The School of Architecture 2021 Rome Summer Program has concluded following nine weeks abroad in Rome. This was the first Notre Dame study abroad program initiated during the pandemic.
Four graduate students and 56 undergraduates made the trip to Rome to start their summer program at the end of May. The Rome Global Gateway (RGG) staff worked endlessly during the month prior to their arrival to identify, organize and plan for their safe arrival and move in, while the architecture staff and faculty worked to adapt courses and field trips to compress the usual required academic program into just 9 weeks.
The pandemic was the first major disruption for architecture students in the Rome Studies Program’s 53 year history; once the logistical requirements for study and travel in Italy were identified, the School of Architecture set plans into motion to complete the intensive study of Italian architecture that students began back on campus in South Bend. The city of Rome would serve as both classroom and subject. Students studied Rome's urban plans through the millenia, as well learned to capture and render the finer details of the city in their watercolor course.
“When we heard about the news that students would have come back to Rome, a central question quickly emerged: how would we and our partners in the School of Architecture safely and successfully run the Rome Studies program when public guidelines and best practices were ever changing?” says Mallory Nardin, director of programming, student development and community engagement at the RGG. “Were site visits and field trips a viable option? What would surveillance testing look like at the Villa? What structures would we need to support students in quarantine and isolation?”
Thanks to an extraordinarily collaborative effort on both sides of the pond, all the above questions were addressed and solutions were found. The students arrived safely on May 29th and conducted a positive and formative study abroad experience despite all the difficulties.
The Rome Gateway building and the Notre Dame Villa were adapted and re-thought for the necessities and to comply with the Italian regulations in place.
“After living in an empty villa for over a year, we were extremely excited when we heard the news that students were going to come over the summer,” says Elena Gurksy, assistant rector at the ND Villa. “As Villa staff, we made sure that all COVID-19 regulations were put in place. Students were extremely receptive of these new rules and were able to make the most of the Villa community life and life in Rome.”
Students had to follow rules of social distancing, wearing face masks in indoor places, wash and sanitize hands often during the day. But overall, they could have a genuine experience of life and study on the other side of the ocean. They could see with their eyes all they had been studying on campus, and they could visit a city with less tourists than usual.
“We have had classes about Rome without being in Rome, and that was kind of sad,” comments Jack Harrington, School of Architecture undergraduate student. “It turned out to be fantastic because when we finally got to Rome, we already knew the celebrities that we got to see. A year and a half of studies about Rome can only scratch the surface, so to finally get here to see with our eyes all the beautiful things about architecture, painting, sculpture, construction was incredible.”
“We were very lucky to experience Rome to the amount of depth we were through this summer 2021 program,” adds Angelia Ketcham, School of Architecture undergraduate student in Rome.
“Even though it is a lot more time and a lot more condensed program than usual, the lack of studio and the freedom to explore the city in all its layers at our own pace was very freeing, being able to see the city through sketching, through the eyes of the professors, through cultural experiences, all allowed us to gain a new perception of the depth that Rome has to offer.”