During the 2021Fall Semester, Natalia Marfil and Abby D’Antoni ended up in the same American Government course on the Cumming campus. One might say there is nothing unusual about that. However, the college experience for each would indeed be on opposite ends of the UNG student profile.

Beginning their college experience together in the same class, Natalia was a first-time “non-traditional” student while Abby was a first-time dual enrollment student. BUT — they were also a family combination; more specifically — a Mother-Daughter combination. In the aftermath of this initial UNG experience, Natalia has declared political science her major, while Abby is still looking around. So with that, let’s meet them. 

Natalia’s return to college was in a sense a “my time” moment. Having raised three children, Abby being the oldest at 17, Natalia saw 2021 as her opportunity to pursue a long-desired college degree. What makes this more interesting was that Natalia had homeschooled all of her children, including Abby, so education was not only what she did as a mother, but it had become a family goal. As Natalia points out, homeschooling not only met her children’s educational needs but also allowed her to spend time with them, while at the same time allowing each child to explore different and individual pursuits. As only a mother can say, Natalia’s description of her children is, “They are curious and bright and incredibly kind. I am so honored to be their mom”. So, for Abby to be a student with her mother was only natural. 

As students new to the college experience, it was a logical to ask what they thought about their first course together, American Government. Both agreed it not only led to vigorous at home debates between the two of them but also to some extent included the other two children. Indeed, they both agreed they have both different as well as like opinions and conclusions, which makes this experience even more rewarding. Natalia pointed out that this combination of the course and family discussions filled a gap in her knowledge of government and politics, thus feeding her already focused interest in helping the community. Natalia, according to daughter Abby, is passionate about being a community advocate, so political science is a natural fit. 

 Abby, on the other hand, had a different takeaway. The course filled an interest but was only supportive of her possible long-term goals. After this first experience, Natalia would decide to seek a political science major, possibly pre-law, while Abby’s future could be from becoming a librarian to owning her own business. Abby sees her overall life goal is just to “make things better”. Her mother saw this desire in Abby as she grew and describes her as an “old soul” and lifelong learner. So, it is not impossible that both might eventually seek a law degree to meet their long-term goals.  

Besides their initial college experience in American Government, they both feel that their now two-year college experience at UNG has been more than satisfactory. Natalia put it succinctly by addressing her UNG experience this way, “When I say it has been nothing but wonderful, I truly mean it.”, and of course being in class with her daughter was a special moment. 

Right now, given their individual educational goals they are on two different campuses. Natalia spends her time on the Gainesville campus while Abby attends classes on the Dahlonega campus. However, given their anticipated academic journeys they may have a future opportunity to be together again. Even though Abby is still a high school senior dual-enrollment student, she said her plan is to pursue the balance of her undergraduate program at UNG Dahlonega, possibly beginning in the spring semester of 2024. Natalia, however, made the point she would really like to be able to come back to the Cumming campus to finish her degree. She was very happy to hear that the PSIA BA in International Affairs degree (European concentration) would be coming to the Cumming campus the Fall 2023. 

As far as advice to students at UNG who are still trying to determine their major Natalia has this to say about choosing a political science degree … 

“Do it! This next generation of teens and young adults is truly wonderful…they are politically active…more aware…the world needs your perspective, passion and input.” 

So this is Natalia and Abby, loving and supportive companions on their learning journey.