Spromers arrive in Rome to unexpected COVID-19 restrictions

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Photo by Vasile Chiriac

On Sunday, Jan. 17, 56 University of Dallas students touched down in Italy for their Rome semester amid unexpected increasing restrictions regarding COVID-19. 

Dr. Peter Hatlie, dean and director of the Rome program, explained, “When we announced that we would open up for the spring semester I thought that it was an all-clear. I had a strong understanding that by the time we got to Jan. 17 that, between the pharmaceutical companies and the masking, this crisis would be all over.” 

However, on Jan. 15, local authorities switched Lazio, the region in which the UD Due Santi campus resides, from yellow to orange – moderate risk to high risk. This meant that, for students to enter the city of Rome, it must be for the distinct purpose of study. 

While not ideal, the circumstances have allowed the faculty to jump right into the academic semester, Hatlie said, “We’ve been turbocharging this first part of the semester, if students are resilient enough and continue to believe in the project, then by doing so much work now, [they’re] earning a lot more free time later.” 

Emily Baker, sophomore economics major and student assistant, explained that things have been going well on campus, “I really like the rhythm that our class has gotten into and just hanging out in the Capp Bar or the library or the lounge and just seeing everyone around, it’s really fun.” 

Students have been able to venture into Rome in a limited way. Students attended two private, English-speaking Masses on Jan. 22 and 24, and on Tuesday, Jan. 26, one of their classes was relocated to the Angelicum at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. After these events, students were able to stay in the city and explore. 

On Jan. 29, the government of Italy announced that Lazio, among other regions, will graduate into a yellow zone, going into effect on Monday, Feb. 1. The benefit of moving to a yellow zone is that museums will open and bars and restaurants will give service. Additionally, students will be free to move in and out of the city as they wish. 

Hatlie is optimistic that students will be able to travel around Italy freely in the next few months. He explained that, according to the most recent executive order in Italy, on Feb. 15 the different regions will open up. 

“That would be a first step and then I’m hoping and expecting that by March we will get down into the greens,” Hatlie said, “and at that point, for me, one immediate option opens up and that is the Greece trip in that second week of April.” 

“Coming into the semester I was definitely having low expectations,” Baker explained. “[But now] I’m super thankful to be here in Italy at all.” 

Speaking for the faculty and staff, Hatlie said that they think the semester is off to a good start. “There’s a sense of personal integrity and maturity,” Hatlie said, “it feels like people have come prepared to make the experience as good as it can be [and] we’re really impressed.” 

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