By Elisa Bracalente, Ph.D.
Assistant Director, Rome Campus
This academic year, the Rome, Italy, campus welcomed back undergraduate and graduate students after the temporary closure caused by the pandemic. We are very proud of them for deciding to move forward with their study abroad plans while facing the uncertainty of living internationally during a pandemic. Their enthusiasm in exploring new cultures and cities, making new friends, and tasting different foods brought us back to a sense of “normalcy.”
Because of constantly changing COVID-19 regulations, we reshaped our Discover Italy and Western Europe Semester programs by adjusting activities and excursions to ensure that students could have a rich cultural experience exploring Rome and its surrounding regions. Our programming has returned to prepandemic numbers, sometimes higher than before.
This past fall, for the first time, we offered the Johnnies in Rome program. This program allows first-year students to spend their first St. John’s semester in Rome before moving to the New York campuses. We look forward to hosting more students as the program grows.
In the spring semester, we welcomed back our Ozanam Scholars, who served in Rome and organized clothing donations for the Ukrainian refugees. They are a prime example of how important it is to be faithful to our Vincentian mission.
We also welcomed back our faculty-led programs. Students from The School of Education, with their New York City faculty leaders, experienced Italian teaching in local schools firsthand while making a difference with Italian children who cherish the opportunity of learning with our students. Our Western Europe: Pharmacy program students, and their New York City faculty leaders, visited the Spezieria of Santa Maria della Scala in Trastevere (also known as the Popes’ pharmacy), the most ancient pharmacy in Europe, where they saw the old jars that still contain herbs and medicines, including its famous anti-plague water (acqua antipestilenziale).
In March, the Rome campus hosted several important events, including the University’s Board of Trustees meeting, a panel discussion on the Russia-Ukraine War, and a special lecture, “Crisis Management & International Justice: The Case of the Great Lakes Region of Africa.”
In May, we hosted our largest cohort of the Global Passport Program. Students spent a week exploring the city’s artistic sites with their New York City faculty leaders to conclude their courses taken on the New York City campuses.
I could continue listing the amazing programs, excursions, and class site visits we offer. However, it is not the numbers that make our Rome campus special—it is our students who we want to celebrate here.
Living abroad, visiting artistic sites, tasting different foods, picking olives, and trekking around a lake are experiences that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. Many of them say this at the end of each semester while reflecting on their time abroad. They also acknowledge how much they have grown, simply by stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
Being part of this life-changing experience, mentoring and guiding students as they embody our global mission and become citizens of the world, is extremely rewarding. It is what drives us, faculty, administrators, and staff, year after year to revise and improve programming with the goal of delivering the best possible study abroad experience.