Study Abroad programs adjust to Notre Dame fire


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The Thornton House hosts the Texas State Study Abroad office.

Anika Adams

As study abroad programs to Paris near, this year’s students will witness the Notre Dame Cathedral in its post-fire state.

The 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral caught ablaze in the early evening of April 15, losing centuries-old architecture, including its iconic spire. According to the Government of France’s website, it states, “While the cathedral’s structure, facade and two towers survived, the roof of the nave, choir and transept, as well as the Gothic spire, were lost to the flames.” The French Government plans to rebuild this landmark with the donation linked to their website. Recently, funds have been arriving very quickly from many French foundations.

Visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral will be different than past years, but the history it contains is something every student will be able to recognize no matter what condition the church is in.

Texas State offers two faculty-led programs to France and has five providers that offer affiliate programs there. Study Abroad Representative Tania Vera Borunda said students from the two faculty-led programs will have the once in a lifetime opportunity to see what Notre Dame has been through.

Borunda has lived in Paris and she visited Notre Dame before the devastating fire. Borunda said she understands how valuable her experience seeing the historical monument was because now it is forever changed. She hopes students traveling to France this year truly value the opportunity to learn from this historical event.

“The fact that they are there and that they are seeing something that has never happened before inspires them to explore more of the world because it’s not going to be here forever,” Borunda said.

Modern Languages Professor Carole Martin is in charge of one faculty-led program based in France where students will learn the French language and about French civilization, art and literature. 

Martin has been running the France Study Abroad program to Renne, France, for 10 years, starting in 2009. Her program is located on the western side of France. Martin said her program does not have planned events in Paris, but students have the opportunity to travel to Paris by train in their spare time.

Martin believes that despite the tragedy of the fire, students’ experiences will be enhanced when they go. As a French professor, she understands how Notre Dame covers almost 1,000 years of French and European history, and the fire is part of that history.

“In my perspective when the roof is rebuilt, it will just add to the experience of the church that started in the 11th century,” Martin said. “A building like that lives through centuries and centuries and carries on which is a fantastic thing when you’re talking about this very old structure that is still with us today and plays a role.”

Daris Hale, senior lecturer in the School of Music, leads the Fine Arts and Communication Study Abroad Program to London and Paris, offering students the chance to study music, communication, fine arts and culture.

Professor Hale’s Fine Arts & Communications program will be in Paris in the last week of May. They anticipated attending a concert and touring the Notre Dame Cathedral to discuss the historical significance and key aspects of the gothic architecture. Due to the destruction left by the fire, they will arrange for other excursions and activities to still enhance her students’ learning. Hale also mentioned the program did pay for the concert, and she doesn’t expect to see a refund.

“We are currently planning alternative activities for those times and days, but our courses will still address the history and artistic significance of this great church,” Hale said. “We need to replace this component of the curriculum without any financial compensation.”

Nicte Sobrevilla, sound recording technology sophomore, is part of the fine arts and communication study abroad trip going to Paris this summer. He said he was in shock when he heard of the tragedy and will be humbled when he sees the remnants of the fire.

“You don’t realize how vulnerable those buildings are, it had lasted through many times and people and had seen history first hand, all to be gone so quick,” Sobrevilla said. 

Sobrevilla recognizes how Notre Dame continues to be a symbol to France despite the fire. Sobrevilla said he looks forward to being challenged in an uncomfortable situation when he goes to Paris. 

“It is a place that has been changed and molded to be different,” Sobrevilla said. “We lost the experience to be inside and to appreciate the building, but we have gained the change to see it for what it was and to see Frances’ reaction to a tragedy. We will mourn with France.”

The Study Abroad Office allows the faculty to decide on how they want to design their program. Professors who run the faculty-led programs have full discretion on how they want to structure their classwork and excursions. Martin and Hale decide on the aspects of French culture that best fits within their curriculum and activities to enhance the students’ learning experience.

On the Catholic Church in Paris’ website, Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris stated, “Our Lady, our dear cathedral, witness to so many major events in our country, was destroyed by a frightening fire after so long resisted the vicissitudes of its history.”

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