Home under the Dome: From South Bend to Rome

Author: Costanza Montanari

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The view from Camplus Residence in Rome

When you are far away from home, traveling to a different country, with a different language and culture, it is pleasant and reassuring to find familiar places. 

It happened to Gavin Shust, a Notre Dame study abroad student in Rome with the Rome International Scholars (RIS) program who, for the first time out of the country, found a special accommodation waiting for him.

Shust is majoring in political science and romance languages (Spanish and Italian), and minoring in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE). He is spending the spring 2022 in Rome and, as part of the RIS program, he is living in a local residential building with other Italian and English speaking students. Before COVID-19 the RIS program allowed students to live with local hosting families across the city, but for safety reasons this year students will be residing in a residence hall called Camplus.

The residence is located in a very strategic area of Rome and has the luck of being just under the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica. And this is the detail that Shust recognised as a sign. In South Bend, he lives under the pillars of St. Edwards Hall (Steds). Steds is the oldest hall on campus, built in the same original yellow brick as the main building and located right behind it. 

From Shust’s bedroom on campus, you can see the golden dome just across the window. From Shust’s door of the Camplus Residence in Rome, you can see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

“For three years I have been living in St. Edwards Hall,” comments Shust. “Half of the rooms have the golden dome just sitting there, that you can see from the window. And here in Rome I walk out of my apartment complex and I am struck by the vision of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.”

Shust shares his room with a Notre Dame peer and spends a lot of time in communal areas such as the cafeteria connecting with Italian and other foreign students. 

“We always call Steds our Home under the Dome,” continues Shust. “That is also why I love living at St Peter's; it’s like I still have that home under the dome even though I am 4000 miles away from it.” 

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The view from St. Edwards Hall, South Bend

As part of the RIS program, Shust is attending the All roads lead to Rome and community engaged learning courses at the Rome Gateway as well as other classes at Roma Tre, one of the partner Italian universities in Rome.

He is also conducting an internship co-teaching Dante in English at Istituto S.Orsola. He will be showing how learning about Dante in English is different from learning it in Italian, and comparing the study made in the U.S. with the one made in Italy, at Liceo classico and artistico (Italian high schools).

“My dad has been an assistant principal for 25 years,” explains Shust. “I have grown up going to school with him on the weekend and playing in the gym with my siblings while he worked. I have seen a lot of the inside of the American education system in the U.S. and that is why I am very interested in doing it here in Italy.”

Shust is also on a personal mission with his RIS peers in finding the best restaurant in town and only ordering in Italian. Will he accomplish the difficult task?

Learn more about the Rome International Scholars program here.

Originally published by Costanza Montanari at rome.nd.edu on March 28, 2022.