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Third-year architecture students study Rome from afar

| Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Third-year architecture students learned they would not be spending the fall semester in Rome in mid-June, due to difficulties caused by COVID19.

Junior Ava Longoria said many students were upset upon hearing the news, but largely unsurprised.

“I was definitely disappointed, but with everything happening, I didn’t really expect to go,” Longoria said. “I knew that my Rome experience wasn’t going to trump the global health crisis.”

During a normal year, third-year architecture students are taught by professors who live in Rome. Some of their professors are still in Rome, conducting classes remotely via Zoom. Others, however, temporarily moved from Rome to South Bend to teach for the semester.

“It’s been really nice to get that in-person connection with our professors even though they had to leave their whole lives in Rome to be with us – that was really nice,” junior Tim Tighe said.

Regardless of where the professors are located, students are still studying the same materials they would have examined in Rome, junior Caroline Zorc said.

“They haven’t changed the curriculum at all,” Zorc said. “Basically, when they say, ‘Let’s look at the site we’re working on,’ we go on Google Maps and look at it rather than walk to it.”

Even if students cannot walk the streets of Rome, they do get to have studio class in person, which they are grateful for, Zorc said. It was especially hard last year to have studio online, she said, because students often have to collaborate or use large drafting boards when working projects.

“Everyone is grateful to be together again because it is such a collaborative process,” Longoria said. “Studio needs a lot of space [and] I think being in person is really conducive to the design process. Overall, everyone’s bummed, but there is the silver lining that we get to have a studio at all.”

Zoom classes, though, are working well enough, Tighe said. The professors who are still in Rome are getting creative, he said. One professor even put on a GoPro and walked around the city for hours, recording streets and buildings that students would have seen in person.

“It’s really nice that everyone is still trying really hard to make it experiential even though we’re not there,” Longoria said. “Obviously it’s not the same, but I know all the professors are working so hard to make it as real as it can be.”

Many students see the Rome program as a key part of Notre Dame’s architecture curriculum, Zorc said. However, Zorc, Longoria and Tighe all said they did not seriously consider taking a gap year in order to spend their full third year in Rome next year.

“The thought crossed my mind at the beginning of the whole process,” Tighe said. “But I think eventually wanting to ride it out with the program be able to still be on track with everyone that I’ve started this whole experience with really won out.”

Even though this semester is not what any architecture student envisioned for their third-year experience, students and professors alike are trying to make the best of it, Zorc said. They even remain hopeful about being in Rome for the spring semester or finding other opportunities to study or work abroad in the future, she said.

“I kind of came to the conclusion that we’re all in this together,” she said. “It’s a very unique college experience and you have to embrace it or else you’re going to get really upset about it.”

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