A Reflection on My First Semester Abroad

Author: Randi McQueen

It is difficult for me to comprehend that I am already well over halfway finished with my junior year abroad in Rome. It has been nearly five months of exciting explorations, hands-on learning experiences, and a plethora of new opportunities. Some days are easier than others, but I already know that it is not going to be easy to say goodbye to the city that has become my new home.

Rome_Notre Dame_Architecture_Global Gateway

September was a month of overstimulation- a new continent, a new school, and a new place to live. Everyday was a unique adventure of its own in Rome. We quickly learned how to navigate our way around our new city by walking to class and exploring independently.

In October, the workload grew, and we were all forced to sharpen our time-management skills once again. We went on two field trips in these months, one to the Tuscany region and another to the Veneto to study Palladio.

Florence_Notre Dame_Architecture

By November, we were introduced to our first individual design project of the semester. We shared Thanksgiving together as friends, without our parents or siblings by our sides.  

During the first week of December, we endured our first reviews by a jury of practicing architects from across Europe. It was intimidating at first, but we all learned something in the process.

Christmas away from home wasn’t easy, but it was a new experience. Luckily for me, my parents were able to visit Rome for two weeks during our break. I wish I could have spent the holidays with my extended family as well, but this past Christmas in Rome was one I will treasure forever.

Florence_Notre Dame_architecture

Now in January, after a month-long break, we are re-adjusting to classes and studio design work. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have experienced my fair share of “domesickness,” or longing for South Bend and all of my friends back on campus every once in awhile. Last year, I always looked forward to “5:00 dinner” at North Dining Hall with my friends, which was practically a daily ritual when we all met up and talked about each of our days before the typical dinner crowd arrived. I really miss the little things about campus life, but the memories I am building abroad are new ones I’ll never forget.


Venice_Notre Dame_Architecture

Overall, my first semester abroad most definitely exceeded my loftiest of expectations. I was able to travel to countless cities across Italy, and I visited over ten new countries. I visited Notre Dame friends at the London Global Gateway, I spent Thanksgiving touring Ireland, and I traveled over four weeks throughout Europe during our Christmas Break. I gained confidence in my design abilities, my free-handing drawing skills improved, and my passion for architecture has flourished.

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to study architecture in such the inspiring, ancient city of Rome, the stunning country of Italy, and even the historic continent of Europe. Each country has something new to offer, whether it is a special dish, a new style of architecture, or another language. Living in Italy and touring Europe has taught me to be more open-minded, more flexible in my daily schedule, and generally more patient in my day-to-day routine. I am more independent, confident, and optimistic now than ever before, and I am looking forward to all of the adventures to come in these next three months.