A new pope gave them a reason to camp outside the Sistine Chapel.
"The energy was building and building and finally when there was smoke people went nuts it was crazy," said Eliza Nagel, a Notre Dame junior.
Eliza Nagel is grateful. Stunned. Overjoyed.
This theology major is recovering from the hype in Vatican City.
"There was a lot of suspense, media running around, a lot of prayer as well," Nagel said to WSBT in a Skype Interview from Rome.
Eliza and her classmates brought South Bend to the Sistine Chapel with their banner "Conclave Like a Champion."
Saint Mary's College student Nikki Charter was even featured in a national newspaper.
"It was absolutely indescribable, it was incredible," Charter said.
Charter said the second the billowing white smoke rushed through the chimney, emotion overtook the crowd.
An hour later, Pope Francis made his first appearance.
"He came out went back in and came back out, everyone fell silent," Charter said.
Charter teared up and got chills.
"You're just standing there looking at him, and realizing this is all real, it’s really happening to you," Charter told us in a phone interview from Rome. "You have no doubt in your mind how powerful faith and prayer could be."
Many say Pope Francis will play a role in rebuilding the Catholic Church, spiritually and physically, bringing people back to their faith - that started Thursday morning.
"He went out in the Diocese of Rome, met with people, prayed with them, it's very telling of what's his style may be," said Saint Mary's College Profesor Joseph Incandela.
Students in Rome say Pope Francis is now the reason they're in Rome. His election, that moment in time encouraged them to embrace their faith to the fullest.
"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to walk into St. Peters and see the whole church united together," Nagel said.
Those students were all at the Vatican again on Thursday, trying to catch another glimpse Pope Francis or get a blessing from him.