My name is Fernando Garces and I have lived in Ecuador most of my life. My mom is from the States and my dad is from Ecuador. When I finished high school I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I felt kind of lost for 8 months. Then, one random day, I realized that if I have the chance to study abroad I should take it. I began applying to universities all over the States: Penn State, Purdue, Loyola New Orleans. However, when I found out that LUC was offering the “Rome Start” program, I thought, “Rome? Freshman year? Loyola? Off course I want that!!” In that moment knew what I wanted in life! A few months later I was saying goodbye to my family and headed off to my new life in Italy.
At first it was quite difficult: I had so many expectations, a couple of worries, and yeah, I was emotional!! When I first arrived to Fiumicino Airport in Rome, I have to admit, I was totally lost! I had no idea where I was going! Thank God for my mom: she always worries about me and she arranged a taxi service to Via Massimi 114-A (Loyola’s campus in Rome, the John Felice Rome Center (JFRC)). Of course if I tried to find the campus by myself, I would still be looking!
After getting lost a few times, the taxi driver finally pulled up in front of the green gate. Arriving on campus felt awkward at first, but within five minutes it felt like home. All the “SLAs” (Student Life Assistants) were so kind and helpful to me. They made me feel welcome and part of a family. They are so much more than just your typical R.A. (Resident Assistant). I feel like we’re friends and they are always there for us. I could talk about each and every one of them, but this would get long and boring… so let’s just say they’re awesome!
My first day at the JFRC was great. Even though I miss my AC and my friends and family back home, I know that this is the right place for me. Being able to wake up five minutes before class every morning and still be on time is way better than anything I had back home! Knowing that my friends are just a couple doors down from my dorm room is also an awesome feeling! We are 10 Rome Start kids and, while we’ve only been together for a couple weeks so far, I have the feeling that we are going to be really good friends. There are also 200 or more study abroad students and every one of them: sophomores, juniors and even seniors, are really awesome. They are so friendly and easygoing, which makes them really cool to hang out with.
So that’s how life has been for me in my first weeks at the JFRC. Oh! I almost forgot… Mensa (the cafeteria)! I have to admit, it’s not the best food I’ve ever had. The first couple of days were good, but then it got a little boring. The ladies that work there, however, make it worth it! They make a huge effort to serve good food and they are so nice to everyone. One of the ladies already knows what I like! I’ve been eating fish every day since day one. Now, every time I walk in, she says, “Pesce, patate, e pepperoni?” That means: fish, potatoes, and peppers! She always remembers which is really nice. Also, they have Tabasco sauce!! If the food isn’t good one day, just use a lot of Tabasco sauce and, believe me, it gets better!! So that’s life here at the JFRC – it’s starting to feel like home!!