Fall Break Abroad: Applying Learning to Leisure

Author: Randi McQueen

It’s hard to believe that I have already been living in Rome for almost two months! After finishing up our Midterm project reviews on Monday, we were given Tuesday through Saturday off for a much-needed Mid-Semester Break. I still feel like I just landed in Italy, yet my time here is already about 25% complete.


For Fall Break, my friend and I booked a short trip to Barcelona, Spain back in September. We did some research beforehand and booked a day trip to Montserrat, but other than that, we hadn’t scheduled our remaining days.  However, as the passionate architecture students we are, we were eager to explore all of Antoni Gaudi’s famous Modernist works Barcelona is famous for.


Thursday morning, we visited La Sagrada Familia, a huge basilica begun by Gaudi over 100 years ago that still isn’t completed. Although Gaudi’s style of architecture is very different from the strict classicism we are taught at Notre Dame, it was still admirable the way he applied patterns found in nature to design tectonically stable structures. We also toured an exhibition in the church, which explained the detailed geometric methods inspired by nature Gaudi used for all of his designs throughout Barcelona. 

Sagrada Familia Fall Break


Thursday afternoon, we signed up for a free walking tour, which highlighted the architectural works of Gaudi specifically. The tour was similar to the walking lectures our professors give us in new cities on school field trips. Before Rome, I would not have been as interested in a 3-hour long walking tour; but after learning how to document cities by drawing details, sketching perspectives, and creating diagrams, it was so much more fulfilling. 

Sagrada Familia Exterior


On Saturday, we bought tickets to see La Pedrera, or Casa Mila, another famous apartment building designed by Antoni Gaudi. Our tickets came with free audio headsets, so we got our own mini tour! It was so cool to learn about the structural techniques Gaudi applied to make such an innovative building beyond its years. Even the smallest of details were considered, such as doorknobs, for optimal comfort and fluidity with the human body.

Due to our Veneto class field trip beginning Sunday, we had to fly back to Rome Saturday night (after some delicious Spanish food of course).

Spanish Tapas

Overall, the trip was the perfect mix of education and relaxation. Although it was at a slower pace than an average class field trip, we were able to apply our newfound skills outside the classroom but in an enjoyable way. I am excited to continue documenting unique architecture in new cities during our future independent travels!