After a long six months empty in the hills of Marino, Italy, the Due Santi Campus finally welcomed students Sunday, Sept. 12.
In the midst of travel restrictions and COVID-19 safety protocols, classics professor and vice president, dean and director of the Rome programs Dr. Peter Hatlie said that it was a real possibility that the campus would not open to students this fall.
“I was worried we wouldn’t open again,” Hatlie said. “Of the 40,000 or so American students that were going to study in Italy this fall, I believe less than a thousand actually got to.”
Of those, 79 are students from the University of Dallas.
Students making the trip from across the United States had a few hurdles to clear.
“We have irons in the fire of American, Italian and local laws,” Hatlie said, “and it’s a bit of a challenge to manage that.”
The journey to Rome began two weeks before anyone boarded a plane, as the students underwent a two week quarantine period before arriving on campus.
Despite the many complications, students were still impressed with the beauty of the campus. After navigating the reconditioned travel process, sophomore Monnica Prudlo said that what still surprised her the most was “how beautiful campus is.”
The campus itself has undergone many changes to abide by Italian law, most notably the sectioning of large areas like the Aula Magne, where students usually have classes and meetings.. For the first two weeks of class, students are completely quarantined from their professors.
As a result, certain areas are marked off from students and strict social distancing is enforced. In order to make sure students can stay one meter apart during classes, the staff has put up a large air-conditioned tent to accommodate all students during their classes. The addition of a large class space has enabled in-person classes with teachers maintaining quarantine from students.
The mensa, the campus cafeteria, has changed as well, with students now undergoing a temperature check and receiving a pre-made meal before heading outside to eat.
Chris Newman, a residence coordinator for the Rome program and UD alumnus, remarked on the difference between this semester and past semesters.
“In the past RC’s only did rounds at night, but now they also have to do rounds during the day in order to enforce the COVID regulations,” Newman said. “When I was a student we went into Rome the day we got in from the plane… that’s how we got out of jetlag.”
In stark contrast to her experience of the Rome semester, students did not leave campus when they arrived and are unable to leave, as they must wait for another two-week quarantine to expire.
“[O]ur first day here was more of campus touring and more of just getting used to it, and I kinda think that was probably easier on students,” Newman said.
“Quarantine is peace,” added sophomore Noel Salgado, reflecting on the serene nature of the campus.
While students might not be able to leave campus now, the pandemic hasn’t completely taken away the opportunity to travel outside of Italy. Fromers are set to leave for Greece on Oct. 2, followed closely by a full 10 day travel period, as well as a later Thanksgiving break. In order to compensate for a shorter time abroad, all long weekends bar one have been replaced with Friday classes.
With regards to the Rome staff, sophomore Sean Jurek said that “there are fewer interactions with the[m], I noticed.” Jurek attended the Shakespeare in Italy program, and while there he had been able to form a relationship with the staff members such as Nino and Nucha and Vasile and his wife.
“They were certainly able to liven things up a bit,” Jurek said.
Other than that, Jurek does not think the protocols inhibit campus experience, as he felt that he handled online classes well and students have comparable energy to those from his last experience of the Rome campus.
Students and faculty alike are excited for quarantine to end, to explore the city of Rome and to go on the Greece trip. Students were not able to go on their Greece trip last semester due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Overall, everyone is incredibly impressed with the wonderful job the administration has done under the tender guidance of Dr. Hatlie. As Prudlo said, “It’s like being quarantined on a resort.” The Fromers hope that students, whether domestic or abroad, would learn to appreciate the hard work done on their behalf, despite the inconveniences.