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‘We are all freaking out’: Notre Dame suspends Rome program due to coronavirus

| Friday, February 28, 2020

This report was updated Friday at 10:04 p.m.

Notre Dame is suspending its Rome programs and bringing the 106 Notre Dame students currently studying abroad in the Italian capital back to the United States, the University announced in an email to students Friday evening. The move comes as the coronavirus has proliferated through Italy.

The Centers for Disease Control and State Department advised Americans on Friday to “avoid unnecessary travel” to Italy, raising the threat level to Warning Level 3 — the same status as China and South Korea.

Students studying in Rome will be “flown back to the United States as soon as possible,” the email said. Once back in the U.S., students will likely be subject to government health screenings upon re-entry. They will be required to stay home for 14 days and then must be cleared by a physician, according to the email.

Third-year architecture student Leighton Douglass said students at the Rome Gateway are upset and scared.

“We got the notification about an hour or so ago,” Douglass said in a text following the University’s email. “The halls in the villa are filled with people crying on the phone with their parents. We are all freaking out, it’s insane.”

Notre Dame’s email said faculty and staff have been working with students to meet their academic needs, and all students are expected to be able to complete all their credits as planned for the rest of the semester.

International students will be provided off-campus housing in South Bend to “facilitate their 14 day isolation period,” said a follow-up email to students in the Rome architecture program.

Additionally, rooms in Walsh Family Hall are being converted into studio space for returning architecture students who have obtained medical clearances.

“The [Architecture] School is committed to your academic continuity,” the email for architecture students said.

The Notre Dame Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been meeting twice daily since the virus emerged to evaluate its impact on all study abroad sites and will continue to do so, tracking the evolution of the virus and providing updates to the Notre Dame community, the University’s email said. 

“The students in the Rome programs will surely be disappointed that they are unable to finish the semester in Italy,” the email said. “Please be supportive in any interaction you have with them, and continue to be mindful of the many students, faculty and staff who have family and friends in countries that have been most seriously affected by this global health threat.”

Students currently studying abroad in Rome had mixed responses to the University’s announcement.

“Notre Dame has done its best,“ Jennifer Trzaska, a third-year architecture student, said via text. “I don’t think anyone in Notre Dame, the Italian government or Italy in general knew what was going to happen but they kept us informed as best we could. We pretty much knew it was coming.”

Third-year architecture student Dominic Grimes expressed his frustration regarding the situation.

“The University tried their best, I guess, but the major reason that I chose this University was to live in Rome for a year and now I feel robbed of that experience in its totality and the whole program now feels like a waste to me,” Grimes said in a text.

When asked what the atmosphere in Rome was like, Douglass said the tensions will likely become more heightened in the next few days.

“Everyone is here chilling but tomorrow they will probably be raiding the grocery store,” she said.

Notre Dame plans to book students on flights to the American airport “closest to [their] home.” Students will start leaving Rome as early as Sunday.

News writer Mariah Rush contributed to this report.

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a junior from Tempe, Arizona who is majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

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