The typical choice of a University of Dallas student, whether to be a Fromer or a Spromer, is not a choice that basketball athletes consider. Many don’t consider Rome at all, since their athletic season starts in the fall semester and continues through the spring semester.
There are very few athletes who chose to pursue the Rome experience and continue playing basketball. Ben Norton, MA ‘20 in accounting, is one of these few athletes. Norton was the former jersey holder of #35 in the team and played in center.
When Norton applied to UD, he was inspired to follow his older siblings’ steps in attending Rome and in continuing their sport.
“I just kind of followed the path of my siblings. I knew pretty strongly that I was going to be going to UD and that I was going to at least try to play basketball. My older siblings had all gone to Rome, as well, even though they were athletes,” Norton said. ”I knew that I didn’t have any qualms about being on the basketball team and going to Rome coming in.”
Between being a fromer or a spromer, Norton decided on attending the fall semester in consideration of basketball season,
Norton shared, “For me, I’d always wanted to go in the fall and then fall worked the best with basketball because the majority of the season is in the winter and spring.”
With this decision made, Norton’s teammates knew him well enough that they actually expected him to pursue Rome. In fact, it would have been a bigger surprise if he didn’t choose Rome. On the other hand, Jarred Samples, the head basketball coach at the time, and Norton simply had a discussion on how he should, as an athlete, prepare for the season when he returned. Of course, one must remember and honor the phrase “When in Rome” as a part of the Rome experience.
“Talking with [my coach] and the teammates, you know, there was an understanding of ‘I’m gonna go to Rome in the fall.’ But during that time, I’m going to commit to continuing to work out, exercise, stay fit and do my best to be ready for when I got back,” Norton shared. “Now as to whether I follow through with that. That’s another story.”
Within his time abroad, Norton visited around 13 total countries. The first country was Ireland which he and his friends visited before the Rome semester officially started.
“I actually went over early with six or seven of my friends and we went to Ireland and spent a week there,” Norton said. “That was awesome before the semester [started] and then, throughout the semester, I got to go to, I want to say, like 13 different countries. I was a pretty big traveler and I hit a bunch of different spots and everything.”
While being an ocean away, Norton missed one thing that most UD students tend to lament about: the Cafe food.
“I know the joke is always that the food in the cafeteria isn’t that great but I’m not that picky either,” Norton commented. “Having unlimited food was awesome and I definitely missed that when I was gone.”
While the expectation of going to Rome is that most GPAs drop, Norton experienced the exact opposite effect. He claimed that the Rome semester went academically well for him. One of the biggest reasons was because he didn’t play a sport at all.
Norton’s favorite classes were Western Civilization I and Art and Architecture and his least favorite class was Philosophy of the Human Person. Within the Rome classes and traveling, Norton’s biggest experience in Rome was the friendships that were made.
“The people, who I went to Rome, are the people who I ended up spending most of the rest of my time at UD with, whether it was living with them or hanging out with them at social functions,” Norton shared. “Even the students, the people who went to Rome with me who I didn’t necessarily travel with, I later became much closer friends with them.”
Norton’s close friendships with his fellow fromers, who all happen to be non-athletes, became his roommates on and off campus after Rome. One of them is currently the best man for Norton’s wedding in a couple of weeks.
His advice to all basketball athletes who are hesitant or considering participating in the Rome program is to try to do it as hard as you can.
Norton said that he worked three jobs to make it affordable and to be able to take full advantage of this unique opportunity that UD offers. In consideration of being torn between playing a beloved sport and a study abroad experience, he emphasized the importance of memories that last a lifetime.
“There’s going to be a time in your life where you’re not playing anymore and you’re not involved with the sport as much as you used to be,” Norton said. “Maybe you’re coaching and stuff like that, but it’s just not really the same and, at those times, you’ll be glad that you have other things to look back on very fondly, as well.”