Not all roads lead to Rome for UD students

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Not all UD students have the opportunity to experience Rome, despite the Core being designed around this semester. Photo by Paulina Martin.

It is an undisputed fact that the University of Dallas is known for its Rome program. For many students, the semester spent on the Rome campus is a major deciding factor in choosing UD.

However this is not the case for every student. Although most are familiar with “Fromers,” “Spromers” and Summer Romers, there is another group on campus – the “Nomers.” These are the students who choose not to go to Rome.

A variety of factors can contribute to this decision. The Rome semester is expensive, and though the university tries to make Rome accessible to as many students as possible, it is not within every student’s means. Beyond just the financial burden, however, not everyone is suited to a semester abroad.

Unlike some other schools’ programs, UD does not relax its rigorous academic expectations in Rome. In many ways the semester spent in Rome is even more demanding, as students are expected to juggle traveling with intense UD classes. It can negatively affect students’ GPAs, which in turn can affect scholarships and other academic opportunities.

The Rome semester is extremely intense and demanding on students physically, mentally and emotionally. Up to 108 students are living in close quarters during stressful situations. No one at the university pretends that the Rome program is all smooth sailing, and while there are certainly highlights and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, there are also moments of incredible stress.

The Rome semester is also a strain on students socially, both in Irving and across the world in Italy. For people who are going during a different semester than their friends, it can be an entire year before they see each other again.

“I think the hardest part about not going to Rome for me was the social element, and having this very dichotomized experience with my friends, seeing half of them one semester and half of them the other,” junior Alonna Ray said.

The demands of the semester abroad and strain of travel can also be detrimental to friendships in Rome. It can create incredible bonds, but there are drawbacks as well.

“I definitely don’t have the same sense of community that the Rome community has,” junior Andrew Doyle said, “but at the same time I do save money and I don’t have a lot of the stress that comes with going to Italy.”

Although it is true that the courses typically taken in Rome are enhanced by the experience of being in the city itself, the same courses offered in Irving are far from subpar.

“I definitely wanted to go to Rome originally, and was crushed when I found out that I wasn’t going to be able to,” Ray said, “but my whole sophomore year was still a very phenomenal experience in learning about myself and delving into the curriculum. “I took the Rome courses over my two semesters of sophomore year, and while I think they would be even more remarkable being in Rome, they still stand up.”

Whether the courses are offered in Rome or in Irving, UD has a high standard of academics, and expects its students to rise to that standard.

UD’s Rome program is not the only option for traveling abroad.

“I am actually now able to go to the France program in Leon next semester,” Ray said. “Even if you don’t go to Rome there are still study abroad options.”

There are opportunities to travel abroad with outside programs, pilgrimages and mission trips.

Despite the prestige and allure of UD’s Rome program, one doesn’t ever have to leave Texas to gain an invaluable education.

“I don’t think studying abroad is something that is necessary, even for a curriculum that is so based off of western civilization,” Ray said.

It would be wrong to say that students are not missing anything by not going to Rome. The reality of UD is that the Core is largely designed around the Rome program. There is something special and unique about performing excerpts of Agamemnon in Greece, and that the well on the Rome campus is supposedly where Saints Paul and Peter met. The Core truly comes together during the Rome program in a way that is intrinsic to the University of Dallas.

“Saying you aren’t missing out on anything by not going to Rome trivializes the experience of those who do go,” junior Ellen Rodgers said.

However, the Rome semester is not the quintessential UD experience.

“Even if you don’t go to Rome, the people who do bring bits and pieces of Rome back with them,” junior Mary Spencer said. “Rome still influences the university.”

It is nearly impossible to avoid discourse about Rome at UD. Whether it is an argument over which semester is the best semester to go, reminiscence of travels or even just advice passed down to younger students, the Rome program is a central part of life at the university. However, those who decide not to go to Rome still have “the UD experience” without ever stepping foot in the Eternal City.

There is no one thing that truly makes UD what it is, whether it’s Rome, Charity Week or Groundhog. It is the students, faculty and staff of the university that truly define it.

The Nomer experience is still a true UD experience – it is simply a different one.

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