Studying Abroad before Arriving to Campus Strengthens Freshman’s First Year

Author: Amanda Skofstad

GG Sem First Cohort at Ostia AnticaInaugural cohort for the Global Gateway Seminar in Rome. The group is near Ostia Antica

Inaugurated in summer 2015 with cohorts in Rome and London, Notre Dame International’s Global Gateway Seminars are designed for incoming freshmen who will matriculate to the University the upcoming fall.

These two-week intensive programs are led by Notre Dame faculty and advance the University’s goal to provide undergraduates with greater access to study abroad opportunities—and deeper conscious engagement with the cultures in which they study.

Freshman Harry Laiveling, a member of the inaugural cohort in Rome, reflects on his experience.  

Name: Harry Laiveling
Dorm: Fisher Hall
Graduation Year: 2019
Intended Majors: Political Science, IT Management

Q: What inspired you to apply to the GGS program, and why did you choose Rome?

A: I decided to apply because I really wanted to take advantage of this new opportunity to explore the world, especially since I had never been out of the U.S. I wanted to break out of my shell, get out of my comfort zone, and pick up some class credit to boot. A three-week trip to Rome, and getting three credit hours for it? Yes, please. As far as choosing Rome, as a Catholic, one of my dreams had always been to visit the city and the Vatican. I feel that every Catholic, if given the opportunity, should make a pilgrimage there. Further, Rome is one of the most beautiful and historically important cities in the world, so I knew I really could not go wrong.

Q: In what ways has studying abroad before even setting foot on campus enhanced your first year at Notre Dame?

A: My experience definitely had a positive impact on my first year and preparing me for school. I was able to meet some great professors and classmates as well as experience a part of the world that I had never seen before. I was also able to adjust to the college lifestyle in a fun and unique way. I had more work and responsibility, which is to be expected, but I was able to adjust to this in such a fascinating and fun environment.

Q: What was the best part of your GGS experience?  

A: The best part must have been visiting Vatican City and more specifically, the Sistine Chapel. While it was crowded and full of tourists, it was an incredible experience to be in the same place where so many famous people have been before me. The sheer beauty of the art is enough to take your breath away.

Q: What about Rome stood out most to you?

A: The greatest thing that stood out to me about Rome was the sheer diversity of its inhabitants. Simply riding the subway, I could hear conversations in English, Italian, French, Spanish, Catalan and Mandarin, along with others I couldn’t even recognize. It was really eye opening.

Q: How was the GGS program set up?

A: I thought GGS was set up brilliantly. We would do our excursions throughout the city in the morning and then come back to the classroom in the afternoon to do more formal schoolwork. During the evenings, our time was our own. If we wanted to explore the city a bit, we could. If we wanted to stay in and take it easy, we could do that too. It was truly the perfect setup.

Q: Do you plan to go abroad with Notre Dame again in a different capacity?

A: I hope to study abroad sometime during my junior year, although I would likely not study in Rome again. I loved Rome, but I would also love to study in Dublin or London for a semester. I think studying abroad can drastically open student’s eyes to the plights and wonders of the rest of the world, and I think that’s so important in education.