Dorm Life is one of the most integral parts of daily life at any university, and this could not be more evident than at the John Felice Rome Center (JFRC). The reason being is because at the end of each day, we come back to a home away from home, where many of us study, unwind, reflect, have a fun time or maybe even try to do it all (sometimes all at once). Since the Rome Start class consists of twenty students, we have been paired into rooms of two, with the majority of roommates representing different nationalities. This is by far one of my favorite aspects of dorm life, because this gives both the American and International students the opportunity to learn about each other’s cultures and perspectives in an environment in which we share great commonality.
In addition, all the Rome Starters have the luxury of occupying most of the fourth floor, which adds to the experience of connecting to one another. Living with roommates and literally living together as neighbors on the same floor has bonded us as the literal international family we have become in this short amount of time. By establishing such a strong connection and a warm environment almost immediately, we have also inherently filled a void of family. If it was not for this opportunity of living so close together, I know the experience we’ve had thus far would have turned out to be something completely different.
Our dorms in some ways are like the perfect oasis from the “chaos” that may lurk outside the hallways or common spaces. The dorm is a place that represents the individual student, the roommates as a whole, and a piece of their respective hometowns and university experiences. This of course is an amazing thing in addition to the close proximity to the laundry room and having spacious, personal balconies. In certain respects our rooms could be described as paintings, where the elaborate framework is derived from our previous experiences at home and where the actual subject itself represents our current state and our prosperous future at university.
As the saying goes, “you truly get to know someone when you live with them.” This quote could easily sum-up how we have all learned about one another during the course of our first semester in Rome. Throughout a typical week at the JFRC, the Rome Starters spend frequent hours together between living, eating, studying, and socializing. Even when there are times that we may be apart, we still know that at the end of the night when we return to the comforts of our fourth floor dorms, that we are still a unified family. This family has instilled a sense of home, even if this home may be only an hour away or oceans away, from our first home.
Living and studying in Rome could only be described as a truly magical experience. We are so fortunate to have Rome as the setting to the “starting line” of our collegiate careers, because we are living and studying in an environment that is more than 2,700 years old. This opportunity of being in Rome is purely incredible for the accessibility a student has to ancient ruins, contemporary museums, magnificent churches, great restaurants, and much more.
After living here in Rome for about two and a half months, we as Rome Starters now have a bit of a better understanding for both Roman and Italian culture. Since the JFRC is situated in a residential neighborhood, we not only get the chance to witness Roman daily life, but we also get to live it everyday. From roaming the streets to shopping at the supermarket to even watching a calcio match, we are exposed to the lifestyle and culture in ways that can’t be obtained from a textbook, but only understood through first-hand experience.
Most of us try to utilize the weekend in order to explore both different sides of Rome and different sides to Roman culture. Whether it’s riding a bus, savoring local cuisine, exploring a new neighborhood, or discovering a hidden piazza, it’s fascinating learning more about this beautiful city. During the week we are hard working students trying our absolute best in school, while on the weekends we reveal that in addition, we are also cultural enthusiasts on a quest to unveil and understand the Eternal City one layer at a time. Even though we have an entire year here, we will most likely not even scratch the surface to fully comprehending the power of Rome.
One thing I look forward to on Mondays is comparing what adventures we all had during the past weekend with the other Rome Starters. After many stories, experiences, and lots of laughter are shared, we continue on with our weekly routines, until the next weekend arrives and we press the “repeat button” on filling our appetites for more Roman life and culture.
Orientation was a weeklong program filled with activities, speeches, and excursions in order to help both the freshmen and the older study abroad students get acclimated with the JFRC and the surrounding areas. In addition to getting accustomed to the university and the city, orientation enabled us to cultivate strong friendships with one another. Another way that we were able to achieve such a connection to Italy, Loyola, and to each other, was through travel. I believe it was such an opportune way to end orientation with a school-wide trip to the beautiful region of Umbria.
Umbria is a region in Central Italy that is known for having picturesque landscapes, historic cities and a fascinating culture. What was so amazing about Umbria was that it felt like “undiscovered” territory in comparison to the “tourist meccas” of Florence, Rome, and Venice. Throughout our weekend in Umbria we visited the cities of Deruta, Perugia, Spoleto, Bevagna, and Spello. During our stay we sampled local delicacies over leisurely meals and learned more about the Umbrian culture through the varied skills people practice there, such as pottery, candle making, paper making, and silk making. It was fascinating to watch the artisans demonstrating how they use their craft to create materials we use in our day-to-day lives. Using Spoleto as a base for our trip to Umbria was great as well, because we really had the opportunity to discover it in-depth. Walking through the streets, gazing past rolling hills, and examining local life was truly a unique experience. We were even fortunate enough to attend a local music festival that was occurring during one of our nights there.
When the trip came to a close we all felt happy to go back home, yet at the same time we were sad to leave behind the experiences and fun times we had in Umbria. As we made our way back towards the Eternal City, all I could think while staring out the window at the dramatic landscape was; when will I be able to return with this amazing group of people?
Ideally the college freshman experience is something that most high school graduates go through at either a state or out-of-state university. So when I told people that I would be enrolling in Loyola’s Rome Start Program, I mainly received one question; why spend a year in Rome? For me, being given the opportunity to study a year in a city that is as incredibly beautiful and rich in art, culture, and history as Rome, is simply magical. Like many of my other Rome Start classmates, I think I was in search of an untraditional freshman experience in which I could have the Loyola experience and at the same time interact with a mix people from around the globe. This program is great, because it satisfies international students looking to study in an American institution without immediately going to the States. In addition, it suits Americans in search of a thrilling first year experience studying abroad.
Once here at the John Felice Rome Center (JFRC), you can immediately feel the warm sense of community not only among the Rome Starters, but also with the older study abroad students. I truly feel though that only after a few short weeks, the twenty of us have bonded as if we are one unified international family. We share the same experiences everyday, whether they are inside or outside the classroom. Living together on the same floor brings us much closer together. I would best describe our Rome Start Family as a group of “cultural go-getters” who are excited and ready to accept any challenge life brings, living and studying in a completely foreign environment.
Rome is a “cultural playground” full of knowledge to learn and opportunities to experience. Having the possibility to spend our freshman year in Rome is unlike any other first-year experience. If, like us, you’re eager to challenge yourself, have great cultural interaction, and cultivate friendships for life, then ask yourself, why not? Why not Loyola? Why not the JFRC?
Rome Start visiting the Colosseum
I look back at august 26th, 2012 and I see the seven of us. We were all excited and just so pumped for a year in Rome and to then go on to continue in Chicago.
What an amazing year this has been. I feel really bad actually, because I cannot possibly describe to you the degree of how incredible it has been, how much I love this city and this country and its people, and how much I have learned. This program has turned my life around for the best, I’ve met so many people (Americans, Italians and other Europeans) and I love them all so much. We’ve grown together in this amazing experience. We’ve seen and lived through things so beautiful and so amazing, we probably never thought we would.
Fall semester was great but, man was Spring semester awesome! It was the perfect way to wrap up my freshman year. I’m going to miss this. I already do and I’m staying here for the summer! I can’t believe it. Wow…
I fast-forward eight months and I see the seven of us. We are all excited and pumped for our year in Chicago and whatever the future will hold.
And finally, as tears start to roll down my cheeks: Here’s to one of the most incredible places on Earth. A place that has taught me so much about life, myself, travelling, other people, acceptance, maturity, and tolerance. A place that has never failed to surprise me. A place that is filled with beauty from the tiny, hidden alley to the glorious Colosseum or the Vatican. A place that has given me so much for nearly a year now. A place I can call ‘home’. Here’s to the end of the best freshman year of university anyone could ever ask for and to spending my summer here to conclude my year abroad. Amor~Roma spelled backwards.
Shoutout to Dr. Susana Cavallo, Cynthia Bomben, Dr. Michael Beazley, Anna Carlson and Carla Mollica, thank you all for making our year!
On April 12th I had the opportunity, along with other students of Loyola, to go to visit the headquarters of the World Food Programme in Rome. The World Food Programme is a UN organization dedicated to reducing hunger in the world. We were incredibly fortunate, as we also had the chance to meet the Wold Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.
Cousin explained the goals of the association and what the World Food Programme had accomplished in recent years. She also explained that recently the program has been primarily focused on bringing support to Syria, as well as Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. My personal impression of Cousin was that she is a woman determined to improve the situation of malnutrition in the world. She has truly inspired me and convinced me to fight every day to work towards my goals.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity, along with other students of Loyola, to visit the Mosque of Rome and it was a fascinating experience.
The mosque, designed by architect Paolo Portuguese, began being built in 1984, but the project was only finished in the mid-90′s. The building has a modern design, which differs from the classic shape of traditional mosques in the Middle East. The tour guide who welcomed us was of Moroccan origin and explained to us that the mosque also houses the Islamic Center of Rome. When we stepped inside, after a brief explanation, the tour guide showed us how Muslims pray and what the Arabic words in the prayers mean.
This was an incredibly enriching experience for students and we’re fortunate that the Loyola staff organizes this trip regularly each year!