Students planning to stay at Villa Le Balze, Georgetown’s villa in Fiesole, Italy, received disappointing news this July: The Villa was struggling with roofing problems, and the repair process meant students would be unable to stay there during their term abroad.
The university sent an e-mail to students explaining that the Villa’s age most likely caused the roofing problems, which will be fixed this fall.
argaret Rockefeller donated the Villa to Georgetown in 1979 in order to preserve her father’s memory and the education of young minds. Her parents were Charles Augustus Strong and Elizabeth Rockefeller, and her grandfather was John D. Rockefeller. Strong hired architects to build the Villa in 1912, and he lived there until he died in 1940.
Katherine Kettle (COL ’12), a HOYA staff writer, one of the students who had planned to stay at the Villa this fall, did not believe the news at first.
“It was really shocking and unexpected. I remember reading it and thinking it was a joke or something,” Kettle said.
“Initially I was very shocked, but [I] decided right away that I still wanted to go.”
In the e-mail, the university introduced the alternative accommodations it had arranged for the students. Hotel Villa Aurora will host the students for the first part of the semester, from Sept. 2 to Oct. 6, and Hotel Villa Fiesole will serve as their home for the remainder of the semester, which ends Dec. 16. Students who had planned to stay with host families in and around Florence will still be able to access both venues easily, given that both are located on the same bus line.
The e-mail, sent from Lisa Donatelli, deputy director of international programs, and Karen Wardzala, assistant director of Villa Le Balze Programs, also assured students that while the location would be different, their overall study-abroad experience would not be greatly impacted because of the similarities the Villa shares with the two new accommodations.
“We have selected these venues based on their willingness and ability to help us recreate certain aspects typical of the Villa Le Balze semester: modern instructional spaces; shared meals with Villa professors and staff; student gathering areas including spaces for home stay students to gather and store their belongings; professional staff who understand the scope of the program and the nature of Georgetown students; and Wi-Fi Internet access to facilitate communication and research,” they wrote.
Kettle, among the students who still plan to study in Florence this fall despite the change in venue, said she feels that the new arrangements are more than adequate alternatives.
“I did not consider going on another study abroad because I was never going to the Villa for the building in the first place – I chose the program because I wanted to live in Italy and experience Florence and Fiesole,” Kettle said. “I think that people who were going just to stay at the physical building of the Villa in the first place were not going for the right reasons because I do not think that [that] is the point of study abroad.”