Vera Sofia Leon '25 went from designing mansions via The Sims video game to pursuing an architecture major at Notre Dame. Over time, she has developed a love of design, both the creative and technical sides.
Now in her junior year at Notre Dame, she is learning and living in Italy through the School of Architecture's Rome Studies Program.
Below, she shares how she became an architecture major, what she appreciates about Notre Dame's program, and what she's loving about spending the year in Rome.
Why did you choose to major in architecture at Notre Dame?
I knew in high school that I wanted to study architecture and only applied to schools that had architecture programs. Notre Dame’s architecture program was highly ranked and that intrigued me to research more about the University and the program.
The five-year program with a year abroad in Rome really intrigued me, but the University sold me. Notre Dame’s culture and community is unparalleled and were what made it my dream school.
Were you always interested in topics related to this major?
I have always been very artistic and I knew I wanted to do something in a creative field that also had a technical side to it. One of my favorite video games is The Sims and I always found myself spending hours designing mansions and homes.
After realizing how much I enjoyed that specific part of the game, I decided to explore architecture as a possible career path.
I attended different summer programs at colleges specific to architecture (one of them being the Notre Dame: Career Discovery program of the School of Architecture). After seeing how much I enjoyed these, I came to the conclusion that architecture is the career for me.
What has been your favorite class in the program and why?
My favorite class so far has been Roman Urbanism. It is a class I am currently taking in Rome and during each class, we do site visits to different urban areas in Rome—analyzing what works and what doesn’t. Urbanism is definitely a field I wish to pursue in my professional career and I am learning exponentially about it in this class.
Have you conducted any related research or independent study?
For some time, I did research on sustainable methods in architecture but I realized that I want to change my research to focus on successful urban cities in the Caribbean.
What makes the architecture program at Notre Dame stand out among programs like it at other schools?
It is one of very few programs in the United States that focus on traditional architecture and how we can apply those principles to create and design better.
At first, I thought studying traditional architecture would work against me in a modern world, but I have realized that it is an added foundation and skill that will make me a better designer.
The skills and knowledge that are practiced and shared give us a deeper understanding and analysis of buildings and the built environment that not many people can say they possess. Furthermore, the year abroad in Rome is an invaluable experience where we get to learn and explore Italy and Europe.
Do you have any advice for prospective students who are considering a major in architecture?
Architecture is a beautiful major that requires a lot of hard work, time, and commitment. If this is a field you are interested in, be prepared for the dedication and effort it requires that will most definitely pay off. I would advise to time-manage properly, prioritize well, and be open to learning from many different fields.
What have you appreciated most about your Rome experience?
I am currently spending my year in Rome and it has been an incredible experience so far. There is so much to learn and see and the Notre Dame faculty in Rome are absolutely wonderful.
You have so many opportunities to explore Italy and Europe and grow as a person. I have appreciated the most being able to travel so easily between important cities and countries and learn about their culture, histories, and architectural design, etc. This truly is a year of growth and expansion.
What are your career plans/post-graduation plans?
After graduation I would like to work for some time in the United States or Europe and I am considering doing a master’s in urban design in Spain. A lot can change in the two-and-a-half years that I have left and I am very open to whatever life throws my way.
Anything else you’d like to add:
When you study architecture at Notre Dame, there is a very noticeable difference between an ND student and a student from a university with a modern program. The knowledge, drawing capabilities, foundational understanding, and analysis make the ND architecture alum very sought-after and admired considering these are skills that are being lost.
- Explore the architecture major at Notre Dame.
- Check out the Rome Studies Program.
- Alumni Profile: Architecture Alumnus Tim Carroll ’10, Director in the Architecture and Design Studio at Ralph Lauren