland Exploration and AJC conference in Israel:

This past summer I was able to travel to Poland and Israel for 10 days. In Poland, I visited Krakow and Warsaw where I saw concentration camps, Schindler museum, and met other Jewish students. Then, I traveled to Tel Aviv to attend a global conference for the American Jewish Committee. The main topic was the Jewish diaspora and their relationship to Israeli politics. I was able to meet people from all over the world and explore two new countries. 

Give a shout-out to a professor, mentor, advisor, or someone at KU who has helped you.

Ray Pence has been one of my favorite teachers at the University of Kansas. I took American Studies Theory & Method with Professor Pence at the start of my junior year. I loved the challenging readings and in-depth conversations. Professor Pence pushed me to dive deeper into my writing. Currently, Professor Pence is helping me with my own research project in American Studies focused on cybersecurity and privacy rights. 

What do you want to do when you graduate?

My goal is to attend law school. I would love to work in data privacy law and the cybersecurity industry as an in-house counsel for a technology company. This industry is constantly evolving and adjusting to new technology. I would love to witness the change in policies surrounding privacy law. Another thing I would love to accomplish is to create my own non-profit. I have two brothers on the Autism Spectrum, and I have always wanted to create a platform that lists all activities, jobs, support groups, and other opportunities for individuals with disabilities organized by location and accessibility.