Their semester began as any other would. But in mid-February, everything changed.
Now students at the University of Dallas campus in Rome are watching history as it happens.
"We're so honored to be here, now of all times," said Ada Thomas, a student from Lincolnton, North Carolina.
"It's truly a blessing," added Maria Buckner, of Saint Ann, Missouri.
Five students used Skype to speak with News 8 on Monday, on the eve of the papal conclave, where cardinals will elect the next head of the Roman Catholic church.
"We had no idea this was going to happen... totally unprecedented," said Clare Myers of Michigan. "We definitely picked the right time to be here."
The University of Dallas campus in Rome is at the bottom of a hill where Pope Benedict's summer home is located, and that's where he is now staying. The UD students were in the audience for his final address.
"There was so much energy," Buckner said. "Rome just came alive, even more than it usually is."
"Rome already has a bit of a frenetic pace to it," said Alex Taylor of Austin. "But it's a lot more now. And, in a way, more introspective than it normally is."
While the Dallas campus of the University of Dallas began spring break on Monday, the Rome students' break begins Thursday. Many of them are planing to travel away from Rome during that vacation, so they are hoping and praying for a decision soon.
"A lot of us are planning to camp out every day we're here waiting to see the white smoke," Sally Krutzig added.
It is a momentous time for the Catholic church and for the wold. And these young people feel privileged to see it live and in person.
"A lot of the priests and our chaplains who are here on campus live and work at the Vatican, so we're hoping that if we're not there when the white smoke goes up, they'll make the phone call here to campus and we'll find out," Ada Thomas said.
"It's been so great to see the living church come together," Taylor added.