"We'll have a number of restrictions, like any other school in Italy, regarding the use of face masks, social distancing. We actually have a long period of time between their two main courses ... a 30-minute break to ensure the classroom is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between classes."
Both the University of Dallas and Christendom College are small Catholic liberal arts colleges included in the Newman Guide, an annual listing of recommended colleges chosen because of their commitment to a faithful Catholic education.
Each college said that its Rome program was running below capacity this semester to enable social-distancing measures in the dormitories and classrooms. The schools are also videotaping all lectures so that any individual student who feels sick or needs to return home will be able to catch up on classes.
Other larger universities, such as the University of Notre Dame and Loyola University of Chicago, made the decision to cancel their study abroad programs in Rome before the semester began.
There are just under 5,000 current cases of COVID-19 in Lazio, the Italian region in which Rome is located, as of Sept. 15, according to the Italian Ministry of Health.
Hatlie said that he had to work to convince the university administration in Texas that it would be safe for the students to come.
"It has been six months of work and a huge financial investment in getting the campus ready -- working directly with local health agencies -- and all of the troubleshooting of potential things that could go wrong," he said.
Despite the pandemic, the dean is hopeful that the University of Dallas students will be able to travel on a 10-day educational trip to Greece, as well as class trips to Venice, Assisi, Florence, and Bologna this fall. He said that he also plans to give students the freedom to travel within Europe on their own.
"We really believe in the freedom of the individual and we try to teach students to be prudent in their decisions and discriminating in their decisions. Obviously we may have to intervene from time to time if the second wave looks to be strong," he said.
"If we can keep everybody healthy, it is going to be a really extraordinary learning experience for them."
Fr. Baggot said that he expected that many students would arrive in Rome with a "renewed appreciation for the value of a community, the value of in person contact … face to face conversations with their professor, in-person liturgies."
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"So many of the students I have spoken to are tired of online Masses. Not to say that there is no value to those, but I think all of them have experienced firsthand that they can never replace the in-person, lived, physical-embodied experience of celebrating the faith together in a community," he said.
"So I think that these students who are coming abroad have this renewed appreciation for the experiences that they have not had this past semester and I think that they come with a real hunger to take full advantage of the academic and spiritual community."