Embarking into Umbria

Orientation has officially ended and that means its time to buckle down and actually read the textbooks we purchased. However, the amazing staff here in Rome wouldn’t unleash us from the lightheartedness of orientation week without some sort of phenomenal ending, and staying true to tradition, that’s what they did. 150 students headed off into Umbria for an unforgettable weekend…


Umbria, the only landlocked region in Italy, is an amazing destination to experience traditional Italian culture while being surrounded by an ever-modernizing society. The picturesque landscapes and ancient cities are, by far, some of the most beautiful scenes I have come to witness in my eighteen short years, and the orange villas nestled into hill sides seem to come straight out of a movie. Yet, even though these images are ones I will never forget, perhaps the most important part of the weekend was the friendships created through this experience. Tasting wines with your roommate, and getting lost in Spoleto or Foligno with the girls three doors down is the best way to experience a new culture and forge friendships that will last a lifetime.


Our first day in Umbria included wine tasting, candle making and a trip to a paper mill. The second day was filled with walking tours of the ancient cities of Spoleto and Foligno, coincidentally we happened to be in Folignio just in time for the kick off of their medieval festival, so colorful banners and traditional music were found in surplus around the city. Our final day in the beautiful region consisted of a tour of Spello and free time to roam the streets and explore the beauty of a city that’s been around since the first century. Pork, potatoes and pasta filled our bellies and fantastic wine accompanied each meal, our lively conversation could be heard from a distance and we left the region with the hope of soon returning…

My bee’s wax candle remains (unlit) here in my dorm room, a happy reminder of an amazing weekend.


Photo credit: Anna Johnson, Katey Lantto, and Courtney Bickle

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Rome Start: Let’s Start

On August 24th, sixteen students from around the world gathered together to spend the first year of their collegiate experience in Italy. Students from Spain, Germany, Panama, as well as students with citizenships in Italy and France have embarked on an adventure that will undoubtedly shape their futures…


Orientation week has been an exciting and eventful experience for us freshman here on campus! Pasta, Pizza, Prosecco, and Paddle boarding have all been a memorable part of the first couple of days, and I’m sure such things will continue to play a part in our lives for the next nine months! However, as the start of classes and homework loads is fast approaching such magical experiences will have to be wait for the weekend, as we prepare to study in one of the most ancient cities in the world. This amazing city has become more than just our playground, it is now officially our classroom.

This 1,285 km² city is the largest classroom I have personally set foot in, and I am excited to get lost in the history of such a majestic place; I look forward to studying the layouts of every twisted street, sketching pictures of the monuments I have seen sketched onto postcards, and conducting important experiments such as where the best gelato is sold…

paddle board 2

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New Year, New Semester


With the start of the new semester, it was also the beginning of “Part 2” for the Rome Starters full year at the JFRC. As with any start to something new, we had expectations and goals for what was to come for the Spring 2014 semester. Whether it’s about visiting as many countries as possible or exploring every single nook and cranny of the Eternal City, the Rome Start class has been excited for whatever will come our way in the near future.

One of the most significant differences between this semester and last semester is the amount of students studying here. There is a forty-plus person difference to be exact, making the grand total around 220 students studying at the JFRC. Not only does the community feel larger, but also the campus itself is undergoing a series of renovations. For example, Rinaldo’s, our downstairs “basement hangout” was moved down the hallway to another room and was updated with a modern ambiance and sleek European style. Rinaldo’s not only has a new setting, but has expanded their menu to serve both Italian and American-inspired dishes. It has truly become a hit among both the Rome Starters and Study Abroad Students for the perfect after-class hangout spot.

Among the Rome Start class, we don’t have the opportunity to have as many classes together due to many students’ involvement with the internship program. Despite not necessarily seeing each other as often as we did last semester in the classroom environment, we still make it a priority to gather together for lunch and dinner where we exchange interesting stories and experiences regarding our diverse classes and internships.

Even though things are not exactly the same as our first semester, we as the Rome Starters are making the transition and remembering those fond memories of our first semester of freshman year. We hope that we can share together in new experiences that will be just as memorable.


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A Home Away From Home


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. 


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Roman Life


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. 


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Orientation: From Rome to Umbria


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.


Four Rome Starters bonding in Umbria

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?

Rome Starters eating lunch in Umbria

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Why Spend a Year in Rome?

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

Rome Start visiting the Colosseum

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